E-commerce continues to prove its popularity, with online shopping rising 45% in 2016. In fact, U.S. online shoppers alone spent $327 billion in 2015, with China’s shoppers spending $562 billion. However, while e-commerce continues to rise in popularity, it also continues to evolve. It is important for online retailers to keep up to date and know what the latest trends are. If businesses don’t keep up with trends, they risk losing customers to competitors.
So what are the trends businesses should look out for in 2017?
1. 24 Hour Service
Online shopping means there is no time a store closes, customers can simply order an item when it’s convenient for them. However, what will be changing is the times that service is being offered, with 24 hour service being something that is expected. If you have an online store with limited service hours, you’re missing out on communicating with a large segment of audience that lives in different timezones. There are already services which make it easier for businesses to have phone calls answered no matter the time. However, it can be expected that this will expand with more services being offered to businesses, and round the clock service will become the norm.
2. Mobile devices
The use of mobile phones to access online stores is continue to grow every year. In fact, in 2015 U.S consumers purchased nearly $75 billion in products and services through their mobile devices. That’s a 32% increase from the previous year.
However, conversion rates are lower on mobiles than on desktop. This is because the shopping experience on mobiles is lower than on desktop. In order to improve mobile conversions, businesses are going to have to focus on improving their mobile check-out experience.
3. Artificial Intelligence
Another service that continues to rise is artificial intelligence (AI). Combining AI and e-commerce could see the way online transactions occur completely transformed.
According to Gartner, by 2020 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human. Brands are already on board with using and developing AI. In 2014 alone there was more than $300 million in venture capital invested in AI startups.
Much of this investment is coming from companies including Google, Microsoft Corp and Amazon who have been working on AI for some time. This has resulted in technology such as Siri and Google’s self-driving cars.
E-commerce businesses will use AI to improve their user experience and increase customer interaction. Stores can use personal shopping assistance such as Mona, which was devleoped by former Amazon.com employees. Mona is able to learn customer’s preferred styles, brands and prices while they shop. This knowledge is then applied to the customer’s next shopping experience. In 2017 we can expect more businesses to use AI to enhance their shopping experiences.
4. Social commerce
BusinessDirectory defines social commerce as “a form of electronic commerce which uses social networks to assist in the buying of selling of products. This type of commerce utilizes user ratings, referrals, online communities and social advertising to facilitate online shopping.”
Essentially, users will find they no longer need to leave social media platforms to complete their purchases. Rather than have to leave the platform to go to another website, the whole purchasing cycle is seamlessly completed within the one website. This greatly enhances the user experience.
Pinterest has been one of the early adopters of social commerce. Users are now able to complete in-platform purchases, and it has proven to be popular. Millward Brown Digital undertook research which found 96 percent of visitors to Pinterest use the site to plan for a purchase. More importantly, 87 percent of visitors make a purchase.
In 2017 we can expect more social media platforms to take advantage of social commerce. Social commerce has been rising at a quick speed. In 2015, more than $30 billion of total e-commerce sales were generated directly from social media networks. This was an increase of $10 billion from 2014, and more than $25 billion since 2011. It is easy to see that social commerce is rapidly growing and will continue to do so throughout 2017.
5. On Demand Delivery
One of the most frustrating things about online shopping is waiting for your order to be delivered. So it makes sense that there are companies who are already working to rectify this problem. Shopify has introduced on demand delivery through using UberRUSH. This allows for small businesses to ensure they can do local same day deliveries.
Many brands have already been able to use this feature to their advantage. Kith, a menswear brand based in New York, was able to use UberRUSH to deliver sneakers to its customers within an hour.
Given the continual increase of e-commerce, it can be expected that the demand for quick delivery will simultaneously rise, and more businesses will introduce ways to increase their delivery speed.
6. A simpler checkout process
If you’re going to make a purchase online, you want it to be a simple process, seamlessly purchasing your product while on the one screen. However, often customers are redirected from the website they were originally on, and have to open another screen to enter payment details. This can be frustrating for the customer, particularly when undertaking a purchase on a mobile device.
