Watch Out For These E-commerce Trends In 2018
App Builder Appy Pie, December 7: E-commerce, in 2017 was a trend that took over pretty much everything else. We saw the online shopping evolve into a phenomenon and the scale of it managed to baffle even the industry experts. The new technologies that emerged at the end of the year 2016 blossomed into robust concepts in 2017 and took deep roots in the world of e-commerce. The total e-commerce revenue would cross the $400 billion mark by the end of the year and contributory factors like the big leaps in social media, omni-channel strategies, and mar-tech have played significant role in this.
As we approach the end of 2017, the trends for the coming year have become clear and the expected revenues from e-commerce are chalked up at more than $460 billion. It might seem pretty rosy when we look at a promising figure like that, but an important factor to note here is that the competition too is going to be quite severe. The customer in 2018 will be more evolved, quite hard to win, even harder to keep and have higher expectations in terms of the value for money that they get and the user experience the brand provides. It is important to understand the evolving and dynamic nature of the world of e-commerce or online retail. The year 2018 calls for some new innovations based on the trends of online shopping and online consumers.
It is important for any industry and the players or the stakeholders to keep on top of the upcoming trends so that they can develop themselves, their services, and their products into something that their consumer would want. Losing track of trends or ignoring them can only lead to the brand losing out on consumers and on a big chunk of business. This effectively means that you would be selling what no one wants to buy.
Virtual assistants took us by surprise, the new age consumer explored the concept gingerly, got enthusiastic, and slowly got dependent on it. In the year 2018, however, the consumer is looking for more as the need for assistance is overtaken by the need for companionship. This year consumers would begin exploring the possibility of developing a meaningful relationship with a virtual entity which would make it possible for them to have meaningful conversations. This evolved virtual entity would have the possibility to entertain, educate, heal, and even befriend.
There are elements of this that might seem too far in the future or a part of a sci-fi movie, but it is much nearer in the timeline of digital evolution. The amount of time an average consumer spends today with machines, the social media and of course with the virtual assistants warrants for a more intuitive, more human personal assistant and this has even led to brands like Apple hiring engineers who have a background in psychology.
It has oft been discussed that the social media today is increasing the feeling of isolation. This is proven by a research that states that the users aged between 19 and 32 who spend more than two hours on the social media face double the risk of feeling isolated or lonely as compared to the people who spend 30 minutes or less on the same social media.
Apple is not the only one who has recognized the expectation among the consumers for the personal assistants to turn into companions. These expectations go a lot wider than just the tech giants like apple as around three fourth (72%) of the frequent users of voice technology mention the expectation of some of the brands having unique voices and personalities for their apps instead of only making use of the assistant on the phones.
Though this data might make you want to jump directly on the bandwagon and embrace the trend developing your own virtual companion, there is a definite need to consider the question whether your brand needs it. For some of the brands, consumers have been known to prefer interacting with a chatbot. It might be more beneficial for your brand to stick to creating or improving a pre-existing highly functional chatbot that incorporates a little bit of playfulness and personality.
However, if you do decide that yours is a brand that would do well with a virtual companion then set out on this challenging process by asking the question, if your app was a person, what would their personality be like and what kind of a companionship would they extend to your consumers?
Omni-Platform & Omni-Device
In the year 2017, there was much talk about cross-platform or multi-platform apps which meant that the apps were available on all platforms and on multiple devices. The importance of being available on each platform and device was high and only the apps that were available across platforms gained any kind of serious attention. As we are moving on to the next year, this trend is evolving into something more substantial where there is an expectation from the customer for an integration of various online platforms and the devices that they use to access them. The competition would not be about presence and visibility across different platforms and devices but about their integration.
As per one of the more recent surveys, 85% of the online shoppers begin their purchase on one device and end it on another. It is important to keep the user experience and user interface similar and consistent. The key is to maintain a smooth transition visually and in terms of UI experience as the customer moves from one platform to the other or from one device to the other so that they feel like they are interacting with a single entity instead of a scattered interaction with a bunch of people from the same organization. For a strong omni-platform and omni-device interface it is important to develop an e-commerce strategy that would include consistent design, branding, navigation, messaging, sales processes, payment gateways, social media content, and advertising. In absence of a crisp strategy that involving the aforementioned factors, the user experience would suffer and affect engagement levels and even retention.
