What ecommerce trends does your business need to be prepared for in 2016? A new survey from Boston Retail Partners polled some of the top North American ecommerce retailers to find out what’s on their agendas for the coming year.
- Customer experience (CX): 43 percent of retailers in a survey from Boston Retail Partners say creating a consistent CX is a priority. Customers need the same branding, service and experience whether they’re visiting your ecommerce site on a computer or smartphone or visiting your store in person.
- Mobile commerce: 45 percent of retailers in the Boston poll say mobile websites are a priority, and 68 percent expect their mobile commerce sales to grow in the coming year. However, smart ecommerce retailers are focusing on mobile-friendly websites, rather than on mobile apps. Customers are suffering from “app fatigue,” and most are unlikely to download and use a new app.
- Email marketing: This is the number one method that retailers in the Boston Retail Partners survey plan to use for marketing in 2016. A whopping 90 percent will use email, while 68 percent plan to use social media advertising and 65 percent plan to use paid search. Even though these are major retailers, more than 60 percent admit that their digital marketing efforts need improvement.
- Speedy shipping: Customers’ shipping expectations are challenging retailers, as the holiday 2015 shopping crunch has shown. Carriers have struggled to deliver packages on time, and retailers have resorted to unusual delivery methods such as using Uber to meet consumers’ demands for free yet fast shipping. However, the majority (74 percent) of retailers in the Boston survey do require a minimum purchase level be met before offering free shipping, while 32 percent offer free shipping at certain times, such as close to the holidays.
- Omnichannel shopping: Ideally, the same customer should have the same digital footprint no matter where he or she interacts with your website: on a smart phone, on a desktop or on a tablet. With unified commerce, the customer could start a purchase on a smartphone and completed on the desktop without missing a beat (or having to start over). For ecommerce retailers that also have a brick-and-mortar location, unified commerce is especially important. These retailers must ensure that customers have the same quality of experience in-store or online.
- Pop-up signups: If you’ve ever visited an ecommerce website and immediately seen a pop up window asking you to sign up to receive emails, you’ve experienced one of the latest ecommerce trends. Since email is one of the most powerful marketing methods for ecommerce companies, websites are working hard to get more email subscribers. However, to keep from annoying customers, smart ecommerce retailers will ensure that pop-ups are dependent on customer actions, such as scrolling or clicking.
- Virtual salesforce: Proactive marketing is becoming more important in ecommerce. Witness the growing number of ecommerce sites offering live chat and pop-ups to engage with customers, just the way that store clerks will come and reach out to customers when they enter a physical store. In 2016, some experts believe that ecommerce businesses will add more “virtual” salespeople — customer service employees or sales representatives who will assist in making the purchase decision.
- Social selling: Social media sites are still trying to figure out how to monetize themselves, and one way is by enabling users to buy from right within the social app. For example, Pinterest and Twitter have added Buy buttons allowing users to purchase products by clicking on pins or tweets. Most recently, Pinterest added a feature that alerts users if the price for a product they’ve pinned has dropped. Even if a social media site doesn’t allow in-app purchasing, consumers are increasingly learning about products, reading reviews and getting recommendations on social media. That means 2016 might be the year to step up your social media game.
- Visual sophistication: What about ecommerce trends in design? Many ecommerce sites are adding large, stunning cover photos to highlight their products or brands, rather than the cluttered, busy design look of recent years. Another trend is the “card” layout, in which images fit together like cards laid side-by-side. If you haven’t updated your website design in a while, take a look at your closest competitors’ sites and see what they’re doing visually. Maybe it’s time for a makeover.
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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.