With the demand for online shopping growing (more than half a trillion dollars in sales are projected by 2020), e-commerce merchants who sit idly by are not going to cut it. The only e-commerce merchants that are going to succeed in today’s market are those who continuously strive to improve their business strategy. You must be focused on challenges, opportunities and expectations.
But how are you supposed to do that? One way you can be prepared for 2017 is to look at trends that are going to shape the year. Here are our top expected to dominate the industry.
1 Omnichannel: Over the past year, omnichannel has become something of a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot in the e-commerce space. At the end of the day, e-commerce merchants really have to focus on providing consumers a seamless shopping experience, no matter what type of device they find you on.
You can’t expect customers to come to you where you are — you have to meet them where they are. Your product has to be visible to the consumer where they want it, when they want it and at the price they want it. That can be hard to coordinate with real-time stock information, but if you can connect each touchpoint, you will see real benefits.
2 Mobile: If you aren’t mobile friendly by now, you have a lot of catching up to do. Experts say that up to 75 percent of all Internet use will come from mobile this year. That’s not very surprising when you consider that a typical person spends about 3 hours a day on a mobile device. And, because of this, consumers now demand that websites work on the phones.
While mobile is predicted to increase over the next year, you can expect to see e-commerce sales still skewed toward desktop. However, don’t expect that to stay that way for long. Mobile retail is just going to continue to evolve until it’s the standard. Merchants who are mobile focused are reaping benefits.
So what can you do to become more mobile friendly? Focus on AMPs, or accelerated mobile pages, and mobile apps.
3 Social selling: While some wrote off social selling, it is gaining traction in the e-commerce space, and it is just going to continue to grow over the next year. With social selling, consumers can buy your products without having to leave the app. While you might think it’s awesome, consumers don’t want to have to go to your clunky landing page — that’s too much work. Remember, mobile and omnichannel are all about convenience. Meet them where they are and don’t make them do any more work than putting in their credit card information.
4 Subscriptions: Subscription-based services have started to really gain traction in the past 10 years and are quickly becoming the way of the future. People don’t want to have to go to the store to buy everyday items all the time. If you do decide to go down this road, it does take a shift in thinking. You can’t be focused on growth. Instead, you have to be focused on retention.
5 Chat Bots: Another trend that we expect will really come to fruition in 2017 is the use of chat bots. Chat bots are computer programs that can communicate with customers on your site and answer any questions they have or help them with their problems. These artificial intelligence agents can serve as the first point of contact for your brand. This provides a more humanlike approach while effectively engaging your audience.
But in addition to acting as a customer service representative, these bots can do much more. One, they can track data on your customers, which not only helps the chat bot to learn but also helps you understand your clients more. If you learn that a lot of people are asking about something, you can take that and address it on your site.
6 Personalization: Generic content isn’t going to cut it any longer. Consumers know when you are speaking directly to them or if you’ve created one text copy and are pushing it out to thousands. You don’t have to be flashy or pushy to get consumers to buy your product — you just have to be unique. Personalization, or creating content specifically designed to each user, is going to separate the winners from the losers in today’s competitive e-commerce industry.
7 Content: One drawback for e-commerce retailers is, no matter what you do your customers will never be able to see or touch your product before they purchase it. Ninety percent of consumers say they have abandoned a purchase due to poor product descriptions. This means that you have to do more than just copy product information from somewhere else. You need to be providing your potential customers with relevant and unique descriptions. The more content you have for them, the more trust they put in what they are buying.
8 Shipping: When it comes to shipping, consumers want two things: they want shipping to be free and they want it to be fast. In today’s market you can’t afford to not be offering free and fast shipping.
Ronald Dod is a partner and CEO of Visiture, a provider of search marketing services.