Ecommerce is an ever-changing industry. New strategies are constantly being implemented, different approaches to customer acquisition and retention are always being developed, and everyone is trying to get a leg-up on each other in a crowded market.
All of this change is great, because it makes the ecommerce experience that much better. But if you're unprepared for the changes that occur in the industry, you can find yourself playing catchup. That's never a position you want your business to be in.
So, in order to help you and your store get ahead of the curve, here are 7 trends that are coming for ecommerce in 2016 and what you need to know about them.
Increased demand for connected channels
As 2016 begins, we'll be sure to see an increasing demand for connected shopping channels, or an "omnichannel" experience.
Omnichannel may sound like just another buzzword, but it's not. As HubSpot defines it,
"Omnichannel is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone, or in a bricks-and-mortar store."
The rest of the HubSpot article goes into great detail about what Omnichannel truly is, how to achieve it, and how it differs from today's traditional multi-channel approach. The author, Aaron Agius, sums it up best when he says,
"An omnichannel approach...accounts for each platform and device a customer will use to interact with the company. That knowledge is then used to deliver an integrated experience. Companies using this technique align their messaging, goals, objectives, and design across each channel and device."
Again, you can view examples of how some companies (like Disney) are already implementing an omnichannel strategy by reading the HubSpot post.
Need for advanced data
In-depth, advanced data is nothing new to the ecommerce world. After all, the more you know about your customer base, the more effectively you'll be able to present the right products, at the right time, to them.
However, in 2016, there's going to be an even bigger push for this advanced data. Brian Zeng, from Venture Burn, suggests using algorithms to acquire this advanced data. Using algorithms to segment your customer database will help you approach your customers with the most personalized marketing material, and it'll allow you to automate these workflows.
More flash sales
Another prediction for 2016 from Venture Burn is that we'll see more flash sales. According to Brian Zeng, "Flash sales have become a habit and an expectation of online customers, especially during special occasions."
While flash sales can, and do, have a very positive impact on a business, it's important to not overuse them. If your flash sales start to become a regular thing, customers will be less inclined to shop at your store between sales, when they know it's only a matter of time until the next sale.
Keep your flash sales random and to a low number, and you'll be able to capitalize off their increasing popularity in 2016.
Mobile majorly matters
This has been preached a lot during 2015, but the value of having a great mobile experience can't be overstated enough. According to a Google AdWords blog post, 54% of shoppers plan on shopping via mobile during the 2015 holiday season.
Even more important to understand is how big of an impact mobile will have on brick-and-mortar stores. Mobile doesn't only matter to online-only retailers - it affects every retailer.
"People are increasingly using their phones to research and buy products in stores. More than half (52%) of shoppers plan to use a smartphone for holiday shopping this year before they visit a store, and a whopping 82% of smartphone users will consult their phone will in a store. People are searching 37% more inside department stores than they were last year."
This information is very important for all retailers in 2016 to consider. Is your mobile experience where it should be? It is easy to navigate, helpful, and well-designed? If you're a retailer with an online and physical store, how well does your mobile app integrate with your in-store experience? These are all questions you need to ask yourself heading into 2016 if you want to take advantage of the trend of using smartphones more and more while shopping in physical stores.
Video product reviews
What's one of the major complaints customers have when shopping online? The fact that they can't physically handle the product before purchasing. A way to help mitigate that concern is by posting video reviews of your higher-end products on your site, or even on your company's YouTube channel. Another insight from the above-mentioned Google AdWords post is that,
"One in four shoppers say online videos are their go-to source for gift ideas, and 32% of shoppers say they plan to use online video more this year for holiday purchases."
Now, even though this data is holiday-specific, is provides unique insight into what to expect for 2016 because, as the AdWords posts states, "People in the US are spending nearly twice as much time watching fashion and apparel shopping videos this year over last."
Apparel is a very profitable niche online, and if that's part of your store in any way, you should consider doing video products reviews for 2016.
Great content will become more important
By now, everyone knows the value behind content marketing. But since everyone knows how valuable content is, the ecommerce world has become saturated with content that's less-than-helpful.
This is where the need for truly great content comes into play. In order to separate yourself from the pack of other ecommerce merchants, you'll need the best content you can possibly produce. And according to Practical Commerce,
"The more focused a business is, the more effective content marketing may be for that business. If this is true, small and mid-sized online retailers with narrow or even niche product lines may enjoy the most success from content marketing."
But in order for content marketing to work for your business, you'll need to produce content that shines. HubSpot has a couple blog posts (here and here) that can help you get started if your content needs a bit of a jump-start.
Pop-ups are going to be more common
Go visit any major retailer's website - take Ann Taylor for instance (this is another example borrowed from Practical Commerce).
These pop-ups, once despised by consumers, are starting to become an acceptable aspect of ecommerce website design. The difference with these pop-ups, as opposed to the ones that were misleading ads, is that these pop-ups are asking for a customer's email address, so they can receive exclusive offers and benefits from whichever retailer they happen to be shopping at.
In other words, these pop-ups are offering value instead of just being an annoying ad. As we move into 2016, we'll see more of these pop-ups on retailers' websites, mainly because they're an effective means to grow a store's email list. And as we all know, email marketing is one of ecommerce's most effective tools for generating sales.
Ecommerce will change a lot in 2016, but knowing what changes will be trending at the forefront of innovation will be key to positioning your store ahead of other stores.
Photo courtesy of Fosforix.