According to a report by Bigcommerce, which is among the fastest growing eCommerce platforms in the US, the market for small and medium business eCommerce in the country is likely to go beyond $100bn in sales in 2015. This is expected to be more than the combined revenues of two of the largest US eCommerce companies, eBay and Amazon.
According to the report, total spending on eCommerce worldwide is likely to be greater than the gross domestic products of all but the leading 10 countries in 2015.
As you would know, eCommerce comprises a global market to which merchants ranging from small businesses operated by a single owner to multinational retailers cater. It came into existence nearly two decades ago, when it was dominated by brick and mortar establishments. Now, the newest technologies let new entrants to the market gain market share quickly and increase revenues by responding rapidly to the changing dynamics of the market.
Even a decade ago, you needed a significant amount of capital to start a business in eCommerce, besides several financial, marketing and technical experts to develop the required infrastructure. Now, you can create an online business within a few minutes and stand up to brands several times larger at a cost much smaller than theirs.
With digital changes taking place almost daily and new technologies and apps proliferating at a large scale, the quick pace of business gets amplified online and affects the way you operate.
Experts and analysts are always trying to predict the latest developments and trends that can be of significance for online retailers. Here we have attempted to put together some of the most anticipated ones for your benefit. While some have been developing for several years, others are set to come to the fore in 2015.
1. Websites will recreate in-store experiences
To help consumers make decisions, eCommerce businesses will have to guide the consumers through their online stores similar to the manner in which consumers are guided through a physical store.
eCommerce companies will have to recreate the services and knowledge available in physical stores. This will imply more focus on information related to the products on offer. There will be even more solutions to let consumers interact directly with store staff, either online or offline. The staff will hold discussions with and provide quick responses to consumer queries.
Window shopping online will improve a lot. Customers will be able to view products from several angles through interactive web pages.
According to research by PWC, customers don’t just look for a better product any more, but look for a better shopping experience. So, online retailers have to create exceptional experiences at all stages of customers’ journeys. They will have to engage customers effectively even before they begin to shop and ensure easy, enjoyable and relevant retail offers when they actually shop.
2. ‘Showrooming’ will be even more important
Though not to the extent many businesses initially expected, showrooming is becoming increasingly important for retail. Although a significant proportion of shoppers admit that they visit physical stores before they purchase products online, many conduct online research before they visit a physical store for purchasing something.
As against what many retailers thought originally, the purchasing journeys of customers contain several decision stages and are much longer. As newer technologies come into the picture, subtle changes continue to occur. What remains constant is that customers ask for transparent service through all channels.
Retailers who sell through physical stores will stand to gain from integrating web technologies into their operations. More brick and mortar stores will do that in 2015 to get shoppers’ attention.
3. Wearable technology will grow further
According to Gartner, the market for wearable technology is expected to reach GBP3.2bn by 2016. So, the adoption rate for the technology should pick up in 2015.
With the launch of devices such as the Apple Watch, wearable tech worn on the wrist could gain popularity and people may begin to view parts of the web there, besides receiving notifications. Similarly, headgear such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift could become more popular and browsing the internet should be a significant use.
The above could become part of an interactive shopping experience. Wearers could use the devices in store to receive alerts through their smart watches or to scan barcodes through cameras mounted in headgear. They could also attend promotional or industry events virtually.
The retail, entertainment and travel industries could make discount vouchers, tickets to events and boarding passes even more accessible through wearable technology.
Wearers having more devices connected to the internet at all times will provide greater opportunities to eCommerce companies. eCommerce marketers will have to understand what consumers do with each of the wearable devices and how that would impact business.
In brief, wearables are likely to add another channel that eCommerce could use to enhance the shopping experience as wearables improve the accessibility of online information.
4. Proximity technology and iBeacons will help merge offline and online worlds
The offline and online worlds could merge further on account of a form of marketing based on iBeacons and devices for detection of proximity becoming more common.
For example, a retail store could send promotional material related to a new range of products on offer to the mobile phones of people walking by the store. The store could also push coupons for use in the store, to encourage prospective customers to buy. Retailers can also automatically offer discounts to customers who spend a certain amount of time in their store. So, retailers can improve customers’ in store experiences using low energy Bluetooth technology, near field communication (NFC) and iBeacons.
Even this basic form of marketing seems to have a lot of potential, although it is likely to evolve with time.
The price of Bluetooth technology is likely to continue to fall in 2015 and that should lead to correction of the balance between costs and technical maturity.
5. Omnichannel shopping will be the norm
People continue to use their tablet devices and computers, even as they spend more time on their smartphones. So, eCommerce operators have to make sure they gain maximum business whenever customers visit their websites or apps and for that shopping and marketing have to be omnichannel.
For example, someone may come across a product on their desktop computer at work during the day, research the product using their smartphone while going home in the evening and purchase it from a tablet at home. They could, of course, make a purchase at any of these stages and eCommerce companies have to ensure that all work properly and look good.
