Shopping online has become easier than ever. From buying a new television to ordering organic groceries, eCommerce has simplified the buying process for consumers worldwide.
Ecommerce has vastly grown and developed over the last 20 years. In 2014, the industry experienced many monumental accomplishments as worldwide sales increased nearly 40% and the Alibaba Group, an Asian eCommerce marketplace leader, captured the highest IPO ever.
Now with 2015 on its way, we are expecting an even better year for eCommerce. Here are the top trends we’re forecasting to occur.
Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, mobile commerce (mCommerce) has become a consumer necessity. The Pew Research Center found that 64% of American adults own a smartphone and of that, 10% relied solely on their smartphone for Internet access.
The growth of mCommerce has seen just within the last four year is exponential as well. Annually, mCommerce has grown 42% and within the last 12 months, 33% of online shoppers made at least one mobile purchase.
Mobile Commerce enables consumers to shop at anytime, anywhere and the fact is, they are doing just that.
With this knowledge, manufacturers and retailers are pressed to provide mobile friendly sites equipped with mCommerce ability.
Social media sites have also began to include Buy Now buttons and hashtags, but they haven’t produced sufficient ROI for companies to see the true value yet.
Another growing segment of mCommerce is the use of mobile payments. Payment solutions such as PayPal, Square and Venmo offer mobile shoppers the luxury of paying with a tap of the finger.
With the recent introduction of ApplePay, the use of digital wallets is growing among smartphone users. Unfortunately, at the moment only 220,000 retailers out of nearly 8 million offer the NFC tap to pay function.
2. The Social Media Effect
It’s no surprise that social media has quickly developed a role in eCommerce. More than 74% of online adults use some type of social media platform. But how exactly does social media effect eCommerce?
The biggest effect is on buyer influence. Two-thirds of shoppers said that their purchasing decisions are based on how other consumers reviewed and rated products. Reading reviews about EBay sellers, ratings of Amazon products or critiques about the newest restaurant greatly sway the perceptions of potential customers.
Social sites are also helping to increase brand awareness. With a single click, shoppers can share their recent purchase with all of their connections. Include the use of relevant hashtags and their share reaches far beyond their network.
Being able to purchase social ads and boost posts on Facebook and Twitter has further empowered sellers by placing their brand in front of unsuspecting individuals within their target audience.
Recently, Instagram took social advertising to the next level, rolling out 15-second autoplay sponsor videos, which have the ability to target age, gender and country of users.
Snapchat is also venturing into video advertisements by allowing sponsors to use the 24-hour story feature to showcase products to targeted users.
3. Better Shipping Options and Inventory Control
One “downside” of online shopping is the waiting period. The average waiting time from order to delivery is about one week, but consumers want their new gadgets faster.
When offering eCommerce options to buyers, sellers must keep in mind that shipping rates and times weigh heavily on purchasing decisions.
Zappos was the first to change the shipping game when they offered free overnight deliveries and returns. You were able to buy a pair of new shoes and wear them they next day. Recently, Amazon and Google Express began offering same day delivery to consumers in large metropolitan areas. Place your order before noon and receive your new purchase by 9PM the latest. Several major retailers, like Wal-Mart and Best Buy, offer ship-to-store and pick-up-in-store options to cut shipping costs out entirely on the consumer’s end.
With the increasing speed of online transactions, companies are forced to initiate better inventory control to ensure items aren’t over sold. Many website are including limited stock, # of item left in stock, or other informative tags to items as they sell.
Consumers can now engage with retailers at their physical store, online site, mobile, app, catalog, and as mentioned earlier, through social media.
With the increased interaction, consumers are seeking ubiquity when it comes to shopping. Their shopping experience must be consistent on all platforms.
According to MIT’s “Beyond the Checkout Cart” report, more than 80% of store shoppers check prices online and a third actually check prices on their phones while inside the store.
Omni-channel provides several benefits when implemented correctly, including higher conversion rates and measurable ROI. It also helps initiate quicker shipping options like ship-to-store.
Nearly 74% of consumers find it unsatisfying when a website’s content isn’t related to their interest and doesn’t meet their expectations. If the consumer is looking to purchase the newest gaming system and your website offers them a coupon for perfume, the connection with them is damaged.
It’s similar to dating. As you continue to interact with your date, you begin to customize your conversations and actions to what they enjoy and find interesting. If you fail to do that, no relationship will be built and a second date isn’t going to happen.
There are multiple ways to personalize your site to buyers. One way is to alert shoppers of the items left in their shopping cart through remarketing and cart abandonment solutions. Clothing retailer Chubbies Shorts for example sends an e-mail alerting those who left that their new shorts are patiently waiting to be purchased. This tactic gave Chubbies a 35% increase in ROI for web ads via e-mail.
Another method is tracking what the buyer is searching for. Amazon monitors the shopping habits of customers and will display recommendations based on what they’ve previously searched. They also provide one-click options and automatic shipping settings for items consistently purchased.
Personalization helps to build customer loyalty by offering buyers the same, if not better, experience they’d have if they were shopping in store.
One of the biggest problems facing online retailers is the disconnect that occurs when product questions arise. Most retailers route consumers to e-mail forms or hotlines, promising answers within 24-hours. This is a slow process and kills a sale immediately.
To prevent buyers from leaving, retailers are utilizing live chat functions to provide instant and personalized support. Forrester Research found that 38% of buyers said that having their questions answered in real-time played a large role in their purchasing decision and removed the fear of having buyer’s remorse. While live chat may not be right for every site, the ability for customers to get their questions answered immediately will become much more important.
In the end, this year’s trends will be dependent on the improvement of customer experience and service. It’s certain though that eCommerce will continue to grow and change the way we shop. Choosing and integrating the best technologies can be crucial but the most agile retailers will succeed.