It's true— online shopping is taking over.
Every year, more sales are made online than ever before, and online shopping accounts for a higher proportion of all sales. eCommerce is booming for all industries, and continues to take the lead.
There's never been a better time to get involved in selling online, but the other side of this coin is that competition is becoming fierce. It's important to keep apprised of emerging eCommerce trends so as to make the most of new, cutting-edge strategies.
With that in mind, here are 5 important eCommerce trends that have emerged in the first half of 2017.
User-generated content takes a front seat
User-generated content, like product reviews, is becoming an ever-increasing factor in the purchase decisions of customers, especially those 30 years old and younger. Shoppers of all ages are now more likely than ever before to be at least partially swayed toward (or away from) a purchase by product reviews. In fact, the percentage of online customers who rely on product reviews has grown to a staggering majority of 90%, even accounting for age demographics.
If you're an online merchant, it's clear that it's now vitally important for you to provide your customers with the ability to leave reviews and give them an incentive to do so. A good strategy is to send a post-purchase email after about a month, requesting the customer review their purchase. You can offer a bonus to the customer for completed reviews, such as a special coupon or reward points.
Besides reviews, also consider other user-generated content like customer videos and images of the product in action. Not only does this type of content encourage new shoppers to buy, it also fosters a good community relationship between you and your existing customers, building loyalty.
The holiday shopping season starts earlier
We're seeing a shift away from reliance on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, toward the entire month of November becoming a prime time for shopping. Amazon.com has jumped on this trend by starting its Black Friday sales on November 1, after identifying an emerging trend of customers starting their holiday shopping as early as late October.
This strategy has a few benefits, not the least of which is the increase of sales over the whole month, rather than focusing on just one weekend. Customers are slowly moving away from the Black Friday retail crush, and showing a higher preference for online shopping during this overwhelmingly busy time of year. Combined with the earlier holiday shopping start date, it's obvious what customers want: Cyber November, not Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can take advantage of this trend by running your Black Friday-style promotions all through November, and using the last week of October to inform your customers about the upcoming big sale.
Artificial intelligence helps guide shoppers
We're in the age of huge advancements in the internet and technology in general, including artificial intelligence. In the world of eCommerce, artificial intelligence takes the form of chatbots, which are made to impersonate a real person guiding a new customer through the beginnings of their purchase process.
This may sound unpleasant, but it's actually not. Chatbots gather the basic information needed to direct the customer to the right department or the right person to talk to. Some companies even use chatbots to help customers place their entire order— the bot asks all the right questions and forwards the information on to the human employees.
Implementing AI on your own website will make your store much more interactive, and friendlier to customers. Plus, the information gathered by the bot can help smooth out your workflow.
Subscription-based sales gain popularity
There are tons of products that need to be purchased repeatedly— socks, disposable razors, cat litter, and more, just as examples— and who hasn't gotten sick of having to run out to the store to pick something up? For items that need to be frequently bought more or less on a schedule, even ordering online can be a hassle. It's not that the ordering process is inconvenient in itself, but there's a psychological component that stresses customers out when they need to remember to make a repeat purchase. This is why the subscription-based model is taking off.
Customers love the convenience of automatic orders and delivery, because not only do they receive their needed items on time, but it also takes the pressure off their minds. No longer do they have to remember to reorder. If you sell products of this nature, offer a subscription. Your customers will love you for it, and for the mental energy you save them.
Marketing becomes more and more personalized
As the amount of data we can collect from customers grows, so does its usefulness. Smart eCommerce leaders are always working to discover new ways they can analyze customer data, including sales, interactions, browsing patterns and more. With this much information, it's becoming easier to predict a customer's actions.
Predictive analysis allows merchants to use existing data to accurately guess which items a customer may want to purchase next, and then act on this insight by displaying the item or sending a special promotion to the customer. You can think of it as an advanced, ultra-targeted version of cross-selling informed by buying patterns and other data.
Get started with predictive analysis by compiling and evaluating data on your customers. What kinds of data do you collect, and how can you improve so as to gather more information? Predictive analysis is win-win; you'll make more sales, and customers will receive the offers they want.
Paying attention to what your competition does, and what the big names like Amazon do, can help you identify emerging eCommerce trends and give you a serious edge.
Hopefully, this article has opened your mind to a few innovations that can inform your strategies. Here's to eCommerce success!