Small businesses need to know about the future of e-commerce to drive success.
Navigating the ecommerce landscape as an entrepreneur means continuously learning, improving, and adapting. You very well know that what works today may become irrelevant or outdated soon enough. As ecommerce develops and statistics point to a growing number of digital buyers, it’s somewhat mind-boggling to contemplate what will define the market and impact your business just a few years down the road. After all, you’re actually witnessing and taking part in what are essentially still the early stages of ecommerce.
Amazon, which is expected to take up 47% of online sales by 2020, is about to turn 25 years old – not a big number in the grand scheme of things. Yet, we’ve seen it develop, innovate, and expand far beyond the online bookselling business it had originally started out as.
Amazon’s story is not just about an extremely successful, forward-looking company. It’s a story that we’re witnessing and it really paints a picture of the progressive nature of the ecommerce landscape, its relationship to innovation, and the opportunity it harbors.
That being said, we’re all keeping on our toes. With 2019 approaching, it’s the perfect time to examine how the most defining ecommerce trends continue to develop and which ones should have the most impact on your strategy.
Whether you’re new to ecommerce entrepreneurship or you’ve been around for a while, here’s what you should keep an eye out on in the coming year.
For a long time, mobile has been considered primarily a research channel, with all the data pointing to users finalizing their purchases via desktop or tablet. Unsurprisingly, small online retailers generally haven’t tackled the issue of mobile conversions in their strategy.
But the wheels are turning, and ever since last year’s Cyber Monday when mobile conversion rates increased by roughly 10% compared to the previous year, the game has been changing. Smartphones are expected to account for an even higher percentage of total revenue this year and in the years to come, with mobile-enabled sales volume projected to reach 2.05 billion by 2020.
In order to keep up, it’s time for small retailers to tweak their strategy and seriously get ready for mobile shopping. Furthermore, small retailers may see up to 30% higher mobile conversion rates than large retailers, according to Adobe Analytics.
Responding to this key trend lies in the possibilities of mobile apps and ecommerce website design. Foremost, you want to ensure that your online store is not only quick-loading and mobile-friendly in its design, but in its features and processes as well.
When optimizing for mobile conversions, you can’t try to force on your users the exact same process from the desktop. Invest in mobile UX and streamlining the entire navigation and checkout process to reflect the way people use mobile – often on the go, on a tiny screen, and expecting everything to be a breeze.
It’s all about making a search, navigation, and checkout as quick and painless and possible, leaving the users asking no questions as to what they should do next and eliminating any possible frustration.
That’s why it’s important to minimize forms and allow for auto-fill, as well as to give users control over how they enter information with third-party logins (from Facebook or Google for example).
The less you demand and the less filling in there is for them, the higher the chance of conversion. This is also important to keep in mind when implementing the payment method, which needs to be fast as well as secure.
We’re going to be seeing a lot more on the topic of mobile ecommerce in the coming year, so make sure to stay updated, following the trends and advancements – the success of your app or website will depend on it.
The Role of AI
Artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to mold the ecommerce sphere. As ecommerce sales develop under the wing of technological advancements, we’re going to be seeing a lot of the technology more accessible and more utilized by small businesses.
There are a lot of exciting possibilities AI could bring further down the road, but before we get wide-eyed with augmented reality and the notion of three-dimensional shopping experiences, we have to understand that even the current possibilities which AI offers have yet to be widely embraced.
The role of AI in the current market is reflected in providing a better customer experience by enabling personalization, predictive sales, the use of chatbots and virtual shopping assistants, orchestrating omnichannel experiences, and enabling intuitive checkout.
When it comes to small businesses and the role of AI in 2019, the capabilities for implementation vary widely, depending on your resources and strategy. For the time being, the implementation of chatbots is the most defining trend and the best place to start.
Varying in sophistication, chatbot technology is available to small businesses who’re looking to provide a better customer journey, enhance their social media strategy, and provide 24/7 customer support.
According to a study by Gartner, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual assistants or chatbot technology across different channels by 2020, which is a significant rise from the less than 2% in 2017.
Content marketing is by no means an emerging trend, but it continues to grow as a vital strategy for branding, search engine optimization, driving website traffic, and ultimately, selling. Many experts don’t really consider it optional anymore.
This stands for all industries and the offline market as well, but when it comes to ecommerce, having a content marketing strategy is especially important because your entire presence is online. Social media, of course, remains a valuable tool for driving engagement and boosting brand loyalty, but you don’t want to be entirely dependent on a third-party platform for an audience.
Not only do you need every tool out there to drive traffic to your site, which is the hub of your business, but you need this medium to establish a strong relationship with your audience.
With no physical interactions to rely on, content marketing will give your brand a voice and help your audience find the genuine, human face behind your business. These benefits stand behind the data which shows that the average conversion rate with content marketing is 2.9% compared to 0.5% without.