Evolved level of personalization
Personalization may seem to be an old term today, but 2017 has seen it gain importance in the online retail world. The apps have been smartly taking note of the consumers’ habits and preferences, remembering it and offering intelligent suggestions or solutions at the right time to the consumer in a tailored or customized manner. This helped the customers connect with the brands and the apps in a stronger way.
Now that personalization has become a norm of the day, how is this trend going to evolve in the year 2018? To answer it we must acknowledge the consumers’ innate trait of getting bored with old and seeking something new. Today the customers are getting used to being addressed and treated as an individual instead of a nameless entity on the other end of the device. They are not satisfied any more with a mere understanding of their preferences, they are looking for more. The impersonal nature of the apps and brands have long been discarded, but now there is a demand from the customers where they expect to be understood a lot more deeply. They expect the brand to be able to anticipate their needs. The consumer of tomorrow would not want to spend hours surfing through various apps in an effort to find something that they like, but rather have the brand anticipate her needs and give them the options or even reminders about her impending needs. They would expect the brand to gauge their needs taking into account the factors like gender, age, size, favorites, special needs, and more. It has been established through a survey that 51% of the consumers expect that by 2021 the brands should be able to anticipate their needs and make suggestions even before they establish contact with them.
The Age Of Data
For all the talk about personalization and enhanced user experience and everything else, do we realize one of the most crucial ingredients for these advancements? We are talking about Data. Consumer data is of extreme importance and it is no secret but the value of data would rise and gain prominence in 2018. Data analytics have formed the foundation for most of the businesses and understanding the consumer; in 2018 these foundations go deeper and would be playing a pivotal role in engaging & retaining customers and in providing a more personalized brand experience to the user.
To access and garner more data, the brands of 2018 would have to leverage every possible source, platform, channel, or any other touch point. It is only comprehensive data that can help the consumers build a more complete picture of their consumers.
It is important, however to not go overboard and take into account the data protection rules and regulations that have been set forth by concerned authority so as not to violate the users’ privacy and make them feel unsafe in any manner. The strategies should be designed in a way that they abide by the laws and regulations while still retaining their ability to create and offer a personalized experience to the users.
The Illusive Micro-Moments
In this world of instant gratification and mobile devices or smart phones have emerged as one of the strongest influence when it comes to customer interactions and engagement with brands on a global level. One of the most interesting concepts to have emerged in the recent times is that of “micro-moments” which has made it possible for the power to be shifted to the mobile phones. Whether it is a mundane decision like finding a grocery item on your list, or a life changing decision like relocating to a new place, or a number of such “micro-moments” lead most of the new age consumers to reach out for their mobile phones.
These micro-moments are rapidly proving to be highly critical and evaluative touch points where customers have an expectation that the brands would be able to cater to their needs with information that is accurate and reliable, irrespective of the time when it is made or the location from where it was made.
The magnanimity can easily be understood when you take into account the fact that 96% of the users depend on their mobile or smart phones when they need to conduct an instant search. The ability of the brand to accurately anticipate and take care of the exact micro-moment needs by offering the right information at the right time to the customer who needs it is instrumental in its ability to succeed in this competitive environment. When a customer is offered a useful, instant, and one-touch access to the required information, it lays the foundation of a long-lasting relationship with the customer.
Native Ads For Visibility
Marketing and advertising has always been one of the most important aspects of having a successful business in the modern times, but the techniques and tools have been evolving continuously. In the past, pop up ads and disruptive ads have emerged as contributory reasons for dissatisfaction among the consumers and for negative feedback. The consumers today find interruptive ads frustrating and distracting. Hence in these times and in the times to come it is native advertising that has gained recognition as one of the most effective marketing methods to capture plain sight exposure to the right kind of targeted audience.
The pop up or interruptive ads which might or might not be of relevance to the consumer and the resulting negativity is of prime concern and is best catered to by native ads. Native ads help the brands to promote their products and gain exposure in a subtle, non-intrusive manner by blending in with the environment that the user is comfortable with. Native ads have the quality of seamlessly becoming a part of the relevant content in such a way that sometimes the customer may not even spot it as an ad. This succeeds in making the right information available at the right time.
