No matter which market your online shop is targeting, no matter what kind of product you are selling, you should expect your turnover to increase significantly in the next few years, because the number of customers on the internet is also growing, and the market is expanding – provided that you’re actively monitoring the current trends.
If you start to get prepared for 2017 now, you still have enough time to plan your most important marketing campaigns, to come up with solutions how you’re going to transform your ecommerce store in line with the most recent user habits, and how you’re going to use the new technologies.
And if you’d rather wait a little longer, you’ll inevitably lag behind your competitors.
We’re going to talk about the following topics:
- You don’t have to be an innovator in every field
- Real time analytics and reach
- Mobile penetration is continuously spreading
- Micro moments
- Make the customer path story-oriented
- The era of the virtual salesmen will come
- The perfect user experience will become a basic expectation
- Social media takes control
- Omnichannel – communicate everywhere at the same time
- Quicker delivery
- Maximizing the number of interactions
- Let’s summarize the trends
You don’t have to be an innovator in every field
Trends are called trends exactly because we’re not talking about occasional, suddenly emerging phenomena here, but usually about predictable processes.
For this very reason, we can write an article already in autumn 2016 about what trends are expected to dominate the year 2017, and which would most probably be of great significance, as the market was clearly heading in those directions.
This also means that you don’t have to be afraid that one of your competitors will outpace you in almost every field just because he actively monitors the market.
(We’re going to talk about this in more detail shortly – because it does matter how you treat them, what kind of information you’ll ask for and store.)
It’s quite possible that your audience will require only a couple of elements of this list, and absolutely not all at the same time. It’s also possible that they don’t have any other significant need than you deliver them the ordered products quickly and reliably. On the other hand, they will make purchasing decisions based on that.
Therefore, you shouldn’t look for where you could introduce some kind of innovation based on your own preference. You should always consider what kind of path the customers purchasing from you follow, and where you could simplify and also raise the quality of that process, at what point you could help the user and how you could ensure that they choose you the next time as well.
Bearing that in mind, let’s see which are the emerging trends in the field of technology, marketing and sales, the opportunities of which you should at least explore when planning your strategies for the next year.
Real time analytics and reach
With the help of the most recent analytical methods, you can follow your customers not solely based on their past behaviour. Software applications, like Kissmetrics, offers, are able to tag the visitors and follow them real time continuously through the different channels, trying to get them with retargeting or other methods to the predefined target conversion.
Nowadays you may know much more about what your users, potential and actual customers do in your ecommerce store and why they do that – you’re able to see where they click, where they move on to after leaving you, and you are able to guess their motivations based on the data, and you can target them continuously in line with that with the most appropriate message in the given situation.
Continuous active reach has a major significance – now that you have the proper tools, and the analytics are also at your disposal, it can certainly be declared that the customers, to whom you don’t only send a couple of newsletters as a first contact, are much more valuable to you.
There may be a lot of forms of reach – and if you follow the modern online marketing approach, you shouldn’t try placing banners on sites with high traffic. Because that’s simply a waste of money compared to the truly effective methods.
Let’s see some of these methods:
- You can create questionnaires, thus collecting testimonials and data, and then publish them later.
- You can answer their questions in posts, or even by creating video content.
- You can send them newsletters, follow-up letters, and a great deal of various emails.
- You can also reach them through social networking sites by creating closed groups, or by sharing content through traditional channels or even by retargeted
The list can be extremely long – you can contact your customers and visitors through a lot of channels, some of which we are soon going to discuss in detail.
Mobile penetration is continuously spreading
We’ve already written about how more and more people purchase through various smart devices as the devices become more and more widespread, and as the trust of the users increases. Overall, however, the conversion rate is still low compared to the desktop.
On the other hand, this will not at all be the case in the next few years. Based on the researches of Gartner, e-merchants are expected to increase their revenues stemming from targeting mobile phone users by even as much as 50% in 2017.
Gartner draws attention to another interesting fact: next year the revenue generated by digital mobile assistants may reach even as much as 2 billion dollars. These practically represent the technologies which facilitate the potential customers’ path to conversion, either by the automatic filling in of some data or as an intelligent virtual assistant.
It’s an interesting fact that while an average user grabs his mobile 150-200 times a day and looks up information (e.g. local shops), and he practically realizes most of the purchasing process micro moment by micro moment on the mobile – even if the conversion will take place on the desktop in the end –, only 14% of the companies pay attention to exploiting mobile as an ecommerce platform.
The transformation that the near future will bring, will be radical, though its signs are already visible today. Mobiles will become accepted as a means of payment, the purchasing process will almost entirely move to the smart devices, and the desktop will fade into the background – which at the same time means that you will be able to reach the users anytime and anywhere with a well targeted relevant message. Just like it also means that they will be able to make the decision to purchase anywhere and anytime.
