Staying ahead of the chasing pack is key to being successful in e-commerce. Part of this is taking note of the latest trends. After all, if you don’t, then it’s likely your competitors will. Recent years have seen radical shifts in technology and consumer behaviour. Being ready to embrace the latest digital channel and engage is crucial. But what are the epic e-commerce trends of 2017 you need to know?
1. Mobile shopping is growing
Mobile has exploded and it’s a revenue stream that your e-commerce business has to be geared for. The latest figures for conversion rates for tablets and smartphones show regular per quarter increases. With shoppers increasingly using smartphones and tablets to purchase, it’s vital for online retailers to become effective at trading via these platforms. Worth noting is that people are more likely to purchase via their tablet and browse on their smartphone. Therefore, gearing your e-commerce business for a number of different devices is crucial.
2. Social selling is on the agenda
Social selling is increasing around the world. With the growth assisted by the growing financial muscle of millennials. Today most of the big online stores are promoting their brands and beginning to sell their wares via popular social media platforms. Whether that is through the use of Snapchat geofilters and sponsored lenses, or launching a new product via Facebook Live.
And it’s an e-commerce trend that is evolving too. For example, Instagram has tested a shopping experience with 20 US brands that plays on how its users discover content. Posts can feature up to five products, and users who click go to a product page, then to the retailer’s site if they want to buy. The idea is to show more information about products earlier, so shoppers don’t have to leave the app to search.
For Llibert Argerich, global director of social and content at eBay, social commerce is growing in importance. But more tellingly, “she has every confidence that it’s going to become an ever-growing part of the total business in the coming years”. Which when you consider the size of eBay is huge.
3. Return polices need to be awesome
Turns out one of the keys to success in e-commerce is a seamless online returns. Who knew!? But if stores want to woo more customers, they need to make online returns even easier.
This is especially true for those under the age of 30. Over half of millennials in the US make 54% of their purchases online and they also make the most online returns. But many e-commerce stores are not meeting their expectations. In fact, 48% of US millennials said returns are a hassle. “Shoppers are frequently returning online purchases. But remain loyal to brands if they have a positive experience” according to Sucharita Mulpuru, a retail industry analyst.
Mulpuru goes on to state that retailers who want to remain competitive must find ways to reduce friction in the returns process. This could be: through better communication, providing greater transparency, or offering free return shipping. The takeaway: make sure you create a clear, concise and consistent return policy that gives your customers a sense of security. Plus, if they do return an item, make sure they can return it easily!
4. Offer multiple payment and shipping options
Increasing the payment options your e-commerce business offers is a great way to increase sales. Things are changing fast in the online payment industry and competition is fierce. Startups are joining the fray and challenging established giants, such as PayPal.
Take for example, Swedish unicorn Klarna. Klarna enables payments on third-party websites and apps, with flexible purchasing options such as paying upon delivery or over time. But the key to its success has been the multiple options it provides e-commerce customers.
More payment options, means customers find it easier to buy. The same is true of shipping too. Like smooth online payments, shoppers expect the delivery of a purchase to be just as smooth. The faster the delivery the better too! If you are able to dispatch products within 24 hours, then expect more love and revenue from returning customers.
5. Personalise everything
Personalised shopping is by far the best way to entice your customers. Online stores should provide for customers via their purchase history, browsing habits, and needs. The ultimate goal of personalisation is to use data to make it easier for your customers to find and consume what they want, how they want it.
Talking to eMarketer, CMO of Rich Relevance, Diane Kegley, makes the point that “it’s about putting the power in the hands of the consumer”. She goes on to state that “there’s now a spectrum of personalisation”. For an e-commerce business this means even greater personalisation, and not only on your site, display ads, or via targeted email. But on other channels like mobile, call centres, even physical stores if you have them. Taking the time to understand all customers’ individual needs is a positive trend for all involved.
6. Apply programmatic creative advertising
Those in the know will have heard the phrase: programmatic creative. Advertising that uses data to present individual consumers with targeted creative. Subtle variations of online display, and video, ads are presented before a viewer based on known information. This means two very different audiences can be target for the same product via different variations of creative. Its potential for enhanced e-commerce advertising is enormous.
For example, Robert Allen of Smart Insights makes the case for shoppable personalised video. It’s a combining of programmatically served video with shoppable video, and personalised video: placing products in a video based on customer preferences. He predicts it will be “a massive change in how e-commerce marketers sell via video”. It’s also another example of how programmatic creative will help e-commerce businesses convert.
7. Use content to increase your site’s traffic
More and more e-commerce businesses are using content to encourage visitors to spend further time on a website. The result is that consumers get the information they need, and make smarter buying decisions. They’re also more likely to return, again and again.
Talking to the Drum, chief commercial officer at Lastminute.com, Alessandra Di Lorenzo, sees this trend as a key strategy for the travel site. “The purpose of the content hub is to serve as an inspiration engine. Our customers are always looking for ideas. From where to go on holiday, to what they do when they’re there, and what to pack once they’ve booked. We want to offer that inspiration through curated content.” As well as providing further insights on customers, it also means they can target the entire travel lifecycle.
But a word of warning! The biggest mistake an e-commerce business can make when pursuing this strategy is to use cheap creative. Take the time and effort to produce quality content. Tailor-made creative will ensure a larger number of clicks and not put people off. By creating blogs, videos, photos or infographics that catch attention, you can bring traffic to your e-commerce website.
8. Be prepared for voice search
Another e-commerce trend of 2017 that’s growing in prominence is voice search. One of the forerunners of the Internet of Things (IoT) entering consumers’ lives – and once considered more a tool for fun. But all that has changed and it’s now become an effective technique that can boost e-commerce sales. Even WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrel sees Amazon’s Alexa as a massive disruption to future advertising. While, both Apple and Google have their own similar A.I. assistants.
To exploit voice search, you need to optimise your website. For example, conversational long tail requests appear more in Google voice search results. In fact, according to Google 20% of all mobile search requests are now through voice search and this trend is likely to soon surge. Install this functionality on your e-commerce site and potentially you’ll drive more traffic.
9. Try bringing your e-commerce marketing in-house
A trend gathering ever greater momentum is the use of in-house marketing teams within e-commerce. As we’ve mentioned e-commerce businesses are now creating and accumulating unprecedented amounts of data. And with personalised customer relations, is it a good thing that a third-party agency could own both the data and the relationship? It’s not exactly ideal.
Having an in-house team, also allows you to embrace agile ways of working. It means you are on the pulse, with campaigns that are consistent across all platforms and social media. Recruit the right staff, use the best tools, like Bannerflow, and in-house marketing can become a useful reality.
There you have it, 9 e-commerce trends of 2017 you need to know. But just remember strategies, trends and technology are changing all the time. Make it your business to keep on top of them! Take the use of Chatbots; what was once science fiction is now a very real tool in a answering the questions of e-commerce customers 24/7. When the opportunity arises take advantage of innovative tools that improve your e-commerce business. Be the first to make the most of changing consumer behaviour.
If you would like more information on key e-commerce strategies, Bannerflow has an e-book which is available for download.