The Mobile Movement
It was in 2016 that mobile browsing took over PC browsing and that is when mobile optimization became one of the biggest things in the e-commerce industry. In 2017 as well 42% of the browsing sessions were attributed to mobile phones as opposed to 41% of the browsing sessions through PCs. Among these are some that browse for their products through mobiles but choose to finish their purchase on the PC. Even though the number of purchases made from the mobiles might not be as high as the PCs, it is important to understand that the users are using their mobile phones for the initial search and review while making the purchasing decision. The movement towards mobiles is very real and there is a lot of scope in improving the flawless transition from mobile to PC, in improving the mobile app or site navigation and an instant & user-friendly checkout process.
Emerging Importance Of User Generated Content
It is only towards the end of the year 2017 that the importance of user generated content is being realized. Currently UGC or User Generated Content is quickly becoming one of the most prized pieces of content that you can get access to. As more and more multi-channel customers are emerging on the horizon, they are sharing their experiences, views, and the products they buy on the social media. The user generated content or the reviews induce a sense of confidence and trust for the brand and the products among not just the circle of close friends and family but on a lot of other people who come across this content on various social media. Research says that a customer who has interacted with or is exposed to user generated content is 97% more likely to make the purchase.
This UGC is not just limited to social media, but also consists of the reviews that a customer might leave on your website or on some external sites about your product, service or their experiences with the product. The reviews go a long way to boost up your SEO while providing an interesting sneak peek into your store and the products or services you have on offer, setting your products and the brand apart from the rest of the milieu. For example if you have a fashion store app and you leave a provision for the users to share their photos, reviews, and or thoughts about the experience they had with you, it tells the prospective customers about the love other happy customers have for you. If the customers post their pictures donning a fashion piece from your store right next to the product, it lets others know how the piece would look on people with different heights, body shapes & sizes. This encourages customers and incites confidence among the prospective customers.
The Definite Advent Of Generation Z
The online shopping and mobile shopping tornado had the millenials at its eye and all the strategies and the product evolution was built up keeping them in mind. There is however a clear emergence of a younger generation – The Generation Z. the brands and marketing divisions are quickly realizing the importance of this particular generation and their buying behavior. This new youthful group needs to be considered in the year 2018, before any strategies or plans are rolled out. The millenials and the Generation Z have quite a few common behavioral traits and characteristics, but in some key areas they diverge greatly as their habits and expectations are completely different from each other.
While strategizing marketing plans targeted at the Generation Z it must be kept in mind that they are the only generation that prefers to use social media instead of search engines when it comes to researching any product. They are also unique in the fact that they spend the maximum time online on their mobiles which is in fact more than the time they spend online on all the other devices combined. Two third of this generation still lives with their parents and about a fourth of them have never done any kind of food shopping ever. They are also the generation that is more likely to use Snapchat and Instagram a lot more frequently as compared to the millenials. The Generation Z is quickly emerging as the core group on which most of the brands are focusing currently and the year 2018 would see the strategies develop from what they hear and observe in this generation.
Influencer or celebrity endorsements see a decline
Marketing through celebrity or influencer endorsements has stood the test of time for a long period now. In the past the association of a brand or product with a celebrity or an influencer has reaped great results as the customers would transfer their faith or admiration for the person on to the brand or their range of products or services. The idea was to associate the brand with a person and stand apart from the rest of the impersonal ads. The success of the strategy is probably what led to its decline. The market was flooded with such personalities endorsing multiple brands and slowly the idea lost its cause and defeated its initial purpose. Today only 14% of the digital consumers say that they have discovered a brand through celebrities or influencer endorsements.
Instead of influencers or celebrities, more and more people are looking at fellow customers for endorsements and the importance of user-generated content gets underlined here. It is therefore quite prudent for a brand today to raise their own set or team of influencers who would generate genuine and curated content and help win back the trust of the customers while bringing in the much coveted personal touch.
The trends are changing, the social environment is ever evolving, and the psyche and attitude of the modern day customer is going through a perennial overhaul. The coming year would see the shift of focus from one generation to the other which means the strategies and the market would take an entirely new direction in the year 2018.