According to a McKinsey report, about 75% of the 8.5 billion people in 2030 will possess a mobile phone and have Internet access. The youngsters from the middle class in emerging markets like China will grow substantially and be richer than their previous generation. With a wider customer base and a hike in purchasing power, these markets are likely to become substantially bigger buyers.
Companies that want to be on top in the coming decade ought to pay close attention to upcoming trends and work on riding the wave. Certain e-commerce trends in 2017 will follow a pattern of predictable growth, while a few will take surprising paths.
A few e-commerce trends likely to surface in 2017 are as follows:
E-commerce Trend #1: Rise of Personalized Content
In generic terms, personalization in retail refers to providing a customized shopping experience to buyers based on their interests, buying behavior, demographics and psychographics. This strategic advancement has been exploited by most brands to great extent. However, even with several product differentiations, most products are unsuccessful in the market and have to be withdrawn before reaching the mature stage in their lifecycle.
In 2017, customers can expect companies to create a bespoke shopping experience every time they visit the (virtual) store. Each shopper will be able to access unique content, including product recommendations that will make shopping more interesting. Personalized content will lead to a gradual shift from e-commerce to ‘me-commerce.’
In one of his recent interviews, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked about replacing texts with videos for better product description for Amazon Prime members. They can also personalize their account based on their digital content preferences by using personalization site features. Users can modify the retail items displayed on their screens by adding preferences.
He said, “Streaming video helps sell shoes because Amazon Prime members buy more. The company is also testing ways to improve the browsing experience for books, while also catering to Prime customers. We have a few experiments we are rolling out. We will probably open some more.”
Amazon has already released advanced versions of its Echo speakers and increased investments in research to keep pace with the e-commerce trends in the years to come.
E-commerce Trend #2: Increase in Buying Frequency
In a recent survey, it was concluded that consumers are now buying more items online than in stores. It further mentions that more than half the population of the U.S., i.e. about 190 million people, shopped online in 2016. This trend will continue in the following years to come as well.
Effectively targeting ready-to-buy audience will help the brands leverage this increase in buying frequency. They will require extensive analysis of data and statistics on the target audience to gather relevant insights.
Nearly 70% of companies with outstanding customer experience records are known to rely on insights from customer feedback. To succeed in 2017, small-scale e-commerce players need to imbibe concepts of modernizing their businesses from such retailers. Some of these concepts include:
- Analyzing interest in marketing campaigns using heat mapping
- Defining customer groups based on location-centric purchases
- Easy payment using haptic technology, like by just movement of the wrist
Smarter brands will be seen working on the principle that it is the customers who control the success of a product or service in the market, and not the other way around. In a recent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, new micro, digital-only companies will flood the market in the coming decade.
Their operating costs will be primarily from mobile consumer channels and from the various social media channels that will proliferate in the years to come. These retailers will distinguish themselves as well-defined niches and use disruptive promotional strategies to cater to the rise in buying frequency of the customers. Retailers will redefine shopping as less related to the product, and more about the experience in which the customer participates.
To become better product/service providers, a higher number of shopping portals will focus on providing detailed product descriptions and reviews to customers. Brick-and-mortar chains such as Sears, J.C. Penney and Macy’s are already bearing the brunt of losing their market share to online counterparts like Amazon, Alibaba, and other specialty stores.
Coupled with the drastic fall in shopper traffic to stores, the Walmarts of the world are heavily investing in enhancing their digital operations and offering bigger deals to their buyers.
E-commerce Trend #3: Upsurge in Collaborative Economy
With collaborative consumption and the emerging shared economy, the use of collaborative business models within different sectors will become more pronounced in 2017. Collaborative commerce is likely to replace e-commerce and lead to the subsequent development of electronic business solutions. This trend will see more retailers using technology partners to facilitate borrowing, sharing, lending, renting and exchanging of goods and services.
Just like in Nintendo’s Pokemon GO, brands will be seen incorporating technology to enable consumers to ‘catch’ the best deals. Location-and-time-sensitive discounts will be prevalent in 2017, suggests a leading Boston-based firm with expertise in-store mobile marketing technology for retailers.
Companies can stay a step ahead of competitors by installing an integrated and cooperative supply chain. Often, the supply chain management of large-scale retailers is outsourced, and they need to ensure flexible integration of partners so that mid-sized companies can participate in the process, without investing heavily.
Collaborative economies follow the objective of building a community, which strives for mutual goals for all its partners. E-commerce companies participating in this arrangement will gain from their ability to adapt to market changes, achieve better sales and productivity goals by enhancing production and distribution situations with the help of real-time data.