Google’s 2015 concept, simultaneously with mobile ecommerce, will most likely reach its peak next year.
The micro moments concept is quite simple: the purchasing path followed by the users, which could well be controlled traditionally, has fragmented into small pieces, i.e. moments, by now, as the search for the information, the collection of the data necessary for the consideration of the decision, the purchase, as well as the content consumption itself are all done on our mobile devices at random moments.
If you want to control these moments, you have to do an excellent job in several fields at the same time.
- In mobile search engine optimization: if the user searches for a product or a service that’s relevant for you during his path, he will find your pages.
- In content creation: you don’t necessarily need to show the product right away, the potential customers many times just simply collect information on the mobile phone. They see something on the street that they would like to have, and they become curious about what it is capable of, how much it costs, whether it’s on special offer somewhere in the city, and so on. Consequently, you need to create pieces of content that answer these questions, and which also rank high on the search result pages.
- In segmentation. You need to know who your target group is, what they think about, where they are, how they use their phones, what they search for. Because this is the only way you can make sure you elaborate a strategy that can stick with every micro moment that’s valuable for you.
- And this segmentation doesn’t only have to be done based on only demographic and other similar data: you have to know the intention of the users that you may guess of course based on their activities. It’s not that you have to know in advance what a given potential client is about to do – however, you need to recognize the patterns, namely how the customers with various intentions usually get to you (or to your competitors), and you have to enter into that process at the appropriate point.
The first steps that you need to do, if you really want to dominate the market in the mobile era, are:
- Get to know your customers – make segments and create buyer personas. You should know exactly what and how they purchase, what they search for – and more. How they think, what they like reading.
- Collect all available data.
- Know where your customers live.
- Whether they like using mobile or desktop
- How they like to pay.
- What kind of content they consume.
Make the customer path story-oriented
Content is clearly capable of not only selling but of improving your indicators in practically all areas – provided you create it smartly. And this, in most of the cases means that you establish some kind of a personal relationship with your customers, thus evoking such emotions in them that will finally lead them towards conversion.
Find the point where you are capable of making the users commit themselves emotionally. Where you can show them how well a product worked for people similar to them, how much easier, happier it has made their lives.
Don’t try to influence logic at first, but rather try to evoke some kind of an emotion instead, and raise attention with that, and then reinforce the commitment of the customer with that later.
The era of the virtual salesmen will come
We’ve already mentioned virtual assistants – one of the biggest predictions for 2017 is that virtual personal assistants will burst into the market, who will assist the customers at every step of the purchasing process.
At the same time, it’s likely that personal, face to face selling will play less and less of a role – people selling in offline stores will be replaced by automated systems, which can often inform the customers more effectively.
Salesmen will work online instead, in order to answer questions that automated virtual assistants can’t, or even to fine-tune sales processes.
The perfect user experience will become a basic expectation
User interfaces are becoming simpler and simpler, just as well the purchasing processes – users are getting more and more used to the simplicity (e.g. tap, swipe, pinch, drag and drop etc.) that mobiles and smart devices in general provide them with.
This user experience, which a lot of ecommerce stores are optimized for, influence expectations quite significantly. The mobile has an impact on the desktop: if you can purchase on the mobile with only a couple of finger movements, the long checkout process on the desktop will soon also seem uncomfortable.
At the same time, the difficulty lying within is that you’ll need to be able to transmit all relevant information to them as well – and these are usually available in quite complex systems.
Therefore the solution is to work with such intuitive automated systems which are able to define, based on the behaviour of the users, what their current intentions are, what sort of information they need and what kind of activity they are most probably going to carry out – and which systems offer all this to the users without them having to look for those at all.
Earlier, online stores tried to persuade those “wandering into” their shops to purchase by showing them the most diverse product range, like in a bazaar, since that’s how they had the biggest chance of introducing them something they would actually like.
Today, in the age of the minimal user interfaces and of the advertisement or banner blindness, this doesn’t work (or rather it has never been an effective technique).
Social media takes control
This is valid for not only the goods offered online, but for the pieces of content as well. While earlier search engine optimization played the main role, as you were trying to catch the organic traffic arriving from Google’s search engine, nowadays optimization has to be more complex than that, and it should target social networking sites in the first place.
A resourceful e-merchant can find several services that will help him stabilize his presence on the social sites, automate the processes in a way that both the click-through rate and the return increases because of that.
Nowadays, sales on many platforms can be outsourced – it’s possible to purchase directly on Facebook, Pinterest or on other platforms as well, where you can sell products and services in a way that the users don’t even have to leave the site. And this is even encouraged by the platforms, since it’s in their interest that while the entrepreneur pays for the advertisements and gives a commission on the sales, the users stay on their sites and don’t leave for an external ecommerce store.
