At MageMail, we understand that trends come and go, and that fashion has its fair share of victims.
No one should be surprised when this year’s Kindle becomes next year’s Crocs, and if you’re thinking about going double-denim like it’s 1982, you best have ‘all the right moves’.
In ecommerce, where eMarketer predicts total global online sales will hit $4 trillion by 2020, the need to keep up with trends is more than just a fashion mood board, it’s a business necessity.
Smart marketers know that as the online playground gets bigger (yes, we said $4 trillion) the competition gets tougher, so to do more than just survive the catwalk, you definitely need to stay ‘on-trend’.
To help you get there, here are 5 ecommerce trends that will get more and more important in 2017 and beyond. Most of these you should already be aware of, but if not, here’s the skinny (jeans) on them all.
Everyone’s talking about ‘bots’.
Big guns like Facebook and WhatsApp are leading the way in their development, which means that pretty soon we’ll all be talking to them as well.
Although still in what experts call a ‘rudimentary’ phase of their design, according to Accenture Mobility, chatbots are already revolutionizing the customer experience for many companies.
Working like virtual assistants on popular platforms like Messenger, Kik, Slack, and WhatsApp, chatbots work to augment the ‘human’ interface, mirror the physical retail reality and enable customers to get the information they want, when they want it.
For those unaware, a chatbot is a piece of software that impersonates a human being. Primarily used for automating repetitive tasks in the past (shopping, booking, customer inquiry) they are now being developed with artificial intelligence technology to perform more complex functions, and in many cases are already delivering outstanding results.
Absolunet tells us that ‘live chat’ users spend 5-10% more than their non-chat counterparts, and that buyers have a 5 to 10 times higher rate of conversion following a chat session. In other words, it’s well worth your investment!
Nowadays you can ask a chatbot about the weather, search news or buy shoes. In China, there’s even a chatbot called ‘Xiaoice’ that millions of people are falling in love with! Go figure.
Late last year Facebook added in-app purchase functionality to some of its 30,000+ developed bots as well, meaning you can already buy things from a piece of AI. It’s something that’s expected to become the norm in the future when it’s also predicted that many people’s first point of contact with brands will more often than not be with a bot.
At this point, chatbots main functionality is about ‘smoothing’ the customer journey, and with more people continuously on messaging apps than ever (see the chart below) the opportunity remains huge, so we expect this trend to continue to grow.
If you’re looking to develop your own, consider the following advice from Accenture:
For more on the chatbot trend, check out this great article from Chatbots Magazine.
It might not be as ‘new’ and shiny as a chatbot with artificial intelligence, but the trend of mobile is as valid as they come. Basically, the paradigm shift towards mobile continues unabated, with more and more shoppers taking to their smartphones first – even if they aren’t always converting.
Ecommercewee.co.uk announced earlier this year that visits to retail websites via mobile devices had taken over desktop, with “over half of traffic to retail websites now coming via smartphones and tablets.”
Their article continued with a quote from Mark Lewis, the online director of heritage British department store chain John Lewis, who said;
“Today, over half of the traffic to johnlewis.com comes from mobile and tablet devices, and the conversion rate has also increased. We’ve placed a significant focus on developing our mobile strategy and have more enhancements planned for our app later this year. Customers want to be able to shop seamlessly across all channels and mobile is now the go-to choice alongside visiting our shops.”
Underscored by Google’s mobile-first indexing which they announced last year, we’d say that if your site isn’t at least optimized for mobile devices, it needs to be your number one priority.
With regard today’s current ‘lack’ of conversion, research clearly indicates that people make decisions about buying on their smartphones, before switching to a tablet or desktop to purchase. The below graph from Smart Insights based on 87 million web sessions demonstrates this clearly.
It’s a trend that’s set to change, but while this remains the case, consider the simple strategy of sending your customers a highly customized email featuring products they’ve recently looked at on a mobile device, at a time when they are more likely to be on a desktop. It could be the simple reminder they need to convert their search into purchase.
3. Mobile Payments
Further to search, another mobile trend we love is mobile payments and loyalty apps. Think about it; how often have you heard people say how much they love carrying around wads of cash, and a bunch of different loyalty and credit cards?
The Starbucks payment app is currently only used by a reported 22% of its customers and has already been attributed to a 12% increase in revenue. When you factor in the valuable customer information they can track via scanned data, the benefits are huge, making it a model worth following. Just think of how streamlined your shopping experience could be.
As far as the ‘old’ alternative is concerned, in China, online giant Alibaba even has the central bank worried with its ‘cashless week’ promotion!
For ecommerce beauty expert Maria Corella from Avon, it’s all about quicker checkouts, faster load times and easier navigation.
“Mobile payments will foster the upward spiral of mobile shopping,” she says. “To capture it, however, retailers will be expected to invest more resources than ever into their mobile experience, and many will even give a greater share of their site development budget to mobile, rather than desktop.”
4. Big Data & Personalization
If you’ve ever thought about getting your content (read ads) to appear at the right place at the right time, you’ve heard about the use of data.
This trend will continue to become more sophisticated for the rest of this year and beyond.
The success of the above mentioned Starbucks app is in the information it collects, creating the possibility to create truly personalized offers the customer is genuinely interested in.
How much less often do you think will people abandon cart if they’re there because the offer they received was so on-point it was almost impossible to ignore? We think a lot less.
Same goes with regard overcoming the obstacle of online purchase uncertainty.
Absolunet tells us that 92% of users read online reviews before purchase, which brings the use of data into sharp focus.
The more data there is about products we like, pictures, images, reviews and honest testimonials, the less likely we are to become reluctant about buying online.
In addition, more data gives retailers the opportunity to customize experiences for us, and the benefits are obvious.
Loyalty clubs like the ones already mentioned have been around for years, so customers expect to be delighted by them. Because of data, this is possible – and it’s no longer just the realm of the big players.
Remember, Amazon used to be a book club, so why not take it from the man himself:
If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.”
Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon
5. Same Day Delivery
Let’s not lie, this ecommerce trend is difficult.
If you’re not Amazon, IKEA, Walmart or Macy’s, you might not have the distribution or fulfillment capacity to make this dream a reality. Short of putting a million drones in the sky, there needs to be an alternative.
That’s why experts are predicting what they’re calling the ‘Uberization’ of shipping, with smaller stores and local drop-off points where customers can pick up their purchases.
Walmart has been toying with the idea for some time of having customers who make an in-store purchase, drop-off another customer’s order on their way home. They’ve also been investing in smaller outlets to become online order delivery points for the ‘everyday essential’ slice of the market they dominate.
Whether concepts like these gain traction remain to be seen, but one report by Forrester states that 29% of consumers would be willing to pay extra for same-day delivery of their purchases.
In this case, it’s all about being an extraordinary brand and getting excellent at something that was a pain point for many brick-and-mortar retailers for years.
Bottomline: there are options. Same-day might be a tall order, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be optimizing this part of your business as much as possible.
Pro-tip: never promise something that’s going to be next to impossible to deliver (pardon the pun). Your customers will love you way more if you’re up front and honest about what they can expect.
Thanks for reading our Top 5 Ecommerce Trends of 2017.
We know there are many more, but we hope you’ve found these a helpful starting point in identifying what your ecommerce business needs to improve revenue.
In a world where most households have several internet connected devices, and where a growing number of us prefer to shop online first, the ability for your brand to integrate great customer experiences, innovate using the latest technology and deliver on the promises you make is so important.
Always remember that a bounce-back or drop-out is never more than a mouse click away and that while trends may come and go, success lasts forever!
The MageMail Team