It is no secret that e-commerce is big business that’s getting bigger. Conservative opinions predict online retail sales are expected to reach $4.5 trillion1 by 2021.
What’s also true is that it’s an industry evolving at an exponential rate. As rapid technological advances combine with the requirements of consumers for an increasingly personalised and efficient user experience (UX), it’s crucial that you pay attention to the latest developments.
By staying on top of these changes, your business will arm itself with the tools needed to gain new customers and increase brand loyalty.
This post looks at six trends which will shape the e-commerce industry in 2018 and what they mean for your own business.
Recommended reading: Step Up Your Customer Service Using Chatbots
1. Augmented Reality to get real
When all reality becomes augmented will it mean that reality itself ceases to exist?
Such questions are best left for the philosophers, but what’s certain is that augmented reality (AR) is here to stay and will play a huge part in the future of e-commerce. TechCrunch have predicted the AR market will reach $83 billion
That’s fantastic news for consumers.
A tool like ARKit, for iOS 11, has made it much easier for developers to implement AR strategies. A great example is IKEA Place. Using their phones, customers can see what IKEA’s furniture will look like in their actual home. They no longer have to rely on a tape measure and their imagination.
Expect many more online retailers to follow suit.
Try not to think of your online shop window in the traditional way. Imagine what it could look like in an augmented universe - picture how you can present your offerings in order to best showcase them to your customers.
2. Stand and deliver – quickly
In the crowded online world, delivery times and the availability of flexible shipping can make or break a business. Finding ways to increase efficiency is now an essential part of your ecommerce strategy.
It’s here that Amazon’s dominance is most obvious.
In a recent press release, the retail giants announced that they shipped more than 5 billion items via their Prime one-or-two-day shipping service in 2017, with their fastest delivery time being an almost unfathomable 8 minutes.
Amazon are now offering a one-hour delivery service in some areas. Competitors will have to up their own logistics game in order to have any hope of keeping up.
How efficient is your own delivery system? You could partner with a logistics company to provide your customers a more convenient service?
3. User Generated Content, easy as 1 2 3
User-Generated Content (UGC) is going to be more influential than ever this year and it’s no surprise; social shares, reviews and scrolling carousels of customer photos are ideal ways to boost SEO while providing an invaluable service to consumers.
What’s great about UGC is that it is real content which you don’t have to create yourself.
It has been said that a customer is 97% 3 more likely to purchase after having interacted with UGC and there’s no doubting that this type of content is incredibly effective. What’s more, it’s a way of obtaining genuine feedback on product/ services and solidifying relationships with the customer.
Work out what your customers can do for you and what you can give them in return. Perhaps offer entrance into a monthly raffle for those who share relevant UGC images. It’s a win-win.
4. Checkout before they get out
The evolution of online checkouts looks set to reach a vital stage in 2018 - with the demise of the traditional payment form.
The expiration of Amazon’s one-click patent means that even more mobile shoppers can experience a streamlined checkout process. Options such as Apple Pay, Paypal, Android Pay and Amazon Pay are here to stay.
A clunky transaction is one way of putting off potential customers. It’s therefore no wonder that businesses want to upgrade their checkout mechanisms and, in doing so, increase impulse buys.
Consider streamlining your checkout system, removing those outdated payment forms and adopting a one-click mechanism.
5. Boom of the subscription box
The popularity of subscription services looks set to accelerate this year. With an increase of 800%4 between 2014 and April 2017, it’s a market that will continue to grow.
The success of companies like Stitch Fix and Ipsy, who send out personalised clothing and make-up items each month, has led to the likes of Under Armour and Gap offering their own subscription service.
It’s not just fashion. Subscriptions services are available for curated record collections, razor blades and recipe ingredients! These monthly packages offer value for money (the content is often discounted), personalisation and efficiency to the consumer and guarantee recurring customers for the retailer.
By providing a service that is personalised and ensures value for money, you’ll be able to turn those occasional browsers into lifetime customers.
6. It’s good to chatbot
While the machines haven’t taken over the world just yet, chatbots have changed the sales potential of the ecommerce and retail world5. There’s even potential for these little helpers to address the ROBO (Research Online, Buy Offline) balance, a particular concern to businesses with no offline presence.
The beauty industry has pioneered this technology, such as Foundation Finder, and shown that chatbots are no longer just a way to help with FAQs. Powered by algorithms, they are able to improve UX by acting as a virtual personal shopping assistant who can give customers the individual advice often missing in the ecommerce world.
With that in mind, it’s no wonder that 48%6 of consumers prefer to connect via live chat over other means of communication. We predict that these bots are here to stay, and we’re welcoming them with open arms.
Even if you’re not in a position to incorporate chatbots into your ecommerce infrastructure, now is the time to familiarise yourself with the technology. Start with the brands that you admire, how do they use these virtual assistants?
So there you have it - Six ecommerce trends that also offer opportunities for all online businesses.
By embracing technology, streamlining and improving the consumers UX, it’s possible to create an ecommerce platform that will be the envy of your competitors. If there’s an overarching theme it’s that these trends will make the online customer in 2018 more fulfilled than ever before. That can only be a good thing for all concerned.
2.Tim Merel,’The reality of VR/AR growth’, blog, published January 2017, Techcrunch.com, accessed January 2018
3. Business Insider
4. Richard Kestenbaum, ‘Subscription Businesses Are Exploding With Growth’, article, published Aug 2017, Forbes.com, accessed January 2018
5. Lauren Ufford, ‘Chatbots for Retail:What Are They and How Retailers Can Use Them to Spark Sales’, blog, published June 2017, Shopify.com, accessed January 2018
6. Whitney Blankenship, ‘ 6 Ecommerce Trends to Jump on for 2018’,blog, published October 2017, Divvit.com, accesssed January 2018