While Ecommerce currently only accounts for about 10% of total US sales, this is no reason to mistake it for a small player. The global expansion rate of Ecommerce is estimated at 20% per annum.
There is no sign of this slowing, as a digitally-immersed generation turns into a salaried population with money to spend online. Older generations are also more at ease with the idea of handing over their money via on the screen rather than via a human hand.
In this article, you will learn:
- 10 most important Ecommerce trends to stay abreast of as a business owner
- how technological development has impacted the Ecommerce marketplace
- what these trends mean for marketing your Ecommerce business
Technological developments in Ecommerce have placed the retailer in a position of near omniscience, allowing for a perspective on consumer habits that was simply not possible before.
It is now possible to provide customers with highly personalised products and services, while at the same time knowing more about the way in which they spend their money.
Furthermore, risks such as having stagnant stock are decreasing with the development of on-demand services.
Enough shop talk!
Let’s get to it.
As promised, here are the 10 most important Ecommerce Trends and what they mean for your business.
1. Things just got personal.
By collecting customer data, you can perform retail wizardry. This ensures that customers see only items that have a high potential for conversion into sales. Everybody wins.
No more aimless wandering for users, and far less frustrating window shopping for the retailer.
Personalisation may have once been the enigmatic pot of gold at the end of the retail rainbow, for both customers and store owners alike.
Now an important Ecommerce trend, personalisation allows you to cater a digital retail experience to the precise needs of your customers.
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This forward-thinking company uses the trend of personalisation to full effect, placing the user in the appropriate language and currency according to IP address.
By doing so, they take the “potential” out of “potential customer,” removing many of the user’s obstacles to conversion.
It’s not only small businesses that are embracing the trend of personalisation. Major retailers like Walmart and Nordstrom are using personalisation to change the face of customer engagement.
2. Print-on-demand (POD).
Print-on-demand is the retail equivalent of not counting your chickens before they hatch. Originating in the publishing industry, this methodology allows the creation of goods to come after they have been ordered by the customer.
As a cherry on top, the shop owner is able to step back from production and fulfillment and focus on design or creation.
The result for retailers of all shapes and sizes is that there is no longer a need for stagnant inventory to grow stale on dusty shelves.
This eliminates large upfront costs that may have been previously prohibitive for retailers.
It’s truly as simple as a, b, c:
- A is for as needed. You only create what has already been ordered.
- B is for branding options. Elevate your brand through personalised branding options that come at a low risk to you.
- C is for customer satisfaction. They get the exact product they ordered in a few clicks.
Specialist partners take care of all the administrative headaches, using well-established manufacturing, print, and delivery stakeholders.
This can now be accessed “as a service” by the merchant, meaning the Ecommerce store can focus on their catalogue and their customers.
Ecommerce POD has opened up the market for SMEs, but also for creatives such as artists and designers. The nuts and bolts can be outsourced, minimising risk and maximising flexibility.
Some of our favourite POD suppliers include Gearlaunch, RedBubble and PrintAura.
3. The Mobile-First Index – get your site moving.
2018 has ushered in a major shift for Ecommerce retailers – Google’s mobile-first indexing.
If you have not yet configured your website to meet this standard, listen carefully because this is not something you can choose to ignore.
Put simply, the mobile-first index will rank content based on the mobile version of your website.
Google has had a soft roll out of mobile-first indexing this year and has begun to extend this across the web. Whilst website indexing was previously based on the desktop version of your website, the trend is to move further towards mobile.
It’s not hard to see the implication this has across the board for all digital professionals.
If you want your store to stay relevant and discoverable, make sure that you engage your developers and content creators to ensure that you conform with the future of indexing.
A key factor when it comes to adapting to this trend is prioritising fast-loading content.
Google has warned against slow-loading content no matter what format you are looking at, so adapting to this should be part of your digital operations anyway. It’s necessary work that needs to be done to ensure the marketability of your business.
4. Social Media Advertising
For the demographic between the ages of 18 and 35, social media has been, and continues to be, the main research tool for shopping. This has an intrinsic bearing on the world of Ecommerce.
