Ecommerce is one of the most dynamic industries in todays business world and one of the most innovative technology-wise. Today we buy food, clothing, travel, cars and other consumer products through multiple channels: retail stores, mail orders, via phone, online shop and through our mobile devices. How we shop is evolving rapidly and here are 7 trends that relate to ecommerce that you can not afford to ignore.
1. Omni-channel Commerce
Multichannel commerce was yesterday. Omni-channel is today. No longer shoppers are using just one channel when shopping or searching for products, they use a variety of channels. Channel preferences depend only on the consumer. To get the most out of this shopping behavior it is not enough to offer a product at the point- of-sale and through your ecommerce store. Various information and distribution channels should be used together – online and offline. Shopper might see an ad on TV, search information about the product online, order it through mobile device and then pick it up from a store. Or they might be impressed by the product at a retail location, order it online and have it delivered home.
Shopping behavior is changing and you should take the advantage of the targeting and personalization options available today. By integrating your ecommerce website with offline channels (you can sell vouchers, gift cards and promos online that could be used at a retail location or vice versa; a TV ad might offer a promo for instant orders online; in-store online shopping and more), you will widen your target audience and let consumers experience the brand, not a channel within a brand.
2. High Level of Personalization
More and more transactions are done online and thanks to comprehensive analytics tools available, retailers, more than ever before, have a lot of data about their customers and opportunities to personalize the shopping experience.
Marketers already had access to information about their user, his or her personal data specified on the registration, delivery addresses and information on previous orders, recently viewed products, etc. Based on this data, one can create several segments and offer the most suitable products, promotions and recommendations for each of the segments. The problem is that for effective merchandising you might need a countless number of segments on such a massive amount of information and it is not scalable. Considering the fact that consumer behavior is constantly changing, keeping track of these changes will be problematic and ineffective. This is where “smart” personalization solutions come into play and help you to manage that. Your website becomes much more dynamic and flexible. Correct personalization creates loyal customers.
3. Social Media Integration
In one way or another your shoppers are using social media. For ecommerce websites social is strategically important, because when done right it can serve effectively for several things:
- Highly targeted traffic generation
- Customer support
- Increase loyalty and personalization
- Social login and registration
Advantage of social media is presented in the huge amount of information available about their users. This allows advertising in social networks look like the recommendation of friends. Seller finds a buyer in a completely unexpected place at an unexpected time, but it does not cause rejection, getting into the bull’s-eye of the target audience needs. On the other hand – opportunity in one click to share with your friends a link to a favorite product, your wishlist, useful review or even an entire online store becomes the starting point in building effective social integration. Think viral, think social.
4. Think Mobile
Mobile can not be ignored, most of the ecommerce sites already feature 20-30% of sales from mobile devices and if you are not optimizing your store for mobile – you are losing customers. Today’s shoppers are looking for a seamless shift between devices with access to the same information and rich user experience, but there are also areas where it can be enhanced. The most important things to focus on:
- Promotional shopping apps
- Mobile payments
- Geo-location and targeted promotions
- Ecommerce store optimized for mobile (responsive website design, native applications, web applications)
You need to deliver seamless shopping experience to customers no matter what device they are using for shopping, be it a smartphone, a tablet or a desktop PC. The easiest and most popular solution is for your website to be responsive, so that it displays correctly on any device and offers seamless shopping experience. Depending on your brand size and goals native Android and iOS applications might also be effective, though they are more expensive to develop and maintain.
5. Usability and User Experience
Positive user experience is crucial for success in today’s multichannel and omni-channel commerce world. In-store kiosks, responsive websites, native applications – all these channels must deliver a consistent user experience and the best usability. From effective navigation, to searchandising, engaging content, effective checkout and product recommendations – you need to make sure that your design is user-centric and follows the latest design trends. Do not leave your ecommerce stores without design changes for years – your competitors might get ahead of you.
6. Emotional Shopping
Ecommerce stores can use a variety of ways to build emotional attachments like high quality product images, product configurators, meaningful and creative product descriptions, shop by look, personalization and segmentation.
One of the great examples of emotional shopping is a video content that has great potential for ecommerce websites. Many manufacturers now produce complex product videos for their clients that not only build loyalty and create better positions against the competition, but also help shoppers to connect emotionally with the brand.
Another great example of how to connect emotionally and offer added value for your shoppers is a visual product configuration. It allows the shopper to customize the product and make “my own product” according to their wants and needs. Such option provides for the satisfied customers and positive shopping experience. From our practice developing custom product configurators, and recently for a handmade belt manufacturer Thomas Bates, we can state that while it is a complex feature, when done right it really enhances user experience and drives customer loyalty.
For online retailers it is increasingly important to get the right information and take correct actions based on the gathered customer analytics data. Numbers do not lie and companies who make data-driven decisions are more competitive than the ones who don’t. Ideally you should have a centralized dashboard that integrates all of your business sensitive information (orders, visitors, ROI online and offline) in one place that is available in real time. Use big data for:
- Personalization and dynamic segmentation
- Improvement of customer experience
- Predictive analytics
- Dynamic pricing
- Trends and growth opportunities
Ecommerce is an ever evolving field. It changed drastically during the last several years and it keeps evolving with the competition heating up across all verticals. In such environment new ecommerce trends emerge and develop blazingly fast. To compete successfully in this volatile environment, retailers need to adjust their ecommerce strategies to be more dynamic and flexible. In order to achieve this businesses have to stay on the edge of technical innovations, actively adopting new technologies and PulsarFour team of ecommerce experts is ready to help and assist. Feel free to let us know about your challenges in the comments below.