Business Insider found “at least 25% of online shoppers abandon their carts because the checkout process was complicated or did not contain their preferred mode of payment.” Businesses have to ensure they streamline their checkout process to not only enhance the user experience but to ensure they aren’t losing sales.
E-commerce platform Magento was able to simply its checkout process using OneStepCheckout. This allowed for Magento to revamp their process and reduce six checkout steps to one. Users are able to complete their address and payment details on one page. This has a positive impact on a business’s bottom line and allows for maximum profits.
7. Content marketing
Content marketing is a hugely effective way to increase conversions, something that is a necessity for an e-commerce website. Content marketing allows for companies to brand themselves and build customer loyalty. In fact, content marketing is so important, that Kapost states it can increase your conversion rate by almost six times. The average conversion rate for sites with content marketing is 2.9%. Those without have an average rate of 0.5%.
When you continue to produce content, you will increase a customer’s trust and a sale will therefore become more likely. There are a few ways ecommerce businesses can create effective content, including:
– How-to videos: this is an easy way to feature the products you’re selling on your website and let your audience see how successfully they can be used.
– Images: you’re selling products, so you’re going to want to include posts that are full of images. Make sure your images are stylish and high quality in order not to damage the reputation of your brand. Take advantage of platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, where you can post photos and links to your website.
– Stay up to date: if you need more conversions, the best way to get attention is produce content that is related to something current. Check what is happening on sites like Reddit and write content related to that. Just make sure it’s relevant to the products or services you’re selling on your website.
8. Big data
Big data is somewhat of a buzzword within data analytics. It has been defined by analyst Doug Laney in 2001 as the “3Vs – volume, variety, and velocity.”
So what does this have to do with e-commerce?
Big data offers many opportunities to transform the e-commerce industry. Using big data allows for businesses to track their customers shopping habits. This gives businesses opportunities to personalise a customer’s shopping experience and offer more accurate product suggestions. It also allows for businesses to alter prices if necessary and have precisely targeted advertising.
Big data has a huge potential for the e-commerce industry. In fact, a study undertaken by MGI found a retailer using big data could increase its operating margin by 60 percent. With the potential to increase profits, it can be expected that businesses will use big data to improve a customers shopping experience.
9. Customer engagement
An easy way to increase your following and customer loyalty is by boosting your business’s customer engagement. Gallup’s data found that engaged customers spend more time per visit. Within consumer electronics, fully engaged shoppers make 44% more visits per year than disengaged shoppers.
There are several easy ways for e-commerce companies to boost their customer engagement, including:
– Running Q&A sessions
– Creating interactive content
– Consistently updating social media platforms
– Replying to comments and queries in a timely fashion
– Remain likeable: 86% of customers say loyalty is primarily driven by likeability
– Display how your brand relates to people’s lives, whether that be photos of your brand at an event or photos published that are taken by customers.
Increasing customer engagement will help a brand to raise it’s level of sales, as well as boost its levels of customer loyalty.
10. Omni-channel payments
Gone are they days when there was just one option for payment methods. Now, consumers expect companies to offer a variety of payment options to help improve their shopping experience.
This is where omni-channel comes in. Omni-channel is defined as “a multi channel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience.” Essentially, no matter where the consumer is shopping, whether that be desktop, mobile or in store, the process is expected to be seamless.
The consumer isn’t the only one who benefits from having flexible payment options – it also increases the chances of the business securing a conversion.
U.K fashion store Oasis is a prime example of a company using omni-channel payments to its advantage. Within its stores, Oasis has sales assistants who have iPads that act as a cash register. This makes it easier for you to make a purchase from anywhere within the store, rather than lining up at a cash register. If an item is out of stock, a staff member is able to instantly place an order and have it shipped directly to the customer’s house. There’s no need to risk losing a sale because an item is out of stock. Expect to see more brands using these techniques in store and online to help secure conversions.
These are just some of the trends that we can expect to see throughout the year in the ever changing industry of e-commerce.
Think we’ve missed something? Let us know in the comments.