As part of collaborative measures, more brands will be seen focusing more on customer-driven innovation and working on advocacy marketing. Co-creation is a business strategy that is limited to a handful of big brands, where they work with consumers to create better ideas for products and services. Going forward, a touch of flexibility in brands will be appreciated by the customers.
The brands will continue with product innovation and stand a greater chance at building brand loyalty through the co-creators. Wearable-technology brands like Fitbit are capitalizing on the growing appetite for a cashless economy and are working on embedding such technology into their devices (like Fitbit Alta).
E-commerce Trend #4: Effective Use of Artificial Intelligence
In 2017, a majority of e-commerce buyers will witness increased interactions with chatbots, fully-automated chat agents that will answer their questions and act as the first point of contact with the brand. A chatbot increases the number of channels that a brand can use to increase transactions by offering guided, interactive browsing at all times.
Brands will use artificial intelligence (AI) to make shopping experiences interactive and personalized. AI and heat map based data mining tools will help gather insights about customers on a hyper-time basis. These technologies will become mainstream in 2017.
Smaller retailers, who focus on niche markets need to embrace this change at the earliest to avoid becoming obsolete. The reason for investing in chatbots is clear: they allow a greater real-time, personalized approach to customer engagement.
The concept of chatbots and digital assistants is equipped with real-time analytics to personalize suggestions for the users. Popular assistants like Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortana are paving the path to conversational commerce. Powered by artificial intelligence, a chatbot is a perfectly designed computer program that mimics human conversations.
Major brands will try to include several personalized features on their digital platforms to interact with customers to build brand loyalty and drive sales organically. Everyone from technology companies like Microsoft and Facebook to retail brands like Sephora and H&M has already jumped on the bandwagon.
Fast food chain Taco Bell recently unveiled its chatbot ‘TacoBot’ on the messaging platform Slack. This feature allows customers to order food by messaging TacoBot, which has a set of questions based on customer preference. Burger King and Pizza Hut also make use of Facebook Messenger and Twitter to collect food orders from customers.
E-commerce Trend #5: Adapt to Needs of Millennials and Boomers
America is going to witness a surge in the number of millennials and baby boomers buyers. About 47 million American households headed by people over the age of 55 will account for the bulk of spending growth in major categories such as food, houseware, and apparel by 2020. The majority of their purchases will be made through e-commerce and m-commerce portals.
Millennials constitute 15 percent of US consumers. They grew up during the advent of the Internet, social media and mobile phones. Their lifestyle has been shaped by technology and they are known to spend almost 8 hours per day online, and will account for nearly one-third of total spending by 2020.
E-commerce market leaders will work to provide universal access and unique experiences to buyers at affordable prices. They will focus on drawing millennials and high-income shoppers to the immersive retail environments using several engaging features, including interactive video displays, installing technology to provide real-time suggestions, virtual fitting rooms, and enabling digital memory mirrors to allow 360-degree viewing.
The sheer size of the millennial segment will drive sales in all categories. At the same time, boomers spend their disposable income on services and experiences, instead of products from retail stores. Even through the economic slowdown in the past five years, spending by millennials in the retail sector has grown every year. Companies need to realize that this group seeks differentiation through easier accessibility, individuality, pricing and product offerings.
Around 95% of millennials will extend their loyalty towards retail brands that are actively making an effort to reach out to them and coming up with customized coupons and discount notices. For instance, Nike pays equal attention to promoting the experience of exercise and fitness as much as the product itself. It engages with its 68.7 million followers on Instagram by crowdsourcing images and videos, demonstrating the sheer power of motivational messaging.
E-commerce Trend #6: Brands to Adopt Mobile-Only Strategy
In one of its recent publications, Gartner has projected the revenue from mobile commerce to be approximately 50 percent of all sales through digital commerce platforms in the United States by 2017.
The report further suggests that 89 percent of American companies believe that customer experience will be the primary basis for competition. These statistics clearly indicate that American digital retail is going to shift from desktops to mobile. In fact, by 2020, smartphones are likely to capture USD129.44 billion of m-commerce outlays in the U.S.
Based on a study conducted by Baymard Institute, two out of three shoppers using e-commerce websites on desktops abandon their shopping carts without purchasing the items. The key reason for this is that shoppers find the checkout process too complicated.
This gets worse in the case of several shopping apps, where checkout rates are 70 percent lower than the already-low desktop rates. Retailers who want to succeed in 2017 should be ready to troubleshoot these glitches and invest in enhancing the backend support.
Shopping apps can be a great means for brands to drive loyalty. This is because they act as the perfect platform to engage with customers. The higher the customer engagement, the greater the chances of repeat purchase, leading to higher customer lifetime value.
