As we move towards the end of the year the time comes when experts in eCommerce start gazing into crystal balls to see what they think will happen over the next 12 months. Which trends from 2017 will continue to dominate? Will new technology change how we do things? And could there be major changes on the way? Let’s look at a collection of the most interesting predictions made so far.
Continued Growth of Mobile
In recent times, we have seen figures showing that the number of searches from a mobile phone, for the first time, have overtaken those from a desktop device. This trend has been reflected in the way people shop online as we use our smartphones more than ever before. In the US, for example, 19% of all eCommerce sales come from a smartphone and by the end of 2017, this figure is predicted to rise to 27%.
This means new and evolving challenges for retailers. Desktop still outperforms mobile in terms of sales conversion, showing that people often do the research from their smartphone, but when it comes to making the purchase they wait until they are at home in front of a computer. The challenge is to offer a balance of both with an optimized website for all devices being compulsory.
Big Data is Prominent Again
It is probably not a surprise to eCommerce businesses that big data is once more predicted to be a crucial trend in 2018. Analytics, and the data that it provides, have already revolutionized the eCommerce industry and are making themselves felt in the world of physical stores. It leads to a greater understanding of the customer than ever before.
Areas such as personalization, segmented marketing, and native marketing are all big analytic trends for the coming year. And as the consumer comes to expect personalization and a much more targeted shopping experience, businesses need to embrace these concepts quickly.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence
The idea of chatbots is that they make our lives simpler. We can use them to easily order food, get tickets for the cinema or for a concert. In return companies quickly get information from the customer and allow the transaction to take place, often without human intervention. This makes for a simple, quick and efficient experience.
Currently, there are two main types of chatbot – simple and advanced. Simple chatbots can handle specific messages from users. They require specific input and are programmed to generate a specific output so there is not much room for differing conversational styles. Simple chatbots are not that useful in a consumer setting because of this. Advanced chatbots are capable of understanding conversational phrasing and can be programmed to learn from previous conversations. They can learn and understand live speech and can sometimes even be mistaken for a real person. eBay already has a chatbot on their Facebook Messenger that handles questions and can make recommendations about products. This is just one example of the growing use of AI in eCommerce.
B2B (Business to Business) is an uncertain area for some businesses who are more comfortable in the B2C (Business to Consumer) sphere. There is evidence of a boom in B2B eCommerce with the industry projected to pass the $1 trillion mark in total sales by 2020. This means businesses need to consider their B2B strategies with ideas such as bulk shipping, bulk discounts, and streamlined purchasing processes being major concerns.
Some experts believe the way forward is to make B2B a largely self-service route, providing information on demand, but not always from a person. The rise of chatbots being one possible solution to the problem. Chatbots provide instant, accurate information to save time and allow B2B customers to make that speedy purchase.
Importance of Storefront Apps
As the importance of the smartphone continues to dominate, the use of storefront apps is also rising. With users spending 86% of their time on smartphones using apps, it is logical that eCommerce stores offer shopping apps to fit in with this approach. There’s also a good chance that if a customer is interested enough in a brand to download their app, they are more likely to make a purchase from that app.
In fact, app commerce is showing impressive conversion rates with some as high as 40%. People spend longer on the app than the desktop site and are twice as likely to return to it. This means that many companies are seeking to create their own storefront app for 2018.
Offering options for quicker delivery have already started to show with Amazon being an unsurprising leader. You can buy goods to a certain value in some locations and see them delivered within the same day if you are an Amazon Prime member. In the US, Walmart has started a pickup system that cuts delivery time up to 24 hours.
Businesses who take 2-3 days to process an order, and another couple for the customer to receive it, may need to reassess their procedures in 2018 or risk falling behind their more speedy competition.
Video Content for Marketing
Video has been a major social media trend for the last year or two and more companies than ever are using it to showcase their products or services. It is an excellent way for customers to get more information about the company and what it sells. Video content has the potential to increase sales by 64-85% based on those already using it. Experts also say that by 2020 every online store will use video to sell its products so you might as well begin now and get in early.
2018 looks set to be an interesting and exciting year for eCommerce companies. Technology continues to move quickly as do customer expectations. By following some of these trends, and being aware of others, businesses can position themselves at the forefront of their industry and, more importantly, grow their eCommerce sales.