When you look back on the past couple of years, it’s easy to see how far ecommerce has come in a relatively short period of time. Advanced technologies, changing customer behaviors, and increased mobile activity are only three of the factors that have contributed to the growth of the ecom market, with over $101 billion of sales being made last year on mobile and desktop devices.
Clearly ecommerce is showing no signs of slowing down as more and more merchants are moving online and focusing on building omnichannel experiences for their customers. But what does that mean for the future of ecommerce? What will the ecommerce look like at the end of 2017, and more importantly what should businesses be doing to stay ahead of the competition?
The Smile.io team has already made their predictions, focusing on what you need to do with your loyalty program in order to succeed this year. But while our ideas are obviously world-class, I decided to take this even further. After all, 20 minds are better than one, right?
In order to give you the best answers possible, I enlisted the help of 20 ecommerce experts to assist me with answering these questions. With expertise in marketing, ecommerce business practices, and customer experience, each of these individuals are more than qualified to give you a glimpse into the future of ecommerce – and teach you a little something along the way, too!
If you’re looking for more information on any of our experts, just click on their photo to learn more about their company and experience.
No matter how amazing your business is, your success is ultimately determined by your customers. As their motivations and expectations change, brands need to adapt their marketing and customer experience strategies to best accommodate their customers’ needs. Failure to do so can cause catastrophic damage to your brand’s reputation.
Let’s see how our experts think shopping behaviours will change, and what merchants can do to accommodate them.
Customer shopping behaviors have already changed –– and its merchants who are needing to change to keep up. It is no longer feasible for brands to not partner with Amazon and eBay. This is where many fast growing companies are seeing $100K+ in revenue within a month just for pushing a few products over. So many brands want to stay away from Amazon and “not help them.” But almost half of online users report beginning on Amazon in search for a product. If you aren’t there, you won’t get that sale. They won’t even know you exist.
Follow Tracey on Twitter: @TraceWall
eCommerce has conditioned customers to expect immediacy and convenience with every purchase interaction. This means that people will increasingly jump on subscriptions and replenishment plans for consumables instead of repeat ordering them every month. Customers are tired of making choices every time they need to shop, so if merchants can hook people for an indefinite length of time that’s a big win.
Follow Metrilo on Twitter: @GetMetrilo
The biggest trends in ecommerce this year will center around reducing user effort and improving the online customer experience. The causes of cognitive load can usually be traced back to three main factors; too many choices, too much thought required or lack of clarity. Any tools that can reduce online friction and simplify the user’s input are going to be huge. Like everything in UX and web design, less is more. After all, the less users have to think about your interface or design, the more they can focus on accomplishing their goal on your website.
Follow Larry on Twitter: @larik47
For shoppers, real-time engagement will become a norm in 2017, so merchants should make customers and social followers a participant in, not the target of, communications. Don’t just create and deliver content, try answering customer questions and concerns via socially engaging media like Facebook Live, forum threads, blog posts or videos that can be shared.
Follow Fit Small Business on Twitter: @FitSmallBiz
Shoppers are becoming more aware that they can have their needs fulfilled by multiple brands, and some at even better value and cost. This means merchants cannot rely on traditional sales & marketing approaches but instead will need to start creating key performance indicators around culture, engagement and values centred around their product in order to have a competitive advantage – especially for where millennials are concerned.
Follow E Fundamentals on Twitter: @e_fundamentals
The customer journey is fragmented and chaotic so it’s becoming increasingly important for brands to be front and center when people are willing to engage. One way merchants can do this is to specifically take note of moments of opportunity in the buyer’s journey to deliver the best content for the buyer’s needs. To take advantage of these moments, brands need to be available, practical, and timely. Anticipate the moments that users in your specific industry will have online and be prepared to provide insight, relevant content and assistance when the time comes. Focus on consumers’ needs in their moments of intent and offer the most useful content as they are searching for it. Finally, ,any mobile users want to make quick decisions, so mobile content should be user friendly, agile and impactful.
