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Ecommerce: The tech and trends that will define 2015

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20th Jan 2015
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Last year we celebrated the 20th birthday of ecommerce. And with online commerce leaving those awkward teen years behind it, an exciting future lies in store. One particular reason to be optimistic for the future is its growing momentum – the ecommerce market has grown exponentially over the last two years, and online retail is expected to account for $2.5 trillion in sales by 2018.

The field has witnessed major changes over its two decades, including the emergence of mobile and the omnichannel experience, as well as evolving consumer expectations and innovations such as click-and-collect. So what does 2015 have in store for this exciting sector?

Mcommerce will reach new levels

In the latest Ecommerce Quarterly report, the extent of mobile’s growing influence on ecommerce was revealed, highlighting that the volume of web traffic being driven from mobile devices to ecommerce sites has risen 120% over the last year.

Criteo’s State of Mobile Commerce Report also found that mobile accounted for around 30% of ecommerce transactions across the globe this Christmas. Furthermore, statistics suggest that the top 25% of US-based retailers now generate almost 40% of their ecommerce transactions through mobile devices.

And the indications are that the growth is only set to increase in 2015.

Mike Bishop, MD of Rakuten.co.uk, says: “As more consumers make the shift from desktop-based shopping to discovering products and making purchases via mobile devices, retailers can no longer afford to ignore changing consumer behaviour. In 2014 it is estimated that 54% of consumers were browsing for items on their smartphone, with 35% using the same device to make the final purchase. As this trend gathers pace, we expect to see more retailers invest in mobile retail environments and marketing next year in a bid to capitalise on this fast-growing segment. This will in turn drive greater adoption of omnichannel commerce, as retailers seek to deliver a seamless experience across multiple channels.”

However, if mcommerce is to mature in 2015, there are mobile challenges that must be addressed in the coming year. Compared to desktop visits, bounce rates on mobile are 50% higher and add-to-cart rates are 30% lower. Therefore, by putting more focus on more personalised, frictionless mobile experiences, retailers could yield even bigger business results and turn mobile browsers into mobile buyers.

“Mobile is gaining a larger piece of the ecommerce pie, which presents marketers with a huge opportunity. The first step is to look at what mobile visitors want to do and enable them to do it easily and efficiently,” says Lucinda Duncalfe, CEO of Monetate. “The key to mobile commerce strategy is creating utility and value for the customer where they are. Their needs are generally different when they’re on mobile than on a desktop.”

Predictive personalisation will emerge

Delivering personalised web experiences has proven to be a huge driver of customer engagement. And according to Alan Morris, executive chairman of Retail Assist, the next iteration of personalisation could be even more impactful.

“Currently when placing a food order online systems remember your previous orders and makes the whole process easier second time round, automatically adding these items to your basket. But in the future this will progress even further with ‘predictive personalisation’ - systems actually recognising and encouraging sales in relation to your likes and dislikes, generating brand affinity - and this will not just be in regards to grocery retailing,” he explains. “Furthermore this could lead to the movement of computers from back-line to front-line, with the computer adopting the role of the manager, making the crucial decisions that the physical staff will then have to adhere to.”

Omnichannel will become more important and customer expectations will rise

Customers increasingly expect a seamless journey across different touchpoints, and in 2015 these expectations will become more widespread.

Marcin Malinowski, director of international services at Outbox, notes: “Customers have long been present online and are used to taking custom journeys through retail channels. Modern businesses are expected to provide them with a uniform and consistent experience, service, product descriptions and prices. They are also expected to keep up with latest developments in their markets, as disruptive technologies like Apple Pay shift the way customers like to make purchases. Understanding customer experience is essential, and will continue to be in 2015.”

Lars Schickner, director innovation lab, at Intershop, adds: “Omnichannel commerce remains a trend for 2015, and a challenge for retailers. During the past 24 months we finally saw the launch of a new generation of POS systems that will be much easier to integrate with ecommerce platforms, product catalogues and databases – allowing retailers to build highly flexible omnichannel processes and share product, customer and order data across software and POS terminals. Customers will experience a more seamless journey across online and offline, and retailers will be able to offer a better service on all touchpoints.”

Social shopping will gather momentum

There are more than 2 billion active social media users – social has moved past consumer education. Brands now use social media to showcase and introduce new products, build loyalty, and make merchandising decisions. According to a Nielsen study, 84% of consumers are directly influenced by what their social network says about a product. Experts expect this to ramp up in the coming months.

Mike Bishop, MD, Rakuten.co.uk, explains: “In the US, it is estimated that social shopping drove more than $2.69 billion in sales in 2014. Already, Twitter and Facebook have introduced ‘buy it now’ buttons and in 2015, retailers will place greater emphasis on selling products via these channels. However, with image sharing sites like Pinterest and Instagram seeing faster growth in member size and active use than many social sites, most innovation in 2015 is likely to be image-led. With consumers discovering things to buy as they share images and curate collections of things they like, retailers are offered a huge opportunity to make shopping a more entertaining and engaging experience.”

With Facebook and Twitter recently debuting “buy” buttons that allow in-feed sales,  brands can now instantaneously direct consumers right to the checkout page - and boost business results in the process.

Duncalfe says: “Social is now an integral ecommerce driver. Consumers are relying on their networks for pre-purchase research. We anticipate merchants focusing on leading consumers from the discovery phase to a purchase by adding ‘selling’ to the list of offerings on social channels.”

2015 will be make-or-break time for crypto-currencies

Crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have made some progress recently (LINK), but when it comes to whether or not they will carve out a permanent place in the currency landscape, the jury is still out.  

“Payments have been a hotbed for retail innovation globally in 2014 and we can expect to see much more of this next year, however the biggest shift is likely to come in the consolidation of the plethora of payment methods now available to consumers. 2015 will be a make-or-break year for crypto-currencies, like Bitcoin, which have yet to make their presence felt in terms of transaction volume,” predicts Bishop.

“It will be the year in which we find out whether these currencies will survive, fulfilling the promise of a global currency, or fade away as legislation and security concerns limit consumer uptake. If crypto-currencies take off and gain widespread usage and acceptance, we will see substantial impact on international transactions – a massive step toward a truly global marketplace.”

Amazon Supply could shake up B2B commerce

Amazon has already revolutionised the B2C commerce, and with its latest developments it could be set to shake up B2B commerce.

“B2B commerce is a growth area and Amazon may well have plans to roll out Amazon Supply in Europe,” suggests Schickner. “This is both a threat and an opportunity for B2B sellers and distributors. B2B sellers should be ready to secure their customers’ loyalty by offering added value, i.e. unique services that can’t be shipped in boxes and special B2B functionality. It’s definitely not an option to fight this battle purely on price or with ignorance.”

Content will be key

2015 will see websites using creative new ways to present their content. As Google gets smarter, picking out the specifics of language that were previously missed will make it increasingly difficult to rank for specific phrases and keywords, forcing companies to spend more on paid search. It also means marketers will start writing for people as opposed to search engines.

Mark Pearson, founder of MyVoucherCodes.co.uk, explains: “The awkward, keyword-stuffed ‘About Us’ pages that are commonplace on websites will start to disappear in favour of innovative, informative, useful and creative content. I expect to see articles featuring life hacks, top-tens, how-to-guides and other content, often linking to other relevant website websites, to offer added value to customers.

“Social media should be expected to play a large part in repurposing and distributing content to provide brand exposure and SEO links. To accommodate these structural changes, it is likely that we will see many more joined up marketing channels, for example SEM, social, content creation teams all working together rather than remaining separate.”

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