It’s that time of year again…
When senior digital marketers, sales gurus and retail industry experts come out with their top predictions for 2014, and provide lists of ecommerce trends to keep an eye on. Whether you’re just an ecommerce enthusiast, or have your own online store, you will have found any number of these articles in your inbox and Twitter feed these past few weeks.
So instead of reading through the many articles, listicles and reports of ecommerce trends 2014, here is a concise ‘Best of Ecommerce Tends’ list of my own. Out of the 80 or so trends that I observed in ecommerce areas such as business strategy, social, mobile, email marketing, UX, SEO, analytics, advertising, content, IT and so on, there were 6 that I found to be the most important, and unavoidable trends for ecommerce merchants this year.
I would also like to highlight those ecommerce trends that will most affect retailers in general, regardless of size, location or digital budget. This is because it's easy to highlight the triumphs of Amazon or eBay when it comes to ecommerce innovation, but what about the rest of us? Well, there are tactics that smaller retailers can use too, and I want to discuss those trends specifically.
The Digital Playing Field
It’s a fascinating time to be in ecommerce, with recent reports lauding brands that leveraged their digital strengths in 2013 to make this past holiday season a real cause for occasion. Several UK etailers saw record-breaking ecommerce sales this Christmas, with Black Friday and Boxing Day becoming cemented as digital holidays in the British calendar. SMM campaigns flourished in 2013, and demonstrated to retailers the power of digital channels to affect the purchase path and provide real ROI.
As booming ecommerce growth continues to bolster otherwise ailing bricks and mortar shops, and consumer shopping trends continue to be revolutionised by wearable tech, social influences and increased mobile payments, it’s easy to see why those involved in digital commerce are excited about the prospects of the coming year.
Best of Trends 2014
1) UX User Experience
2) Social and Content Marketing
3) Personalization and Localization
4) Shipping 2.0
5) Mobile Payment Ease and Experience
6) Ecommerce Data Triangulation
1) User Experience
In 2014, it’s impossible to ignore how your customers interact with your online store, through which channels, from where and why. Answering these questions will allow you to leverage the type of store you want to be and how customers perceive that message. Making browsing, product segmentation and above the fold messaging responsive is key, and you should also focus on optimising search, check out and customer service experiences as well.
2) Social Media and Content Marketing
These are not just peripheral duties to delegate to an intern anymore as more retailers are realising the importance of interacting with social influencers, solving customer service queries via Twitter and native advertising on Facebook. These are quick wins for smaller retailers as well, since a savvy social media marketer can grow a user base by maximising their voice online and get customers talking not only about their brand, but ideally, to each other about products.
3) Personalisation and Localisation
These are key tactics that retailers need to absorb into their long-term strategy to keep up with their larger competitors' behaviour. The ability to go beyond simply suggesting similar products to actually tailoring a user’s shopping experience based on previous data, and allowing them to move through different channels is essential to online retailing in 2014. It’s definitely time to begin planning or revamping your personalization strategy. This also goes for multichannel retailers who can take advantage of new localisation technologies like iBeacons and NFC to analyze both in-store and online revenues and behaviour to personalize the customer journey.
4) Shipping 2.0
The Consumer Rights Directive will pass in the UK in June, which means it’s as good time as any to reassess your shipping and returns policies. This should also include a look into free shipping and same-day delivery options where possible, as well as highly successful click/ reserve and collect tactics.
We all know mobile is a huge buzzword, and there’s a reason I didn’t talk about it first, but it surely was the most popularly mentioned trend in my research and discussions with industry specialists. Whether it’s a mobile first strategy for digital development, or optimising payment processes and options, everyone has their eye on this rapidly evolving channel. 2014 will definitely be the year of mobile expansion as marketers become braver and explore the options that only smart phones and tablets allow.
6) Ecommerce Data Triangulation
The last trend that I would like to highlight is one that doesn’t show up on any of the lists, posts and reports I’ve come across, but it’s the only trend that I believe is vital for retailers looking to succeed this year. 2014 is the year of data-driven decision-making and leveraging data. Ecommerce Data Triangulation, put simply, sets out to maximise profit by selling the right products to the right customers. Putting together the right KPIs to manage your business this year will be faster, simpler and clearer with a number of software providers leading the race.
There are many other developments in ecommerce set for the coming year, however the list above highlights those trends that are already set to take over the industry. If you're an established retailer, you will want to shed the old skin of technologies and strategies you were using, and embrace the rapid evolution of digital channels as quicikly as possible. For younger retailers, you will want to maximise ROI by leveraging social growth with a responsive-first approach. These newer channels can establish a retailer in younger customers' minds more easily, since their strengths lay in their creativity and social reach. Smaller retailers also have the advantage of being able to easily implement new technologies to track, analyse and personalize the customer journey, whereas more established retailers need time and resource to plan major renovations in their software and IT departments. You should use the next few weeks to discuss your digital strategies and determine what changes your company can specifically implement, and what things should be kept in mind and followed more closely.
ResourcesDigital Marketing and Ecommerce Trends and Predictions for 2014