Social media is the most refined marketing tool in history, allowing companies to target their niche in unprecedented ways.
If you can influence potential customers at this phase of the buying process, you are on your way to securing business.
While the trend of using social media for Ecommerce is not new, there are important changes that must be responded to accordingly.
- Facebook, in particular, has gone from a place to research what to buy, to a place to do the actual buying. It is the marketplace, and not just the brochure.
- For a variety of complex reasons beyond the scope of this article, Facebook has made changes to its algorithm, sending many entrepreneurs into a frenzy. Quite simply, it is now more difficult to get your product in front of the right niche audience.
- Ad saturation on Facebook has pushed a lot of users in search of alternatives to other platforms such as Instagram.
For the foreseeable future, social media will continue to be central to Ecommerce marketing. But you have to stay active in your relationship to it.
Trends are shifting constantly and staying abreast of them can be the difference between life and death for your business.
5. The search is on for SEO trends
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is by no means a new trend.
Its contemporary use, however, might be. The reality is that within a year or two – or maybe even a few months – current Ecommerce SEO strategies may be rendered archaic.
Whilst the best practices for Ecommerce SEO are evolving all the time, here are some principles to follow that should stand you in good stead in the current landscape:
- Google is not the only one at the party. If you are used to optimising specifically for Google, it may be time to broaden your horizons. Search engines all work slightly differently, depending on your channel of choice – Etsy, Amazon, eBay. Take them into account in your SEO strategy. If you have an app for iOS or Android, look into App Store Optimisation (ASO).
- Technical site optimisation is paramount. In a world of marginal gains, your site must be set up to the optimal standards. This includes HTTPS security, site speed, and as mentioned you need to focus on mobile optimisation. Combine this with readable categorisation, logical URLs, Alt tags, image compression, and in-depth natural content.
Caitlin Draper-Wheeler wrote a very useful post on 10 SEO essentials for your online store, in which she mentions loads of great tips including long-tail keywords, keyword cannibalisation, canonicals, and unique product descriptions.
6. “Alexa, how is voice going to drive e-Commerce trends?”
In what may have once seemed merely a science fiction trope, conversing with devices with no human on the other end is more commonplace.
In their Future of Retail report, Walker Sands explains that 24% of U.S. adults own a voice-controlled device, and this number is only set to increase. In fact, they predict that these will soon be household staples.
Remember the landline?
Well, having a voice-activated device might become as commonplace in the future as the landline was in the past.
Source: Walker Sands
What does this mean for eCommerce? Most importantly, it has sensory implications for the way consumers do their shopping.
Since the dawn of the industrialised world, retail has been a visual activity.
You like what you see? Buy it, if you have the money. If you don’t, you’re “just browsing.”
This is set to change. Purchasing will become more of a voice-driven action.
You like what you hear?
You tell your device.
Or just keep listening?
Of course, this presents a major challenge for retailers. How are you going to configure your business to take this important Ecommerce trend into account?
7. Make sure your Artificial IQ is up!
If discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) previously felt theoretical, this is no longer the case. The AI era has dawned, and with it, the implications that it has on all areas of our lives. Ecommerce is by no means immune to this emergency.
Hana Abaza, Head of Marketing at Shopify Plus has seen firsthand the worth of automated systems in Ecommerce.
“By off-loading decision-making from humans to an automated system,” he writes, “you get the thing we all need in order to be more successful: time.”
One example where AI is shaking up things is in the HR and customer service industry, where ChatBots and AI are being used together to teach, educate, recruit and even onboard people.
In addition to this, the Ecommerce industry is characterised by its global reach. Whilst this opens up a world of potential customers that may not have been available before, it also means that engaging with customers is more challenging.
That’s a lot of time zones and languages to deal with!
Luckily, friendly robots will help with this astronomical task, and they get more intelligent in their responses by the day.
AI can be implemented in Ecommerce in the following ways:
- Customer service from chatbots at any time of the day or night.
- Data analysis of reams of customer data that would take humans aeons to decipher.
- Cataloguing and inventory, saving you time and keeping you organised.
- Revenue predictions, allowing you to stay on top of your business model and its effectiveness without having to spend too much time on it.
