Top 10 ecommerce trends for 2016 and beyond
For a business to be relevant in the present times, it has to catch up and follow along with the current trends. Gone are those days when consumers used to drive down to a store to purchase a product. These days, most of the people prefer not to go through a printed catalog and call up a number and wait to speak to the right person to order a product. This is the age of smartphones, tablets and phablets; the age of e-commerce.
Shopping, especially online shopping is slowly changing to provide customers with improved all round experience. E-commerce is evolving at a pace that no one had ever imagined. Every year e-commerce companies have to reevaluate their system to stay ahead of their competition. Below are the top e-commerce trends for 2016 and beyond.
- Flexible shipping methodologies:
When customers order online, they want the products to be delivered to them as soon as possible. The shipping and delivery expectations of the customers are causing huge logistical challenges to the online retailers. Amazon’s vision of a crowd sourced delivery system, where regular people will deliver the products at fraction of time, will revolutionize the delivery of products.
Regulation approvals for drone delivery cannot be ruled out, but it might depend from country to country. Being a hugely competitive area, e-commerce giants are turning creative and are using the delivery of their products as a marketing gimmick instead of policy.
- Extensive use of customer experience teams:
Whenever a customer looks at an online advertisement, receives an email, enters an online store, views a mobile offer or visits a website, all the content is personalized just for them. This is what the customers are expecting and this is exactly what the e-commerce websites want to provide their customers. Innovative e-commerce brands are paving the way for personalized customer experience.
2016 will see an increased activity in this field with core digital design being covered by customer experience (CX) teams rather than user experience (UX) teams. CX involves various complimentary skills such as qualitative and quantitative research and customer insight.
The CX team members will have a strategic understanding and vision regarding customer insight and therefore, companies are prioritizing the creation of a consistent CX to provide their customers with the best possible shopping experience.
- Real-time analytics will become common:
2016 will see a boom in the use of real-time analytics to offer assistance to the customers. Traditionally, e-commerce analytics used to consume a large amount of time to spot a trend or problem on the e-commerce website.
With the help of real-time analytics, customer’s action can be monitored in real time and if they encounter any problem, assistance can be provided before they leave the website. Real-time analytics will be used to gauge the customer’s behavior when they are on the website and improve on the spot decision making.
- Spike in the popularity of flash sales:
Flash sales have been around for some time but e-commerce websites have used them infrequently. But in the recent past, the popularity of flash sales has grown exponentially and the trend will continue throughout 2016. Flash sales have a widespread effect which cannot be ignored.
Online customers expect flash sales during special occasions as high-end designer products as well as other items on the website are offered at discounts of up to 80% or more. For example, the Single’s Day sale in China in 2015, racked in a record $9.3 billion within a span of 12 hours. Such events will be a common occurrence in 2016 if it is positioned and marketed in the right manner.
- More payment options:
There has been a rise in the use of mobile payments options as well as other modes such as virtual wallets and gift cards. In the United States, Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) mandate will provide merchants to upgrade to newer models which will help them with not only security and compliance but also the ability to accept additional payment options.
For example, Starbucks has successfully integrated mobile payment and loyalty and rewards, thereby streamlining the process of mobile payment. PayPal too has introduced the PayPal Here Chip Card reader which can accept magnetic stripe cards, EMV and NFC (Near Field Communication) payments such as Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay.
Proximity technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons, QR codes and NFC are increasingly providing retailers with an opportunity to engage customers via smartphones. 2016 will see e-commerce websites leverage mobile technology to provide additional payment options.
- Age of pop-ups:
Pop-ups will see a revival in 2016. It is one of the latest e-commerce trends which more and more e-commerce websites are employing as a marketing method. The popups are not ads but are usually an invitation to sign up to receive emails on various offers and sales.
Email marketing is one of the most powerful methods of marketing and therefore, e-commerce companies are working hard to get as many email subscribers as possible. Popups are at times annoying when they show up at odd times such as when a customer clicks on a product to view its details and instead gets a popup asking them to sign up for emails. Therefore, popups must be introduced only when the customer is scrolling down the page.
- Visual sophistication:
A picture is worth a thousand words. E-commerce companies are beginning to realize this and are focusing on using large, stunning images or videos which at times take up the whole screen. 2016 will see e-commerce retailers extensively use this tactic to highlight their brands or products.
A single image can effectively summarize the whole essence of a website. An added advantage is that most of the clutter is limited to the second page making it simpler for the customer to navigate the website.
- Virtual reality will change the way people shop:
E-commerce retailers will try to leverage technology as much as possible and the implementation of virtual reality is a giant leap that can reap large benefits. The Oculus Rift headset from Facebook has made virtual reality quite popular. With the help of this technology, customers can get a 360-degree picture view of the product with the added capability of zooming in and out thereby increasing their trust in their decision to purchase.
Virtual reality will give customers a better idea about how a piece of jewelry, clothing or any other accessory will look with them wearing it, before making a commitment to purchase, right from the comforts of their home.
Companies such as Von Bismarck have already implemented virtual reality and have received positive reviews from their customers. Though the technology is still in its early stage of development, 2016 will see e-commerce websites implement virtual reality on an experimental basis.
- Mobile commerce will continue to grow:
Mobile commerce has grown exponentially in the past two years or so. More and more people are buying through their mobile devices and some online retailers are planning to completely shift their operations to mobile platform and close down their websites.
But the current trend is the focus of e-commerce retailers on mobile friendly website rather than mobile applications. Gartner has predicted that by 2017, mobile e-commerce revenue will account for 50% of total digital commerce revenue. In 2016, more and more e-commerce companies are going to provide live chat support on the mobile phones. Offering reliable and consistent advice via the customer’s devices also has an added advantage of improving customer loyalty.
- Internet of things will be used to enhance shopping experience:
The journey of Internet of Things (IoT) retail interactive shopping experience starts with mobile devices. Customer connectivity trends will be accelerated by increasing the focus on implementing sensors such as RFID in the stores. To add value to personal shopping conversation, video analytics and big data will be used.
A study by McKinsey has found that using IoT in retail could increase revenue per year to about $410 billion to $1.2 trillion by 2025. In 2016, e-commerce giants will streamline in-store shopping using connected devices and also communicate with shoppers. They will also be able to track real-time shopping behaviors, automatically ring up customers and send customized offers to the shoppers.
In today’s world, people are well informed and will not settle for anything that does not meet their expectations. E-commerce retailers have a better chance of winning over their customers when they realize that the customer is the king. It takes no time for customers to switch their loyalties as what matters most to them is their time and value for their money. Security and convenience also play a huge role. The future of e-commerce belongs to those retailers who actively engage their customers and do not compromise on quality.
Arvind Rongala is Director, Invensis Learning, a global training and certification provider in the IT, technical and business management fields. Under his stellar leadership, Invensis Learning has trained 50,000 plus professionals across the World, and is a trusted partner for...