Omnichannel – communicate everywhere at the same time
Of course, the fact that the social media is present nowadays as a new starting point, doesn’t mean that you should neglect any other of your channels. It’s the contrary.
If you really want to be there for your customers at all times (not in a disturbing, but in a useful way), you need to use all available tools to communicate with them and to offer them pieces of content that will most probably be relevant and useful for them.
Pieces of content that will solve their problems even by themselves, that will answer some of their questions – and that can somehow be tied to your area of expertise or to your products.
This is an important piece of advice even because according to Google’s data 85 percent of the users start the purchasing process (for example by collecting data) on a given channel and by the time they get to conversion, they switch to another one. Consequently, you have to be present everywhere, so that they can have the opportunity of doing that.
Customers expect that the ordered goods actually arrive to them in the shortest possible time. In case of the American customers this often means same day delivery: more and more ecommerce stores undertake that they deliver what you order on the same day.
Obviously, this is not possible in every case – it would often be physically impossible to fulfil same day delivery.
Large companies are testing several different methods to shorten the 5-7 day shipping that otherwise feels almost like forever, to a 1-2 day delivery.
Amazon’s experiment with the drones for example is one of the best-known of these, however, this has several important obstacles – on the one hand, due to the complicated regulations and licensing procedures, on the other hand, because this represents a way too expensive solution for a small enterprise.
Another similar solution that’s currently in the testing phase is crowd delivery, in other words the solution where the company doesn’t use the postal service or a courier service, but they simply let the community deliver the package to the addressee within the shortest possible time. However, a very well established and wide customer audience is necessary for this, with whom trust has already been built previously.
Advertise what you’re actually selling
On this blog you could already read about the importance of not only your text content should be authentic, but also visual content – product photos, among others.
This is just as well valid for the various advertisements. For example if you create a channel in the social media, where you can communicate with your customers, it’s worthwhile filling that up (let’s say on Pinterest) with things that they can actually find in your online shop, or that they can even purchase right there immediately with a very little search (without being too pushy, of course).
Maximizing the number of interactions
The very reason why the merchant has a difficult job with the building of trust in online shopping is because the users don’t have the opportunity to get to know the product personally.
They don’t miss salesmen standing next to them asking whether they can help them – nowadays virtual assistants offer a more than satisfying solution for information services.
No, the problem is that the customers can’t take the product in their hands, can’t feel it, can’t smell it. They can’t make sure that it is exactly what they need.
Today, innovative ecommerce stores are testing various methods which can facilitate building up trust.
The so-called “magic mirrors” also provide an interesting concept: in case of an ecommerce store selling clothing products, after asking for some data (in this case a photo) from the users, you can show them what they would look like in a T-shirt if they bought it. Of course this technology is quite in its infancy, however, it will be interesting to see how successful those trying it will be in having their customers commit themselves and in convincing the hesitating ones.
There is also great potential in virtual reality. A virtually “tangible” product presentation may be way more effective than a simple video. The problem is that the tools making the exploitation of virtual reality possible can’t be considered wide-spread even in the United States, while in Europe and other markets several years will pass until the users have for example a pair of VR glasses in their homes.
If we needed to guess, based on what’s described above, in which direction ecommerce is moving generally speaking, we can say that in the direction of the user-oriented approach.
The following guidelines are the most important for an e-merchant:
- learn everything that’s possible to know about your customer
- personalize the offer based on that
- facilitate the purchase as much as possible
And use the most innovative solutions in order to achieve this – with two exceptions:
You should only use similar solutions if you and your customers really benefit from them. You should make sure that the change you want to introduce is not for its own sake. The best is if you ask for the opinion of your audience in advance every time you are thinking about some sort of a radical innovation, because your spending may turn out to be unnecessary in the end.
The other requirement is that you introduce only those innovations that can actually bring improvement: so that you can truly improve the process with that. A single drone in a strictly regulated air space for example will be unlikely to improve your delivery speed at all, and a VR application in a country where VR glasses can only be found in the offices of tech companies, would be a completely useless innovation, no matter how innovative the solution we’re talking about is.
If you want to know which solution you should consider, we can provide you with a single piece of advice in addition to that you should always pay attention to what the numbers tell you.
Use your own service: continuously test how it feels to communicate with your online shop, what is content consumption, search and purchase like.
Where you feel that the process is even slightly unstable or unclear, there’s space for optimization. And where some kind of a solution is entirely missing or a significant change is necessary for instance, there’s space for innovation.
On the other hand, you should always bear in mind that your only important task is: to make your customers’ life easier, and not to focus on helping them to spend their money in your online store. They will also be grateful for this attitude, and thus they will return to you later as well.