Free resources from the design community can add value to an ecommerce site. Here is a list of new web tools and design elements from summer 2020. There are designer and developer apps, coding resources, color tools, fonts, and more. All of these tools are free, though some also offer premium versions.
Free Design Tools
Editor X is a web creation platform for designers and agencies. Build data-driven sites and complex web applications. Create and launch unlimited projects for free. Upgrade to add a custom domain, enable online payments, and more. Editor X is part of Wix.
Isoflow is a tool for creating isometric diagrams for presentations, documentation, and illustrations. Simply move an icon, and its connectors and labels will follow.
Lemon.io matches your startup with a vetted, freelance developer. Find a developer or chief technology offer for your project or business. Use assisted matching with a no-risk replacement guarantee. Pay no fees other than the developer’s hourly rate.
RevKit is a user-interface design kit for Sketch, Figma, and Adobe XD. It includes ready-to-use components, symbols, icons, and styles for quick iterations.
Formbutton lets you create a simple button on your site that pops up a contact form. Customize almost every aspect of Formbutton, including text, fonts, icons, colors, submit behavior, data, and error handling.
Webdesign Toolbox, a curated collection of tools and resources for designers and coders, features approximately 1,000 resources in 78 different categories.
VoiceText is an extension for Slack to send searchable voice messages with text transcriptions to any Slack channel or direct message.
SpreadSimple uses the data in a Google spreadsheet to create modern websites with customizable features. Use Google Sheets to manage your inventory, prices, and orders. Get features such as filtering, search, sorting, lead collection via forms, search engine optimization, and more.
Basicons is a curated collection of basic, customizable icons for product design and development. Basicons is updated and refined weekly.
Device Shots generates device mockups that include screenshot images. Choose between different device categories or select a social platform. Customize the canvas background color. Then download the generated mockup as a high-resolution PNG image.
Hosting Checker Tool lets you identify the host any website. Enter the URL or domain name, and get the results on the host’s, name, IP address, data center location, and contact details.
Free Faces is a curated collection of free fonts. Browse by styles: sans, serif, cursive, slab, monospace, and display. The site is from Simon Foster, the digital lead at Hamilton-Brown, a design agency.
Fattern, a hybrid of “fat” and “pattern,” is a fun and colorful font that’s built for display.
SK Fencer is a spacey, angular monospace font — reminiscent of a 60s design.
Skra is a bold and chunky hand-lettered font to communicate a message in an eye-catching manner.
Solis Occasum is a slender and sophisticated handwritten font for branding, headers, and quotes.
Hangry Hand is a thick, handwritten font with characters that appear animated.
Pulchella is a lush, floral sans serif font for logos and branding.
How Augmented Reality is changing Retail
The retail industry has experienced numerous changes in recent decades and is one of the sectors of the economy that has benefited most from digitalization. The physical store is no longer the only sales channel, it has been joined by ecommerce and a whole series of hybrid modalities between physical and online stores.
After examining why and how retail is a fast evolving vertical, we’ll take a look at the opportunities offered by Augmented Reality to upgrade how retail sales are managed.
There are a number of current trends that directly and powerfully impact the world of retail and that are worth analyzing. Many of these have emerged in the last decade, or limited in the last two, also thanks to the contribution of the so-called e-tailers, Amazon in the first place.
These trend include:
● Long Tail: the tendency of large online retailers to generate the majority of revenues from the sale of niche products, rather than from the more popular products. In practice, players like Amazon and Netflix have overturned the Pareto principle. Physical stores, as they are organized today, find it very difficult to follow the long tail model, because of physical and logistical constraints they tend to favor the best selling products, despite an extremely wide proposal in terms of references.
● Mass Customization: a complementary trend compared to the previous one is mass customization, that is the ability of retailers to sell highly personalized products in terms of characteristics (material, color, configuration, etc.), highly appreciated by consumers who are increasingly looking for unique products and fewer and fewer standard products. This trend has also had a strong impact on production systems which have inevitably become more flexible and which carry out less and less series production.
● Showrooming: this trend identifies the behavior of those consumers who use physical stores as product showcases and as places to try the product, finalizing the purchase process online. It is a very common behavior in the clothing sector, as showrooming allows people to try on shoes or clothes in order to identify the right size and evaluate comfort/fit.
