Ecommerce Trends to Expect in 2018

Dec 22, 2017, 2155 views

The ecommerce industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. In 2017 it reached around $2.3 trillion and is expected to hit $4.5 trillion in 2021 (according to a Statista report). In the US alone, ecommerce represents almost 10 percent of retail sales — a figure that is growing by nearly 15 percent each year.

Nowadays, stores can’t compete without offering excellent ecommerce options, and 56% of in-store purchases are influenced by digital commerce. This means, if you aren’t reaching your customers online, you could be losing half of your potential revenue.

So, which ecommerce trends are set to dominate 2018?

Faster Shipping and Better Delivery Logistics

Looking beyond the idiosyncrasies of specific ecommerce platforms, one of the very few remaining genuine differentiators in the ecommerce sector is that of shipping times and delivery logistics.

Amazon is the indisputable king of ecommerce delivery, and seems poised to remain on its throne for the foreseeable future. Amazon is notoriously secretive when it comes to specific figures, but an infographic recently published by the ecommerce giant states that Amazon shipped more than 5 BILLION items worldwide via Amazon Prime’s free one- or two-day shipping in 2017. Even more interesting is the data on Amazon’s fastest deliveries – just eight minutes for a forehead thermometer, and just nine minutes for five pints of ice cream.

In 2018, we can expect Amazon and other ecommerce retailers step up their logistics game.

With more than 8,000 Amazon Prime members currently living in areas offering Amazon Now’s one-hour(!) delivery service – and Amazon’s plans to expand the service even further this year – reducing the time between click and delivery is likely to become one of the bloodiest fights on the ecommerce battlefield this year. Combined with other emerging technologies such as driverless freight envisioned by automotive companies such as Mercedes-Benz, logistical improvements will drive the ecommerce sector forward this year.

Social/Photo Shopping

Social shopping is the act of using social media to find reviews and recommendations about products (either products you’re actively searching for or those you happen to stumble upon), then using those reviews to guide your purchase decision.

In a world where 9 out of 10 consumers turn to social media for help with a buying decision and 75% of people bought something after seeing it on social media, brands can’t afford to ignore this merge.

An Image (search) Will be Worth A thousand Words. Instead of typing in words, many consumers will use image-based search for the first time in 2018. In fact, image and voice activated search may make up 50 percent of all searches by 2020.

As image analysis automation becomes standard in mobile devices, consumers will be able to take a picture of an object then search for that exact product or a similar one.

Merchants who integrate this capability into their digital strategy will be richly rewarded. First, their product information management investment will reach new levels of ROI. Second, they will be able to enter new markets based on the quality and multiplicity of the images they provide for their products as language is no longer a barrier to discovery, nor is product name or incorrect or unknown attributes.

Here’s a case study on Levi’s to help you understand. Levi’s took social shopping to a whole new level by integrating social media with their store. They even went so far as to incorporate what they called a “friend store” – a specific section of their site where you only saw what your friends liked or purchased via Facebook.

Their intimacy with social media and eCommerce led to 30% of their entire web traffic coming from Facebook. They went from 180,000 fans to over 17 million.

Mobile Checkout and IoT

No list of anticipated ecommerce trends would be complete without the almost-obligatory mention of the continued meteoric rise of mobile – specifically, mobile checkout and payment systems, and the continued rise of internet-connected devices.

Mobile payment has been one of the most dramatic changes to the way people shop since the advent of ecommerce itself. Growth of the mobile payment market has increased steadily year-on-year since 2015, and there are at least 10 different mobile payment platforms available today, including mainstays like Apple Pay and Google Pay (the recently announced merger of Google Wallet and Android Pay), as well as proprietary offerings from banks including Chase and Softbank. (Oh, and don’t forget everyone’s favorite cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.) As we move farther away from cash, it seems inevitable that we’ll see continued adoption and development of mobile payment systems throughout the year and beyond.

Automation and Chatbots for Online Ordering

With 1.3 billion people on Facebook Messenger, it makes sense to take advantage of chatbots for marketing, customer service, and sales.

With ecommerce, you can take it a step further.

Domino’s uses its Messenger bot, Dom, for full-menu ordering. The implications of this are huge: when fast and simple are priorities for consumers, Domino’s will beat out all the competition.

Plus, chatbot ordering is an opportunity for Domino’s to cater to its audience in a new way, proving itself to be a helpful and forward-thinking company.

If it makes sense for your business, I’d suggest creating a chatbot like Dom while it’s still an open field. In a few years, this could become a mainstream way of ordering, and lose some of its current novelty power.

Voice Search

These days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to talk about mobile without mentioning voice search. In 2018, voice will be one of the leading drivers of innovation in the ecommerce space – and not just on mobile.

Adoption of smart home appliances such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home units has been a major driver of voice search, particularly in the ecommerce space. Data from Walker Sands Digital indicates that almost one-quarter of consumers (24%) own a voice-controlled smart appliance such as an Amazon Echo or Google Home, and a further 20% plan to purchase one in the coming year. Use of these devices to complete purchases has also grown, with 19% of consumers having used their smart appliance to make a purchase, and a further 33% of consumers planning to do so in 2018.

Voice search, particularly in the smart speaker market, isn’t just a neat trick or the novelty du jour; it’s the next stage of customer loyalty. According to data from equities securities research firm Consumer Research Intelligence Partners, consumers that use their Echo to make purchases are among Amazon’s most loyal customers, spending an average of $1,600 per year compared to the $1,300 per-year average of Prime customers, a figure 66% higher than the average Amazon customer spends in a year.

Sales completed via Amazon Echo units also provided retailers with numerous upsell opportunities, with upsell rates of more than 60% observed among some product lines.

Machine Learning + A.I. Will Create The Ideal Customer Experience

A.I. will create the perfect, customized customer experience which means that millennials will likely be the last generation to be marketed to as, well, a generation. 2018 will signal a shift in most retailers’ and brands’ targeting strategy, veering away from marketing to a pre-defined, relatively large and varied group of people like Millennials or baby boomers.

As brands and retailers get better at leveraging consumer and behavioral data, eCommerce initiatives will target much more specifically, nearing the once impossible idea of one to one (1:1) marketing. Just like when shopkeepers knew clients’ names and preferences.

Behavior-based analysis leads to personalization and data driven optimization, which brands and retailers will start using to much greater effect in 2018, signaling the beginning of the end of demographic-based marketing tactics.

ROPO (“Research Online, Purchase Offline”)

It can be tricky to track how your digital efforts translate to offline sales.

Luckily, ROPO (“research online, purchase offline”) is a tool that will become more advanced and reliable in the upcoming year, and can help retailers accurately measure how well their digital ads are contributing to in-store sales.

ROPO combines information from social media, mobile tracking/geolocation, mobile payments, in-store inventory, analytics tools, CRM systems, and more, to figure out which ads and site pages led consumers to in-store purchases.

This is invaluable information. By knowing which digital ads are most efficiently contributing to sales, ecommerce businesses can create higher-conversion, more targeted campaigns, and feel confident that what they’re doing online is meaningful to their consumers.

Ecommerce continues to evolve at a rapid pace, and you need to keep up with the latest online shopping trends to continue to boost your clients’ sales and stay ahead of the competition.

Related Articles