The e-commerce explosion took the world by storm a few years ago and in 2017, it is safe to say that the market has matured and is ready for innovative solutions. Some very interesting trends that will significantly shift paradigms in the coming years surfaced all through 2016.
While the U.S. has been the biggest market for e-commerce over the last decade, businesses are getting serious about international shipping, with Asia emerging as a growing market.
Go Omnichannel – Mobile or The Web Alone Isn’t Enough
Creating an omnichannel presence has been a huge priority for businesses this year. While 2016 greatly emphasized mobile app development for increasing e-commerce sales, it was observed that even though engagement was high in mobile apps, conversions weren’t as high as expected.
This happens because while people love the convenience of browsing on mobile when on-the-go, most of them are still apprehensive about entering payment information, home address and phone numbers on a mobile device and hence, prefer to switch to a desktop for final checkout.
Consequently, businesses must understand that mobile users and desktop users aren’t mutually exclusive. You need a well-balanced presence on both channels to provide a seamless experience to customers who like to switch between multiple devices for a single transaction.
Intuitive strategies, like sending an email to customers about products left in the shopping cart to remind them of an incomplete purchase and help them pick up from where they left off, can be extremely rewarding.
Use Artificial Intelligence for Smarter Prediction and Retargeting
Retargeting was done to death in 2016. While tracking customer activity and advertising the specific products they showed interest in was an intuitive idea initially, the tactic has begun falling apart and customers are now annoyed when the same ad follows them everywhere they go, especially after they’ve already bought that product.
There is a dire need to up the game of retargeting. Artificial intelligence and predictive advertising are the future of e-commerce. Venture capitalists surely realize this as funding for AI startups has increased in the last three years.
Chatbots to the Rescue
Talking to customer service on the phone can be one of the most unpleasant experiences for shoppers if the process is rife with long hold times, distorted communication and social friction. Chatbots are set to emerge as the most preferred mode of interaction between customers and businesses. Not only do they greatly automate customer service and reduce costs, they are also the quickest, most seamless way to provide personalized and immediate resolutions to customer concerns.
Faster Shipping and Easy Returns
Instant gratification is just not a luxury anymore and your customers expect you to ship their product immediately and deliver it as soon as possible. As per a Forrester report, 29% of consumers will pay extra for same-day delivery. E-commerce companies need to speed up their shipping and while that is a largely logistic undertaking, having a well-designed website that keeps customers updated on the status of their shipment, allows for easy order processing and returns can help further.
Returns are an intrinsic part of online selling and smart e-commerce companies use it to their advantage instead of seeing it as a setback. Your website or app homepage, as well as your marketing roll-out, must boldly emphasize that you have a good return policy. This can do justice to a number of trust customers put into your business. It’s natural for customers to be apprehensive about buying a product online for the lack of real, physical understanding of how it will look and feel. If they are assured that they can return it easily with no questions asked, they will be more willing to buy from you.
Personalize, Customize, Repeat
Nothing beats personalization when it comes to keeping customers happy. Intuitive analytics and data help understand individual customer preferences from purchase history, browsing history, abandoned carts and features like wishlists and favorites. Based on these, you can offer a curated collection to customers, greatly increasing conversions and increasing shopper’s delight. This is also a great way to gain more traction for your upselling efforts and when introducing new products.
Social Media Integration Is Paramount
Social networks like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook boast of the biggest share of all internet usage. 81% of millennials check Twitter at least once per day and Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform, with 79% of American internet users. E-commerce companies too must leverage social media to boost their marketing efforts.For activities like interacting with customers, responding to reviews and complaints on social networks, directing content to
For activities like interacting with customers, responding to reviews and complaints on social networks, directing content to the news feed, and building SEO and brand advocacy, social media can be the most potent weapon for businesses.
Improve Filter and Sort Capabilities, Faceted Search and Comparisons
Choice overload is a real problem and users find it increasingly difficult to choose one product from thousands of options. Web sites and apps must allow customers to specify the product they’re looking for to the smallest detail so they don’t have to bother looking at any other results. This way they have to wade through fewer results, find the perfect product sooner and close the sale faster.
Get creative with filters – go beyond just size, color and price. Use faceted search to allow shoppers to filter by styles, design, usability and other such parameters to truly differentiate your product discovery experience.
Allowing columnar comparisons of selected products allows users to view all necessary specifications in a tabular form, making it easy to compare and choose the best possible option.
When providing comparison functionality, allowing three to four items in one table is a good measure. Any more than that will spill out of the screen and require scrolling. It’s hard to achieve smooth comparison when all components aren’t visible against each other.
Provide Search and Purchase History
Now that we’ve established how intricate a task it is for users to search and find the right product, it’s only reasonable to not force them to repeat the process every time they want to buy. Your app must effectively record the user’s purchase history and search trends so that the user can come back to it anytime in the future, with just a few clicks.
Users have relatively predetermined tastes and while they’d occasionally try something new, they mostly look for the same set of products or at least similar categories. Gathering search data and purchase history not only enables you to serve the customer better but also gather actionable data to send personalized offers and suggest recommended products. Such simple elements go a long way in enabling user engagement and retention.
Make User Reviews Easily Accessible
The transition process from finding products to reading reviews and finally making a purchase should be smooth and hassle-free.
Consumers trust third-party reviews to a great extent when making an online purchase. Displaying reviews increases the credibility of your app and improves user confidence. Make sure you channel reviews from social media and other sources in addition to in-app reviews.
While you are at it, allow users to filter reviews and see the good and the bad ones separately. This can easily be done by filtering based on the number of stars.
Keep Checkouts Short, Simple, Seamless
Checkout is one of the most sensitive stages of shopping on any app. User’s who have been through all the steps and come this far can still be predisposed to abandoning the transaction if they experience the slightest hiccup anywhere near payments. Users can have many inhibitions when it comes to sharing details like card numbers and PIN online. Providing seamless transition at this stage is exceedingly crucial to close the sale, satisfy the user and prevent cart abandonment.
A few aspects to carefully work on are:
– Design your app to accept a wide range of payment methods in addition to credit cards. Allow the use of debit cards, internet banking, prepaid cards, e-wallets, and cash-on-delivery. Such flexibility is central to appealing to a large demographic of users who don’t use credit cards.
– Integration of mobile payment gateways can be the most viable option to ease and automate payments
– Have an effective system to manage payment methods. Save information securely for future use so that users don’t have to enter lengthy card numbers and PINs over and over again, which is one of the leading reasons a user would drop the app and buy from the nearest mall.
– Enable saving of multiple cards or e-wallets together. Effectively sync e-wallets installed on the user’s phone to your app for a seamless experience and super-quick checkout.
To sum up, the e-commerce world is ripe for cutting-edge innovations like artificial intelligence, chatbots, and mobile payments. At the same time, classic customer behaviors like attraction towards using social media and apprehension about their security will always be at play. E-commerce companies must pay attention to all these factors and strike a careful balancing act between intuitive technology and human touch to make their e-commerce marketing strategy truly successful.