Posted by & filed under List Posts.

E-commerce itself is trending

Yes, the title of this piece is grandiose. However, it may not be an exaggeration. Increasingly, the extent to which a company understands e-commerce is reflected by their success.

Take this statement from Cusha Sherlock of Credit-Suisse: “The e-commerce industry is a force that no investor can afford to ignore.” Also consider this forecast from eMarketer based on the available industry data:

  • 2016 retail e-commerce revenue – $1.915 trillion
  • Expansion will be at or above 10% each year through the end of the decade.
  • Revenue will exceed $4 trillion in 2020.

Now, of course, e-commerce is just a fraction of the global retail market, which totals $22.049 trillion worldwide (and is currently growing at 6.0% annually). However, consider that e-commerce retail is growing at a faster rate than general retail (10 vs. 6), and that it represents an increasingly larger share of the overall figure each year. It’s currently at 7.4% of worldwide retail, and the eMarketer projection estimates it to hit 14.6% in 2020.

The bottom line is that it’s time to pay closer attention to e-commerce to future-proof your business. Let’s look at six top trends:

 

Trend #1 – Smoke-signal analytics

Analytics essentially becomes more sophisticated when it ties in signals related to each different possible avenue a customer can go. That’s the focus of a software such as Kissmetrics, which gives a signal to each source of traffic, tracking users from source to sale (or abandonment, or bounce).

 

Trend #2 – Real-time proposals & engagement

How important is it to interact with customers? Well, it will make you more money.

Gallup describes customers as fitting within three different categories: completely engaged, neutral, and completely disengaged. The pollster’s research reveals that engaged users go to e-commerce sites 44% more than disengaged ones do, and their total purchase is higher (373 USD, compared to 289 USD for a customer that is disengaged).

As businesses realize the importance of engaging visitors in the new year, they will use strategies such as these to do so:

  • Incorporating customer stories into the blog
  • Replying to customer concerns through video or a short piece
  • Sending e-mail newsletters with exclusive loyalty-based discounts
  • Consistently posting helpful information to social and on-site.

Businesses will review and potentially upgrade their adoption of live help desk platforms, advised Michael Lazar of Engadget. “This solution actively engages customers and allows them to ask questions via an online chat system, social media, phone, message and more,” he said. “Tickets are created that the customer support team can respond to in real-time.”

Why do you want to adoption an in-the-moment solution to serve prospects? If you think people like to do it by themselves online, well, that’s not the case: according to a six-nation survey of 5700 digital shoppers, 87% want support at some point during their buying journey.

 

Trend #3 – The money in omnichannel

There are many reasons why people have hesitated to buy products on their cell phones and tablets: the desire to use a bigger screen; concerns over privacy and security; difficulty with the vendor’s app or mobile site; etc.

However, the world has gone increasingly mobile in the past five years. It should be a shock to those who think of the Internet as fundamentally a network of personal computers that recent research revealed 56% of visitors to top sites are on a mobile device.

People still don’t want to use their smartphone or their iPad to buy, though. Robert Allen of Smart Insights described the findings of a study from 2016: “[A]lthough mobile (phone and tablet) accounted for 59% of all sessions by device on eCommerce sites, these mobile browsers made up just 38% of revenue,” he said. “Desktop was still dominating for conversion even though mobile browsing is the norm for research.”

The important thing to realize about your company is that its connection to customers is holistic rather than truly broken up into different channels. That’s the basic guidance behind the notion of the all-inclusive, omnichannel sales approach. After all, the study above also discovered that when a large portion of a company’s traffic is mobile, it comprehensively achieves better conversion. The user is checking out your product on their phone before they open their laptop or go to their desktop and buy. In other words, mobile users are buyers and should not be undervalued.

 

Trend #4 – The encroaching singularity

You may know of best-selling author Ray Kurzweil, whose concept of the singularity suggests that artificial intelligence will suddenly generate rampant and rapid-fire growth in technology, bringing about systemic social alterations.

Well, artificial intelligence is indeed growing. Kit Smith of social media monitoring firm Brandwatch noted that AI digital-assistant tools such as Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa are changing the playing field for online sales. “This will impact E-commerce as the beginning stage of the research process may be increasingly conducted by chatting to a personal assistant,” he said. “Ecommerce brands will need to keep an eye on how these developments change the buyer journey and adapt.”

 

Trend #5 – Subscription fever

The rise of cloud-based SaaS programs has popularized and proven the subscription model for all e-commerce parties. It means consumers aren’t required to commit as many funds upfront and that companies are able to keep bringing in revenue over time.

No one said that subscriptions had to only be for technology, though. Some e-commerce companies have been popping up that embrace subscription purchasing of physical products, explained Allen. “Founded just five years ago in 2011, the dollar shave club, a prime example of a subscription-based eCommerce site, is now worth an incredible $615 Million dollars!” he said. “From nothing to $615 million dollars in five years. Just selling razors.”

 

Trend #6 – Chatbot mania

Get ready everyone: the Internet is getting ready to enter an era of chatbot mania. Because the chatbot is not just any bot. To be serious, this marketing sidekick is a critical one that could be described as introductory in 2016 and emergent in 2017.

Chatbots are not a completely new idea, but they became a trend because of their rising adoption – making them deserve attention from marketing influencers and executives.

Julia Carrie Wong wrote a great article for The Guardian on chatbots in April 2016. It talks about how these new non-human AI virtual assistants emulate sales and service interactions.

The sort of case study Wong uses to express the increased focus on chatbots is the Kik Bot Shop – a spinoff of the messaging app Kik.

The service, presented in Fortune as a sort of app store for bots, started in April with 16 bots from brands such as Funny or Die, Vine, the Weather Channel, and H&M. The platform was open, so anyone could develop one for it (assuming they follow Kik’s ban on “adult” content).

“Without a chat bot, a user might direct his browser to weather.com, then type in their zip code to get the forecast,” explained Wong. “With the Kik’s Weather Channel bot, a user can send a chat asking for ‘Current Conditions’ or a ‘3-Day Forecast’ and the bot will reply with your answer.”

How big are bots? There were more than 20,000 bots on Kik by August 3, just four months after the platform’s creation.

*****

Hopefully the above trends give you a better idea of how e-commerce is growing and changing. As you consider the ways the field is changing, remember that web hosting is a fundamental tool that can deliver the high-performance customer experience to propel your growth.

At Total Server Solutions, we support all of the top shopping cart applications, and we also offer merchant accounts so you can sell and accept payments quickly and easily. Get started now.