It's that time of the year where we take a look at some of the predictions in ecommerce for the year.
Some of 2016's foreseen trends included: social media advertising, marketing automation, faster shipping methods, better UX and UI designs, mobile penetration, as well as the implementation of an omnichannel strategy for all retailers.
Most of these predictions came true with a high growth in mobile phone usage for research and browsing but not so much in terms of sales. Faster shipping methods, advertising on social media with the inclusion of the "buy now" button on various platforms all came true as well as the beginnings of an omnichannel strategy, but the latter ultimately fell short of expectations.
Here are our key trend predictions for 2017.
Omnichannel, from paper to reality
At the start of 2016, omnichannel was the buzzword on all the trend lists for ecommerce and retail. By the end of the year, omnichannel strategies were highly adopted in the consumer landscape; a recent report by L2 showed that 78% of retailers improved their omnichannel offerings. However, successful omnichannel integration remains the exception and not the rule with only 7 out of 96 top retailers analysed by L2, ranked as leaders.
It is clear retailers understand the importance of an omnichannel approach to business to stay relevant to increasingly tech-savy and instant customer demands. The key challenges to achieving this strategy have included, among others, the high cost of updating legacy systems, particularly for older brands.
Another challenge to achieving this strategy has also been a lack of talent across the mid-level managers. While it is relatively easy to find executives with omnichannel experience, mid-level managers with such experience is still a challenge, particularly those needed to embed strategy deeper into the organisation and provide relevant training and compensation.
In 2017, omnichannel remains a key strategy goal for retailers who are looking to keep their brand relevant in the ever-changing digital consumer market. New technologies like Magento’s Order Management System, which centralises all systems and gives access to them in real time allow retailers to offer their customers the experience and ease of shopping they increasingly demand.
Personalisation and the personal shopper experience
Today’s customer wants a tailored experience. To be shown the products that interest them and not irrelevant content which only frustrates and turns them to a competitor. Thanks to today’s big data, customisation is made easier and increasingly allows different kinds of content including the right products shown to the right person at the right place across multiple platforms. For merchants to keep up, it is important for them to invest in on-site technologies such as Klevu to allow for relevant search, reduce bounce rates and see a positive effect on sales.
These days, not only do customers want to see content that fits their needs, but also a personal experience at any time of the day. Chat bots are a big part of 2017’s trend towards an individual experience. Multiple retailers are experimenting with these bots on chat platforms such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. The bots allow for personal interaction with the brand and enables consumers to receive pricing, sizing and suggestions on the chat. The adoption of the trend has been positive so far, particularly among millennials who enjoy the convenience and immediacy of these services.
Mobile still first
It’s no secret that mobile is the first place customers go to search for products, compare prices and read reviews; in fact, in 2016 it was reported that mobile traffic overtook desktop for such queries. To back up this trend, most retailers reported mobile traffic as being the highest among devices. This trend, however, doesn’t always translate to sales. Closing a sale on mobile has proven more challenging for retailers in 2016. Capgemeni reported that overall sales on mobile devices had increased, with a record low bounce rate of 28%, but this only translated to 18% of sales on smartphones versus 82% on tablet devices.
The key in 2017 is to optimise smartphone UX for sales, such as implementing easy checkout and simplified payment methods like one click approval, are all key to generating sales on the most popular device in the world.
The new face of payment
Payments as we have known them, have changed. Cash is becoming obsolete, particularly on the high street. The latest smartphones are making payments simpler with mobile only payments and contactless technologies. This trend is set to keep growing with the sophistication of technologies allowing for ease of payment.
Multiple payment providers are experimenting with different forms of payment approval methods as concern for security rises. Master Card has started implementing the selfie approval, using the front camera of the device to match the card holder’s details with their facial features.
Ecommerce retailers need to adapt to these technologies in 2017 to increase mobile conversion rates and remain relevant.
Same day delivery is the new normal
Fulfilment has increasingly become a challenge for retailers. Same-day delivery is now an expectation for consumers as opposed to a perk, particularly with the offerings of companies such as Amazon Prime promising up to one-hour delivery for premium customers, for free. The demands for such fast and free delivery is putting a strain on retailers who have to turn to different kinds of fulfilment options. Companies such as Uber have picked up on the trend and tapped into the fast and trackable delivery market. Retailers need to look further into working with new businesses that will enable them to provide the customer with their shipping needs while keeping costs low.
In 2017 a significant increase of local drop-off locations will appear to facilitate demand. Click-and-collect options are growing in popularity with the UK being the fastest adopting market for this form of fulfilment. The key will be for retailers to find ways to make click-and-collect even easier; this could be achieved through non-competitive partnerships with retailers offering clients options to pick up items from partner stores. These partnerships are emerging particularly with pureplay retailers teaming up with physical retail stores (ASOS & Boots) to offer a physical space. We foresee this trend continuing for all kinds of retailers looking to expand their physical offering while keeping costs down.
More than ever we are seeing the trend from ecommerce and retail in parallel silos to and overall brand approach consisting of a unification of all systems to one. In 2017 and beyond we will see the modernisation of brands overall, merging the physical and digital spaces to truly offering an omnibrand approach. It comes to no surprise as omnichannel has been widely spoken about, the difference with 2017 is that we will see this transformation go from paper to reality.
Mobile, store, online and offline will no longer be used as “channels” in the old sense but as tools use to interact with the overall brand. Different portals used to access the same encompassing brand.
In 2017, to keep up, retailers will have to adapt to the needs of the consumer at every step of the buying journey. From offering the right products through intelligent search, creating a personalised experience with chat services, easy and safe payments, fast delivery and simplified returns, only those who can quickly adapt will stay on top of the game.