Author Jeff

Date: July 19, 2018

20 E-commerce Trends To Watch In 2018

What will the next 6 months of 2018 bring in terms of e-commerce trends? Here are our thoughts...

Trends in eCommerce come and go rapidly – so much so, in fact, that staying on top of the changes can be a full-time job in itself. To help you optimize your time, we’ve put together a list of the top 20 current trends in eCommerce today.

In this post, we’ll cover everything from what, why, when, and how people shop online to shopper behaviors and preferences and how these are driving retail business decisions.

If you’re considering an ecommerce website redesign or looking for effective ways to improve your conversion rates, this article is definitely for you.

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

 

Here are 20 of the top eCommerce trends to watch in 2018:

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI and ML have been disrupting the eCommerce experience for some time now. Going forward, being able to provide a more personalized experience will deliver value to the consumer and actionable data to company decision makers.

But these technologies are improving much more than just the front-end. Automating warehouse operations and improving the efficiency of logistics are a big part of AI and ML, creating a more predictable workflow from the factory floor to the customer’s door.

Companies are also using AI to predict customer behavior, providing recommendations for products they might like or complementary products to what they have already purchased.

 

Chatbots


With significant advances in natural language processing (NLP), chatbots are becoming an acceptable part of the consumer experience. They remove a great deal of customer frustration and satisfy the consumer’s demand for immediate and accurate on-demand service.

Chatbots are often the first line of entry into customer service, giving the shopper the benefit of instant attention and relieving much of the pressure from customer service teams. Chatbots can accomplish a great deal, from directing the customer to a solution or a product, providing information on returns, and even making changes to an order that has already been set up for delivery.

 

Augmented reality, Virtual reality


Being able to see what an outfit might look like on you, try on makeup, or check out how that couch will look in your living room – these are just some of the things AR and VR can do. Many e-tailers are already offering this via smartphone and desktop applications, allowing their customers to “try before they buy”.

The difference between AR and VR is that with VR, there is little input required from the user – it’s simply a matter of being able to access the VR content. VR content provides an immersive experience that could lead to a purchase. For items like vacation packages and real estate, this is an area where purchasing online was never really an option. Now, with the ability to experience these offerings first-hand, this is actually possible.

AR, on the other hand, requires some interaction on the part of the user, usually in the form of providing an image of themselves so that they can “try out” the retailer’s products, whether it’s clothing, cosmetics, or paint for your living room walls.

 

Animation

Movement on a page draws the eye. It also signals urgency and excitement. Some retailers are using animation to draw attention to sale items or items that are about to sell out. Expect to see more of this in the near future.

 

Social shopping

Two of the most visual platforms on the web, Pinterest, and Instagram, are exposing their products to shoppers gently. This helps them present their wares in a visually appealing way that lacks the sales-y posture and allows people to comment, share, and interact with the products in a more organic way.

 

Smart home assistants: a new frontier to conquer

Smart home assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Cortana, and Siri are on the rise. Research leaders Canalys predicts that smart home assistant adoption in 2018 will surpass 56.3 million units in the United States alone. Retailers who want to cash in on this opportunity will need to meet the challenge by improving NLP capabilities.

 

SaaS eCommerce platforms will gain market share

Companies who want to keep up with current trends may choose to take advantage of SaaS eCommerce platforms to give them an edge. These platforms offer enterprise-grade features and analytics that can help the smaller players exceed expectations and compete with the “big guys”, meaning there will be more demand as the need for digital transformation and advanced capabilities continue to ramp up.

Analytics platforms will become essential

The more you know about your customers and how they interact with your brand, the better job you can do of meeting and exceeding their expectations. An analytics platform can help with much more than just minding your inventory and delivering demographic insights, though – it can help streamline the supply chain, develop new products, prioritize marketing initiatives, and perhaps most importantly, illustrate how your company is performing compared to the competition.

 

IoT will continue to disrupt the supply chain

IoT has become indispensable to on-premise retail, but what it does for the supply chain is truly amazing. IoT sensors work hand-in-hand with AI to deliver real-time insights into supply chain performance. This results in fewer errors, increased efficiency, better transparency, and optimized business processes on the back end. It contributes to greater customer satisfaction while providing the opportunity to spare company resources. On the customer-facing side, it helps to lower the cost of shipping, reduce errors, and provide a more predictable experience from end-to-end.

The middleman is going the way of the dino

Brands are increasingly looking for ways to connect with their customers in a more meaningful way. This means that a large part of the supply chain may actually cease to exist, but the upshot is that brands will better understand what their customers really want while being able to narrow their margins. Blockchain will likely have a hand in this trend – but more on that in a few …

Mobile payments

The buying process is becoming simpler and more secure every single day. We are moving toward a standardized system that will provide consumers with a dependable, secure way to pay online, no matter where they are shopping. This includes on-premise sales as well, as store associates become empowered with the ability to take mobile payments away from the register. If you are not yet accepting mobile payments, there is no time like the present.