● Superior Customer Service: although physical store managers have the advantage of having a direct relationship with their customers, online stores, over time, have come to offer extremely high and flexible levels of service, to which people got used very soon. The areas where online retailers make a difference include flexibility in the management of dissatisfied customers, for example by offering free returns and full refunds even up to 30 days after purchase; offers in all seasons of the year; the order processing times (often in less than 24 hours customers receive the goods at home); loyalty and reward mechanisms; multiple payment methods, from credit card to cryptocurrency wallet; even the “lowest price guaranteed” policy with the possibility of refunding the difference if the same product is available at a lower price on other stores.
The global retail market, online and offline, in 2017 reached a value of 23.460 billion dollars and for the period 2018–2023 an average growth rate of 5.3% per year is expected, up to the value of 31.881 billions of dollars in 2023 (Source: Markets and Markets).
Although in the last ten years eCommerce has grown at an average of +15% per year, it now represents only about 10% of the global retail market, therefore 90% of today’s purchases still take place in physical stores. According to the most recent forecasts, e-commerce will reach 17.5% of the value of the Retail market in 2021 (Source: Statista).
The most competitive categories in offline retail are food, household goods and cosmetics; while the three most competitive categories in online channels are products for entertainment (music, books, films), electronics (computers and smartphones) and products for the home.
Depending on the nature of the product, some categories find a more natural outlet in offline rather than online channels. For example, all food products, especially fresh ones, have, and will have, for a certain period of time still, a more advantageous outlet in the offline channel; while for example products that are easily dematerialized, such as music and films, can be sold more easily through online channels.
Since data and forecasts still see a large share of sales for physical stores in Retail, we will focus on both online and offline Augmented Reality solutions.
After explaining why users expect to experiment a customer-centric shopping experience, focused on customization rather than standardization, we’ll take a look at some of the most interesting Augmented Reality use cases for the Retail industry.
- Augmented Reality Product Presentation
- When a customer is considering buying a physical product online, she may put a lot of emphasis on the product presentation, especially for certain categories including furniture, clothing and technology. The presentation of products through the online channels can be made more engaging and realistic using Augmented Reality techniques like AR product visualization with spatial mapping. In most cases this goal can be achieved by using the customer’s device, typically a smartphone or a tablet.
- Even if in a store you are able to see the products in person it can be more interactive to provide innovative interfaces to customers, allowing them to discover in-depth features of the product. In terms of hardware, in-store Augmented Reality requires dedicated devices such as big touch screens and/or wearable devices.
- Augmented Reality Configuration
- Enabling Augmented Reality product presentation could not be enough, since the customer that is buying online may want to evaluate different configurations of the product to find the one that satisfies her the most. This process involves picking different colors, materials and sizes.
- The product configuration process can be implemented in stores to allow potential customers to experiment with all the possible product declinations in order to find the most suited one. At this stage customers can use the same devices used at the product presentation stage.
- Augmented Reality Try On
- When the potential customer has narrowed the choice among a handful of products, she may want to try them on, depending on the product category. This is a doable approach for clothes, make-up, jewelry, and watches. The technology today offers the tools to enable Augmented Reality try on by recognizing the users’ body, face and hands, following her movements and adapting accordingly.
- In a in-store context virtual try on can be achieved by using large interactive mirrors, special displays endowed with depth cameras, and by visualizing the customer’s shape on the screen with additional (augmented) digital contents such as clothes.
TikTok’s Chinese rival Kuaishou becomes a popular online bazaar
In China, short video apps aren’t just for mindless time killing. These services are becoming online bazaars where users can examine products, see how they are grown and made, and ask sellers questions during live sessions.
Kuaishou, the main rival of TikTok’s Chinese version (Douyin), announced that it accumulated 500 million e-commerce orders in August, a strong sign for the app’s monetization effort — and probably a conducive condition for its upcoming public listing.
On the heels of the announcement, Reuters reported that Kuaishou, a Tencent-backed company behind TikTok clone Zynn, is looking to raise up to $5 billion from an initial public offering in Hong Kong as early as January. The company declined to comment, but a source with knowledge of the matter confirmed the details with TechCrunch.
There are intricacies in the claim of “500 million orders.” It doesn’t exclude canceled orders or refunds, and Kuaishou won’t reveal what its actual sales were. The company also said the number made it China’s fourth-largest e-commerce player following Alibaba, JD.com and Pinduoduo.