People are always online through some device or the other these days and, as a result, they can receive updates and messages at all times. eCommerce has to be in step with that.
Omnichannel marketing and shopping implies connecting the offline world with the online experience. For example, physical stores can let shoppers see which items are in stock, through companion apps. On the other hand, more and more e-retailers are beginning to benefit from a physical presence. With many companies operating in both digital and physical, these channels will be increasingly woven together and aligned better to specific customer needs.
6. Digital and mobile marketing will gain significance
People use smartphones to research and shop from wherever they are commuting, at work or at home. So, eCommerce companies have to offer a shopping experience that is not only instant but also top notch.
More of marketing will be aimed at mobile with increase in mobile use. Besides SMS coupons, this could involve other platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp which could continue to evolve and grow during 2015.
Additionally, many eCommerce brands that doubted the power of content marketing in 2014 are likely to begin using it in 2015. This will help them increase the number of customers loyal to their specific brands, as they selflessly provide inspiring and useful content. In this way, content marketing will help them gain new business.
More of mobile marketing and targeted marketing means that content will be targeted at a specific demographic and marketed accordingly.
7. Customization and personalization will continue to increase
In 2015, there will be more customization and personalization, whether it be related to eCommerce marketing or eCommerce websites or apps. The offers or the websites will be personalized for individual visitors. Digital marketing will also be customized, whether through content targeted at customers of a certain type or social media updates for specific individuals.
Customizable web design will allow customers to access personalized presentations when they return to an eCommerce website or app. This will motivate them to sign up or log in. As customers provide more of their personal data, eCommerce businesses know more about them and can use that information to cater to customers’ needs better.
E-commerce retailers can target whoever they want to target specifically since a huge amount of data is now available on current and prospective customers. So, the focus will be on niche audiences and there will be even more market segmentation. However, privacy issues and data acquisition will remain the subjects of a lot of debate.
Also, to appear like someone their customers know, eCommerce companies will continue to create advertisements closely resembling home videos. Advertising copy will appear less professional and more straightforward, honest and transparent.
8. Social commerce will drive growth
To benefit social commerce, businesses will continue to highlight bestselling products and provide offers and discounts specific to social media.
Along with trying to ensure that all that is said about them on social media is positive, eCommerce businesses will also make increasing use of paid social advertising in 2015. They will not only promote products and content matching individuals’ interests but also promote timely deals.
Features being offered by social media sites like Twitter, which offers ‘cards’ that let users purchase from the main feed of a brand, will help drive sales. Social media popularity data for products, collected and displayed on their websites by eCommerce providers like Target, for instance, will also help by providing social proof to prospects.
9. Mobile payments will become more common
Speed is a major issue for online shoppers. Mobile users can pay for anything across the web when they log into an account on Google Wallet, Apple Pay or PayPal. They don’t have to enter their details over and over again. Shoppers can also scan their phones to pay through point of sale terminals.
Mobile payments can also help build trust as these offer an additional security layer and, therefore, encourage shoppers to spend online. According to Portio Research, mobile payments could exceed a trillion dollars by the end of 2015.
10. Big days for shopping will exert greater influence
Retailers used to know the big shopping days in their local markets and were well prepared for them. However, with the web came additional ones from around the world. For example, November 11, which is a big day for buyers in China has dwarfed others like Cyber Monday and Black Friday.
In 2015, eCommerce providers will have to manage their supply chains so that they can scale on demand for the special days for shopping.
11. More of the marketing budget will move away from advertising towards customer service
To drive new business, word of mouth is still among the most powerful tools. To deliver a customer experience that exceeds expectations remains the best way to increase referrals through word of mouth. Testimonials and referrals are gaining importance and traditional advertising is losing steam rapidly. So, in 2015, more of the marketing budget is likely to move away from traditional advertising towards customer service.
12. Same day or next day delivery will have more relevance
Despite the trial and failure of same day service in many markets, next day pick up is likely to grow significantly in 2015. Consumers will be able to look through products online and pick them up from the stores. This should make things more convenient, cheaper and faster for them. Companies will have to keep warehouses close to buying hubs to achieve this.
Examples include Google Shopping Express and Amazon Local.
13. eCommerce web pages will be device agnostic
Designers will not create eCommerce web pages for particular devices in 2015. They will create device-agnostic pages that will function and appear properly on all screen sizes. The designers will try to create an experience that visitors will enjoy the most, while taking into account browser capabilities, input methods and combinations of screen resolutions.
Device-agnostic design will make visitors want to return as it will let them complete the checkout process and navigate through products with ease. They will not have to click undesired buttons or pinch the screen to get a better view.
eCommerce will interact and collaborate with brick and mortar in many different ways, as it continues to grow in 2015.
Do you have your own set of predictions, apart from those mentioned above, for eCommerce? Please share with us and other readers in the comments section below.