Subscription box services

The popularity and success of subscription boxes have seen a massive uptick in recent years. From the pet-centric BarkBox to coloring clubs, organic foods, socks, cosmetics, groceries, and more, subscription boxes are a way to address the evermore crazy business of living in today’s world. It’s convenient. It’s personalized. And, if you can maintain a level of customer service and an experience that is high-quality enough to meet the demand of the largely affluent clientele that embraces the trend, you’ve got it made.

Mobile sites over apps

Consumers today are turning away from brand apps in favor of mobile shopping experiences. There is a combination of trends that contribute to this; in part, there is a hesitance to download “yet another app”, while some cite security concerns. Mobile first is a strategy any eCommerce website design should embrace to ensure a high mobile conversion rate.

Mobile-friendly, responsive websites are prioritized in the search engines while those that are not will be relegated to the bottom. While a mobile app was once viewed as the only way to accomplish certain eCommerce goals—like anytime access, high visibility, analytics, and improved customer engagement—a mobile website can do all of these things and more, and generally without the six-figure price-tag.

 

Blockchain

Blockchain stands to be the biggest disruptor of pretty much everything in the coming years. Where it will make an immediate difference to eCommerce is in the supply chain, logistics, and in providing insight into all transactional data. Data and events that are logged on the blockchain cannot be altered, meaning decision-makers and customers alike will have full visibility into all of their transactions. Eventually, this will eliminate the need for third-party intermediaries such as accountants, auditors, and more. Imagine.

 

Omnichannel

Omnichannel has become fairly ubiquitous in retail, removing barriers to excellent customer service while delivering a streamlined buying journey. For a concept that is relatively new, it has pervaded our reality to the point where consumers have come to demand it. It lands on this list as a trend in that it is now essential as opposed to being “nice to have”. Fortunately, even smaller companies now have access to the technology that enables it, based on the range of companies that specialize in delivering omnichannel as-a-service.

Image search/visual search

Today’s changing technologies are changing shopper behaviors. So, imagine being able to snap a photo of an item you like and then search for similar items in the hope of getting a better deal? This may actually encourage some shoppers to shop online even more, given the promise of savings. Pinterest already has a similar function, in which you can zoom on a pinned photo to find similar items.

Some companies, like Target, will be deploying this technology in their mobile app and website in an effort to drive purchases at the moment of discovery. Other retailers who are already using visual search include Neiman Marcus and Urban Outfitters. As the image will replace a keyword in searches, companies who want to take advantage of this need not only to provide high-quality photos of their products but be sure they are tagged and cross-tagged judiciously.

Product videos

Product videos are a little more tricky and expensive than static images. In an effort to reduce costs and complexity, most retailers will forego video simply to keep it simple. Statistically, however, videos provide a lot more value than you might think.

14 percent of all internet searches are video. If you are not taking advantage of this, that’s 14 percent of the population that is already looking for what you sell. If you can’t count yourself in that 14 percent, you may have lost out to your competitor. Additionally, 71 percent of shoppers think that a video explains a product better and 73 percent of the people who watch the video will buy. Still, think a video isn’t worth your time?

 

Local search

Local search ties in directly with voice search capabilities as shoppers who use voice search (with their voice-activated home assistants, for instance) are three times more likely to want to connect to local stores. Ensure that you are able to meet these needs with updated and accurate hours, reviews, product photos, product descriptions, and so on. Your website is your storefront. Giving your shoppers every opportunity to convert is simply smarter.

Research online purchase offline (ROPO)

ROPO is poised to support online retailers with an accurate measurement of how well their digital ads are supporting on-premise sales. Shoppers today tend to research, compare and shop online, but will often go to the store to see and touch the product, try on a garment, or see what other value they can find.

ROPO combines information from mobile, social, location, inventory, CRM, and more besides, in order to find out which ads are converting best and generally making the most impact. This will help companies hone their marketing strategies to an even greater degree and ensure that the underlying message is getting across as intended.

Same day/next day delivery

Once you have tackled all of the various challenges in the effort to stay ahead of your eCommerce competitors, the only frontier left to conquer is being able to get the products to the customer’s door even faster.

For companies who have a local presence near the shopper, items can be picked up in-store or delivered from that store to provide convenience and value. The cost to the store is about 30 percent less expensive to ship same-day-local than it would be if the item were to come from an out-of-area warehouse. Items that could be considered for same-day delivery include groceries, apparel, electronics, and more.

 

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, there are many exciting eCommerce trends to watch in 2018. What will you do?

If you are looking for ways to elevate your customer experience and boost conversions, contact us for a 1-on-1 assessment. We’d love to learn more about your company and tell you how we can help.

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