- Fraud prevention through alerts that can be sent directly to you when suspicious behaviour is detected.
8. Everywhere at once with multi-channel selling.
In days gone by, you had one avenue of selling your wares: the brick and mortar store.
As Ecommerce explodes, the options for selling your products have multiplied. It is becoming a prerequisite for Ecommerce entrepreneurs to embrace multi-channel selling to optimise the reach of their products and to make their businesses more profitable.
But it is not all puppies and unicorns. Multi-channel selling comes with its cons.
While your brand visibility is increased, engaging with multiple platforms throws up two major problems for retailers that you need to find urgent solutions to:
- Brand consistency: How do you maintain brand consistency over multiple platforms? Your customers are more likely to associate your product with the platform they bought it from than the brand itself. How can you make an impression with your brand?
- Inventory challenges: This is a big one. If you have your products spread over multiple channels, how do you keep track of what needs to go where, to whom, and when? But don’t fret. You don’t have to tackle this alone. Technology to answer this industry call is rapidly evolving. (Look back at point 7. Automation will become your best friend.
9. Curiosity killed the conversion rate.
It’s a problem as old as commerce itself. How do you turn curious eyes into pocket-reaching hands?
In the world of Ecommerce however, the issue of converting potential customers into paying ones is even more challenging. It’s just that much easier to hop from one site to the next, without the commitment to purchasing.
It’s no wonder then that an important Ecommerce trend is Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) – ways to turns those casual clicks into purchases.
As an Ecommerce retailer, it may alarm you to experience very low conversion rates. According to a study done by Statista based on the last quarter of 2017, only 3.26% of Ecommerce website visits were converted into purchases.
So what’s to be done?
Fortunately, there are tried-and-tested ways to improve conversion rates. Here are some tips for greater rates:
- Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. View your website from their perspective and highlight where the obstacles are to conversion. If you cannot make a purchase with the ease of a few clicks, bridge the gaps.
- Do user research on your current customers. Analyse who is buying what, and then look to understand the why.
- Run A/B tests. Often. Test every website iteration against an alternative, and measure.
- Ensure your customers feel safe about providing their credit card details. Technology has made digital payments easier, and innovations such as Shopify’s credit card reader integrate online commerce with offline pop-up stores. Multiple avenues for business, all conducted safely and securely.
10. The bit about coins.
It was just a matter of time before the digital marketplace adopted its own currency.
Just the mention of blockchain, bitcoin, and cryptocurrency might have you fatigued.
There are so many contrasting opinions about how and when (and if) to adopt a digital currency that it can be baffling to know what course to follow in your Ecommerce business.
What is undeniable is that all the major players have embraced digital currency to some extent.
From Amazon to Etsy, the future is digital. Now, this may feel uncomfortable – but it’s a paradigm shift.
It is supposed to feel that way.
The facts are, as they say, the facts: Bitcoin reported a growth rate of 328% in 2017. Despite ups and downs, it is here to stay for the long haul.
As the digital world becomes more widely accepted as a hub for every kind of commerce, it follows that digital currency becomes the tender of a global village.
Blockchain technology will facilitate huge changes over the coming decades. It’s only just getting started.
The last word, for now.
The good news for you is that current Ecommerce trends will serve to improve your bottom line as a retailer if you’re willing to adapt and adopt.
For the first time ever, you are privy to detailed knowledge about customers and their spending habits that were never available before.
The avenues for selling products online have increased exponentially, and upfront costs have for the most part decreased substantially.
The process of building an inventory and operating the supply chain has become easier, and more accessible. Technological advancements such as print-on-demand and drop-shipping can give you back time, and the use of digital marketing extends reach to a global audience.
The challenge is that Ecommerce trends change constantly.
As an entrepreneur, it is important that to stay keyed into the latest developments and how to circumnavigate obstacles.
Ultimately, the same golden rules of entrepreneurship still apply – offer remarkable products, build a strong brand, and maintain a customer-centric view.
Knowing technical, economic, and social trends in the Ecommerce landscape will help you apply these golden rules in the most effective way.
What are some of the trends that you’re looking forward to seeing this year? Let us know in the comments!