It’s hard to verify the claim as there are no comparable figures from these firms during the period, but let’s work with what’s available. Pinduoduo previously said it logged over 7 billion orders in the first six months of 2019. That means it averaged 1.16 billion orders per month, more than doubling Kuaishou’s volume.
Kuaishou’s figure, however, does indicate that many users have bought or at least considered buying through its video platform.
The app, known for its celebration of vernacular and even mundane user content, boasts 300 million daily active users at the latest, which suggests on average its users made at least one order during the month. Many of the products sold were produce grown by its large base of rural users. The app gained ground in small towns and far-flung regions early on exactly because its content algorithms didn’t intend to favor the “glamorous”.
Over time, it gathered pace among Chinese urbanites who found themselves enjoying others’ candid filming of country life and happily ordering their farm products. The focus on bringing rural produce to urban areas also squares nicely with China’s push to invigorate its rural economy, and it’s not rare to see Kuaishou using terms like “poverty-alleviation” in its social media campaign.
Douyin, which leans towards polished videos from “influencers”, also enables its content creators to monetize — through both sharing ad revenue and hawking products. With a DAU twice as big as Kuaishou’s at 600 million, the app vows to bring 80 billion yuan ($11.8 billion) of income to creators in the coming year, the chief executive of ByteDance China, Kelly Zhang, said recently at Douyin’s creator conference.
After 20 years of ecommerce, change is the only certainty
Designing, building, and launching a website is just the beginning of an ecommerce business. Attracting and converting visitors is the next, all-important step. A website alone does not guarantee anything.
This is where marketing comes in. Consumers need to find your site and, once there, have a reason to buy from you. Traffic from search engines — via organic listings and ads — can help with the former. Other marketing tools include email and ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and many other websites.
But the most critical factor in long-term success is the ability to change and adapt. Plan for change from the start. Don’t build an ecommerce site that is difficult (expensive) to alter or redo. It limits your potential.
At the basic level, a site needs fresh content — product descriptions, photos, videos, prices — to help visitors make an initial purchase decision and return for more. For some markets, this is easy. Take shaving. Consumers will always need razors. But even razors have innovations and new ideas, such as three blades or five blades or auto-restocks via subscriptions.
Most products have new or upgraded releases and alternative uses. If your site is quick to receive these updates, compose compelling descriptions of why they are better or different or exciting. You have then given shoppers reasons to keep coming back. Some sites do this with blog posts and news articles.
In my business of selling science fiction memorabilia, an individual staff member knew all about new products and could write clever and funny descriptions about them. This made my site stand out and gain more customers. It helps if your ecommerce site can integrate with a publishing platform such as WordPress. (Or perhaps WordPress is also your ecommerce platform via a plugin, such as WooCommerce.)
Over time the accepted look and feel of ecommerce sites evolve. What was once a good-looking site can become dated and stale. Visitors need to feel confident that you are a reliable business — their money is safe, and you will deliver what you say. New customers tend to evaluate a site based on its appearance. It’s difficult, however, for an insider to look at a site with fresh eyes, as new a visitor would see it. But it’s essential.
Perhaps your site requires a new template. Maybe the menu structure or navigation needs a revamp. You may need to move to a new platform to keep the site looking modern. These changes are relatively straightforward if you have planned, ensured that the content is portable, and maintained control.
What was once a good looking site can become dated and stale.
When I launched in 2000, most online transactions were done from individual websites. All I had to do was make sure that mine was better than my competitors and appeared higher on the search results. In time, however, third-party platforms such as Ebay, Amazon, and Etsy began to dominate.
Thus the final type of change is strategic. Decide whether to list your products on these platforms. The decision is not easy. Do you list all of your products on those channels or just the bestsellers or clearance items? Do you set the same prices across channels or make the items on your own site cheaper? Can you vary prices in this manner without violating the third-party platform’s rules? In the E.U., for example, it is illegal for Amazon to forbid sellers from setting lower prices elsewhere.
Further, listing on third-party platforms creates competition for your own site. But can you afford not to use these platforms?
Consider the risks, too, such as being at the whim of the platform. Initially, Amazon was a small percentage of my sales, but it grew to exceed 75 percent. Staying on Amazon’s good side became vital — even to the point of putting Amazon’s shoppers ahead of those from my own site.
The point is that change is inevitable. Any company that does not evolve will surely die. Remember that the purpose of your business is to earn profits. Your website is a tool to make money. Change it or, indeed, move away from it as needed.
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