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7 ecommerce trends to watch out for in 2016

Trends are always changing and ecommerce trends are no different. While this is a great thing, it also presents a challenge.

Changing technology can improve and impress, which is why ecommerce store owners need to constantly be on their toes, and keep their eyes and ears open for what’s in the pipeline and figure out how it can help them better their products and services.

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One can say that technological trends are like fashion. Women’s costumes and men’s suits are always changing, and you need to keep up with the latest to stay relevant. This principle applies to ecommerce technology as well.

2016 is fast approaching and is being touted as the year which will witness the emergence of a host of new trends in ecommerce, as well as experience the impact of those that made waves in 2015.

According to Forrester, consumers will spend US$327-billion per year on online shopping by 2016. It is, therefore, crucial to stay abreast of the developments in this field and tap the market.

Mentioned ahead are a few trends that are expected to evolve over the course of the coming year.

The Rise and the impact of mobile shopping

In today’s day and age, mobile phones are considered a necessity. Over the last few years, mobile phones have seen a surge in their use, with people using them not only to communicate or text, but also to shop. In keeping with this, an m-commerce store will no longer by an additional feature, but a requisite by 2016.

As noted by Kissmetrics, one-third of all ecommerce purchases were made on a smartphone during the holiday shopping season in 2013. Another noteworthy statistic is that 78% of mobile searches for local business information result in a purchase.

Read more: The real state of ecommerce in South Africa: 9 things you need to know today

A business that undermines the importance of providing mobile shopping support will probably end up losing customers and facing obsolescence in no time. This means websites will need to be optimised to offer high-resolution and suitable touch control options that enable a seamless shopping experience.

Such must-have features will keep your customers coming back. Using services such as Google Analytics will give you a fair idea of how many customers are browsing your store on their phone. The number may just take you by surprise.

Multiple channels for shopping

Taking a cue from the above point, another device that is growing in popularity among online shoppers is the tablet. Gone are the days when people used only desktop computers and laptops to make online purchases. Apart from using mobile phones, they’re also using tablets. In fact, phones are increasingly becoming phablets i.e. phone and tablet amalgam, thanks to their ever-increasing screen size.

This, however, does not mean shoppers make use of only one device to make a purchase at all times. Say someone stumbles upon your brand through an online ad whilst browsing on their desktop computer at work. They leave it at that, and on their way back home, Google your brand on their mobile phone. They decide to look at some of your offerings on their tablet once they get home, and finally convert on their laptop later that evening.

According to ICSC, omni-channel customers tend to shop more frequently and spend 3.5 times more than single-channel shoppers.

So, even if customers aren’t converting on their desktop computers, several of them will still use their mobile devices or tablets to browse, research, and make their decisions.

More often than not, the online purchase cycle works like this. This is the reason why ecommerce stores of the future have to be flexible and responsive.

Automation in marketing

When it comes to marketing automation in online stores, the scope includes not just good old’ email marketing, but extends to customised landing pages, tailor-made discounts and promotions, easily-accessible shopping carts, and automatic display of related recommended products for customers.

Read more: 50 of South Africa’s top ecommerce sites

This does not mean that emails need not be used. If implemented properly, automated marketing will enable you to send out customised emails to each customer, informing them of new products and promotional offers on the basis of their shopping history.

Automated recommendations are directly determined by what a particular customer bought or clicked when they visited your store previously.

Using content to engage and sell

Using content in B2B online sales is crucial. That’s because B2B buyers are always looking for details. They don’t just want a product; they also want specifications, helpful videos, rich images, and comprehensive product guidelines. All these elements go a long way in convincing them to buy from you.

This can be extremely beneficial as you can use content not only to educate customers about your products, but also to notify them of new products and promotions. Further, this is key to a more continuous communication between your brand and the retailer.

An important factor to consider here is personalisation. When you offer your customers personalized content, you share with them valuable knowledge, which provides them with solutions to their problems. This, in turn, can be highly instrumental in increasing your sales, inspiring website visitors to stay for longer, and garner customer trust and loyalty.

Customer data analysis through algorithms

One of the major challenges that plagues ecommerce stores, in terms of automation and personalisation, is customer segmentation and identification of patterns based on the buying history. Algorithms can help here.

The precision of the data returned by algorithms, however, depends on the quality and the size of the data analysed. This can work against small ecommerce businesses that do not have large amounts of data to be evaluated. However, such businesses can collaborate with third-party providers with access to vast amount f data to minimise this limitation.

Flash sales

This isn’t a new concept, but its widespread effect certainly cannot (and should not) be ignored. Flash sales have become a habit and an expectation of online customers, especially during special occasions.

Although the success of flash sales isn’t guaranteed, it can be assumed that if flash sales become rife, customers will be more than happy to lap them up with both hands and in small timeframes.

Read more: 6 tips for kickstarting your first ecommerce site

While the public will expect huge discounts across a plethora of products, you need to ensure that you do not end up damaging your brand in a bid to organise a flash sale.

Flash sales can last from anything between a few hours to a few days. Some even take place within the timeframe of 60 minutes. If your website is mobile optimised, more customers will be able to have faster and easier access to your store, thereby revving up your sales.

Better shipping

For most ecommerce retailers, shipping options are just starting to evolve. It was only during 2013 that a lot of delivery services started to offer same-day delivery. The concept of ‘crowdsourced deliverers’ came up as well, with the larger retailers experimenting with drone delivery services.

All said and done, specialised services remain the most reliable and fastest modes of delivery. As far as the future is concerned, regulation approvals for drone deliveries haven’t been ruled out. This, however, will depend from country to country. The impact of this trend can be understood by Amazon’s announcement a few months ago to recruit new agents for crowdsourced delivery i.e. regular people like you.

Today, we live in a world that is well-informed and its people are no longer willing to settle for anything that does not live up to their expectations. The sooner online retailers realise that the customer is king, the better chance they stand of winning them over. Customers are spoilt for choices and switching to other brands takes no time. The amount of time and money they spend when shopping online matters most to them. Factors such as convenience and security also play a huge role. The future belongs to the retailers who engage them by providing value, thereby earning their trust.

The above pointers should enable you to understand what the future of ecommerce looks like, and strategise accordingly to metamorphose into something bigger and formidable that makes your customers and competitors take you seriously.

Image by Jason Howie via Flickr

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