Using data analytics can help customize shopping portals based on the consumer preferences that will help retailers sell better. Buyers are now looking for simplified choices, personalization and a shift in discretionary spending. RFID, geo-tagging and NFC are a few advanced technologies that will be widely used by the e-commerce to target the Gen-Y and Gen-Z shoppers.
Renowned home improvements brand, The Home Depot, has reported a 30% year-on-year growth in its mobile app and is experimenting with various Internet-of-Things-related technologies to drive more sales. The brand believes that small screens are the go-to shopping advisors for the current generation of buyers.
E-commerce Trend #7: Redefining Offers and Discounts
The key factors influential in determining the most preferred shopping portals for Americans to shop include their price, shipping cost and speed, and discount offers. Often, buyers compare deals on competing websites and go for the cheapest buy. Using third-party data can be great for brands to serve customized deals and offers to the right people in the right place at the right time.
In developed markets, like the U.S., niche sales will take over in 2017, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday taking a back seat. Brands can leverage this trend if they are successful in executing their promotional campaigns across one month prior to the sales, with minor adjustments along the way. This can save them from investing everything in just one weekend and not yielding satisfactory results.
A Forrester report predicts that retail sites selling designer brands at discounted prices for a closed window of time will find prominence over the next decade. The flash-sale model has shown that it’s quick to gain momentum, but difficult to maintain it.
Brands need to offer buyers different offers in real time, based on various factors. Offers can be added either on the basis of the website/app through which potential buyers entered it or on the frequency of visiting the website.
For example, a regular buyer who entered your portal directly can be presented with an offer to increase loyalty. Similarly, potential customers visiting the website through a paid channel can be given a customized coupon for their first purchase.
E-commerce Trend #8: Brands to Go the Direct-To-Consumers Way
Direct interaction with brands will be a new trend in 2017. Millennials want to engage with their favorite brands as much as they can. Retailers across industries will be seen actively developing Direct-to-Customer (DTC) models to directly engage with customers using social, mobile, and digital channels and devices.
With the help of DTC channels, innovative ways to expand the customer base will be explored. This feature will be prevalent in a wide range of industries including packaged goods, apparel, building products, travel services, consumer electronics, and financial services.
Analytics will be one of the most empowering e-commerce trends that will steer the market in 2017. As technology evolves, a higher number of smaller brands will have access to real-time data from multiple locations. Most shopping platforms in e-commerce will be able to access real-time analytics and be better equipped with relevant behavioral insights about their customers to anticipate their preferences.
Brands like L’Oreal are already using portable e-commerce experiences with the help of mobile apps that are in-store beacons. The brand’s out-of-home digital media networks will be interactive and continue the conversation with customers via e-commerce websites until he/she enters the store. L’Oreal will then be able to deliver an expanded choice of personalized offerings to customers at the point of sale.
E-commerce Trend #9: More Buyers Looking for Same-Day Delivery
The scale of business will work at a tremendously fast pace and customer expectations from brands will be higher. Brands will have to find new ways to enhance their offerings in order to provide faster shopping solutions and differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Same-day delivery has become the buzzword over the past few years primarily because of the efficiency ensured by the logistics and supply chain industry. With advancements in delivery systems, shoppers will be able to opt for same-day delivery.
Several online retail companies have already been successful in partnering with transport providers like Uber to reduce delivery time. This can be a major boost to both the sectors and can pave the way for collaborative commerce.
This trend has the potential to eliminate one of the key differences between online purchase and buying from a physical store, i.e. the customer’s ability to possess the product purchased immediately or almost immediately.
However, on the flip side, it will be a complex task for inventory managers to manage processing and fulfill every order within a span of a few hours. This trend can have a direct impact on the efficiency of e-commerce logistics planning and execution. Brands will have to invest in advanced software solutions that can execute this process and can help businesses live up to customer expectations.
Amazon is among the pioneers to offer free same-day delivery in the United States, with any purchase over USD35 to its Prime account holders (premium customers) in select locations of the country. Similarly, 1800flowers has creatively interlinked the concept of same-day delivery with its key service of delivering flowers.
- 42 Highest Paying Work from Home Jobs
- 20 Tips on Starting a Lucrative Home-based Business
- 14 Home Business Ideas for Work-at-Home Wannabe Entrepreneurs
The e-commerce bubble is rapidly growing into a ginormous space. Players active in this bubble will have to respond quickly to the latest trends and be disruptive enough to break conventional business models.
Entering this sector requires accepting the fact that consumers can switch providers in no time. This means that those who don’t offer the latest features and experiences will become obsolete. Big changes in this sector are inevitable and retailers ought to act now to win in the long term.