Follow Digital Third Coast on Twitter: @DTCchicago
The concept of having “one view of the customer” will become increasingly important in 2017. Customers don’t understand (or care, for that matter) whether or not a retailer’s ecommerce site is connected with their in-store POS system. Customers will become less tolerant when a website displays inaccurate inventory information or when an in-store customer service rep is unable to resolve an online ordering issue. Delivering a true omni-channel experience, where all departments have the same view of the business (including customer information, product and service information) is what will set the most successful brands apart from the rest.
Follow Thinkwrap Commerce on Twitter: @thinkwrap
Marketing is one of the most important considerations for any business, particularly in the ecommerce space. With ad costs continuing to climb, brands are being forced to find new and engaging ways to market their products. So what does the marketing landscape look like in the future of ecommerce?
Targeted, personalized approaches will continue to drive successful marketing strategies in 2017. Consumers are flooded with information and adsl, so the need to make messages relevant and contextual is no longer nice to have – it’s is a must to cut through the noise consumers receive each day. These messages not only need to be contextual and personalized, but delivered in channels that best connect with consumers – their mobile devices. Successful marketers will look at all the ways mobile can be utilized in this manner.
Follow MobileBridge on Twitter: @mobile_bridge
Content. content, content. Ecommerce marketing will consistent of aggressive content marketing campaigns. Providing engaging content on brands’ websites, as well as on social media, will be a dominant force behind marketing. This is especially true of video marketing as it surges in popularity. Social influencer programs will also continue to grow, with brands paying influencers to use and spread the word about their products.
Follow Avex on Twitter: @avexdesign
Virtual reality and augmented reality applications will make a huge impact in 2017 as commerce continues to move in this direction. Early players are trying to understand the landscape, and early experiments will provide invaluable information about what works and what doesn’t. These trials can provide valuable lessons on customer experience for smaller providers without the research and development budget to sustain these types of projects. Long term, these experimentations will ultimately lead to more product integration in video content on major platforms like YouTube, giving customers the ability to click and buy what they see onscreen to propel the digital shopping experience forward.
Follow Ted on Twitter: @tedmurphy
I think we will continue to see a big shift in the way smart entrepreneurs get started with selling online. Traditionally, many people start with picking a product to sell, then try and find an audience of consumers for that product, but I think smart entrepreneurs will build an audience around an identity, or lifestyle, and then sell to that audience. This is the same approach you see with online influencers, celebrities, and more, who start selling products online with inherent demand because of the audiences they’ve built over time. It’s almost like taking the traditional approach and flipping it on its head.
Follow Tucker on Twitter: @tuckerschreiber
Tools and Strategies
As technology continues to evolve, brands are given access to more and more innovative ways to engage with customers and build lasting experiences. From loyalty programs to partnerships to personalization, the possibilities are virtually endless, making the future of ecommerce very promising and extremely impactful.
We predict that in the coming months, more full-service ecommerce partners will appear. As the market grows, so do the trials and tribulations of selling online; shipping, returns, inventory, customer service – all of these components grow more complex with greater success. It’s inevitable that manufacturers will be searching for a one-stop solution to manage their online selling through major channels like Amazon. In 2017, more such services will emerge as brands struggle to keep up with demand.
Follow Whitebox on Twitter: @whiteboxinc
2017 will mark a significant shift in touch-points. With more customers choosing to engage with artificial intelligence on a regular basis, businesses need to make quick and stable changes in their products to provide the best customer experience. In an effort to implement these changes, many brands will begin replacing their support teams with bots – a process that could have negative impacts on customer experience if not done properly. This transition to AI support can be positively influenced through the implementation of additional encryption and security layers. By presenting a more secure app/product, customers will begin to develop a stronger sense of trust between themselves and the brands they interact with.
Follow PureVPN on Twitter: @purevpn
I think consumers who live in the digital age of short attention spans will want their products delivered at lightning speed. We saw the popularity of Amazon’s same-day drone service delivery in 2016, and I think that’s the tip of the delivery iceberg. Consumers used to be patient about getting their goods, but that’s not the case anymore. Overnight delivery is sometimes not enough to satisfy them, so one, two and three-hour windows of delivery are going to become more commonplace in 2017. Consumers will demand this service as a way of distinguishing between buying from one company or another, putting more pressure on companies to offer these same-day deliveries just to keep up with their competitors.
Follow Tabitha on Twitter: @SuccessStartup
Google is continuing to expand its tracking and bid management technology and there are a number of new releases coming in 2017, which will help brands to track how customers interact with websites across multiple devices. This transparency will really help brands to answer the question of “Are customers browsing on mobiles and buying on desktop?
Follow It Works on Twitter: @itworksagency
Contact centers have always recorded telephone calls for training and compliance purposes. More recently, many have introduced analytics to gain insight into the experience, needs, wants and expectations of customers. Digital teams and marketers are beginning to understand the benefits of adopting the same approach across their digital channels. Technology from organizations such as Glassbox is making it possible to retrieve and replay in full, the exact journeys customers took with them online – exactly as it was experienced by the customer. These insights give brands the information they need to significantly improve their customer experience, developing lasting relationships with shoppers.
Follow Glassbox on Twitter: @GlassboxDigital
Messaging availability, artificial intelligence, and bots became more prevalent within ecommerce last year, and I don’t expect this to slow down at all in 2017. I think the interesting thing will ultimately be how both merchants and customers will consolidate those interactions and experiences. If I’m interacting with a store on email, live chat on their website and Facebook Messenger, but then 6 months after that I need information from that interaction, how do I easily find it? Similarly, the merchant will want to have a holistic history of me, as a customer, instead of fragmented interactions with different people all called “Adii” (who could or couldn’t be the same person). Addressing these issues will help business craft unbeatable customer experiences that guarantee convenience, security, and exceptional customer service with every purchase.
Follow Adii on Twitter: @adii
Over the next year, IoT (the Internet of Things) will really start taking a stance in eCommerce, specifically using beacon technology as a tool to reach your customers when they are not IN your store, or on your website. This means that you can send push notifications and personalized messages to your customers when they are not interacting with your brand. This will also change and improve the marketing landscape for retailers in 2017.
Follow Codal on Twitter: @gocodal
One of the biggest trends we’re anticipating in 2017 and beyond is this shift from marketing’s most effective use being in 1:1 ways or one-to-few ways, as opposed to the traditional one-to-many view. In essence, it’s a shift from broadcast to conversation. In terms of e-commerce, this feels especially appropriate as tools like messaging, audience segmentation, and data become more and more ubiquitous. I imagine the day is getting near where I’ll be recognized as a repeat blog reader, given a custom CTA, shown products tailored to my preferences, and offered to complete a purchase the way I want (usually via email, with a coupon code, a day or so later — but that’s just me).
Follow Kevan on Twitter: @kevanlee
In 2016, both Google and Apple expanded their mobile payment methods, Android Pay and Apple Pay, to allow websites to tap into the native functionality. Mobile shopping will soon take over as consumers’ preferred method, but conversion rates continue to trail behind desktop. The introduction of native, mobile payment options will dramatically impact mobile shopping. The days of browsing on a phone then switching to a computer to purchase will decline as more retailers adopt new payments, reducing friction in the mobile checkout process.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @kpe
The Future of eCommerce is Bright
From customer behaviours, to marketing, to the tools and strategies we use to build experiences, the future of ecommerce is looking very promising. Whether you’re a small business just getting into the game,or an established brand looking to take your customer experience further than you ever have before, the ideas our experts shared should give you a great starting point to propel your business – and ecommerce in general – to a whole new dimension this year.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll be on this list next year!