So, if your website doesn’t have a blog section yet, starting a blog should be one of your top goals for 2019. Once you launch your blog, or if you have one already but it isn’t driving the results you expected, don’t get discouraged. It’s normal to run into bumps such as high bounce rates along the way, but you can rely on useful resources to help you solve blogging issues and perfect your content marketing strategy. The guide I’ve provided in the link gets updated frequently so you can be sure you’re not relying on outdated info or missing out on something important.
The much-anticipated “voice search revolution” is closer than ever, and we’ve got big expectations for the coming year. As voice recognition technology expands and becomes increasingly sophisticated, the number of smart speaker users is growing 47.9% annually. Voice-based search is projected to account for 50% of all searches in 2020, and this is one of the key trends shaping digital marketing.
Now, the rise of voice search is not going to immediately impact your online store in a profound way. But when we connect all the dots of its usage and development, the takeaway is that in order to prepare for the times ahead, savvy marketers will optimize their websites for voice. The biggest impact is reflected on your web copy and content strategy, which will need to adjust to voice-search SEO and reflect the way people search through voice.
Social media is a huge chunk of ecommerce marketing and inarguably, a landscape that has helped small businesses overcome many of the obstacles of building a brand with minimal resources. And now, it’s not only influencing what consumers want and how they perceive brands, but certain platforms have introduced the social shopping experience. Instagram has rolled out shoppable ads and posts in March this year, Pinterest offers Buyable Pins to approved brands, and Snapchat is leading the way of innovation with Shoppable AR.
These features are available to approved business accounts, and there’s undoubtedly a lot to look forward to and a lot of opportunity for ecommerce entrepreneurs. Because social media is already a part of the digital customer journey, consumers seem to be embracing the onset of the social shopping era.
Product pages are getting more personalized and more visually descriptive, helping online retailers bridge the gap between the digital representation of their products and their physical quality. The better, more detailed, and more realistic product descriptions are, the more trusting your store visitors are. Not to mention, the more pleasant their customer experience.
That’s why product videos are expected to take over online stores. Statistics show that 60% of consumers would rather watch a product video than read a product description. Furthermore, product pages with videos show a 37% higher rate of add-to-cart conversions than those without.
Now, those are add-to-cart conversion, not completed purchases, but some stats by KISSmetrics suggests that viewers are anywhere between 64-85% more likely to buy after watching a product video.
And the great thing about this rising trend is that no matter the size of your business, you can leverage it without extensive effort. Think about replacing your product descriptions with videos as soon as possible and get to work – this will give you a competitive edge now, but by the end of 2019, product videos might become the norm.
The cryptocurrency tide has been cooking up a storm for a while now – it’s the word at the tip of everyone’s tongue, not just the marketers and investors. As we anticipate a high-tech future, crypto is definitely a part of it, even though for most people it’s a very distant reality. As for the ecommerce sphere, cryptocurrency could mean a number of solutions – security, faster transactions, lower transaction fees, just to name a few.
Cryptocurrencies have so far been reserved for large business transactions and the like, but they are becoming increasingly more common even in B2C commerce. Although we can’t really predict when they could become the normative payment method, it’s clear that their presence is progressively becoming stronger.
This year, Shopify established a partnership with CoinPayments, a leading cryptocurrency payment provider, to support more than 300 crypto payments. Shopify store owners can already accept alternative payment methods. It’s a good time for all ecommerce entrepreneurs to consider making digital currencies a payment option in their stores.
Now, you most likely won’t get a large percentage of your customers flocking to pay with cryptocurrency, but riding this wave will mean you’re a step ahead – if nothing, that’s fantastic marketing at least.
Shipping and Logistics
No doubt, we’re all excited about drone delivery and a future where packages arrive hours within being ordered. Amazon and UPS are investing in the technology which will be fascinating in itself as much as it will be impactful for ecommerce logistics. And needless to say, it will be a heaven-sent for the 80% of shoppers who want retailers to offer same-day shipping.
These exciting innovations will be the future of delivery and ecommerce logistics, but not a future as near as 2019. It’s in the making, but for the time being, small businesses face the struggle of meeting the growing demands of shipping and logistics.
Quick delivery boosts sales, but even when it’s logistically manageable, there’s the issue of pricing. A PayPal study has shown a 43% of shoppers abandoning carts because of high shipping rates, and it’s these types of consumer expectations that are especially challenging for small businesses with limited resources.
The logistical issues are the toughest for small businesses, but we’re looking forward to smart solutions in the coming year. Revisit your strategy, explore the options of partnership, and don’t forget the marketing angle (sales, promotions, and shipping discounts).
Because ecommerce is such an innovative and fast-paced market, it’s easy to get ahead of ourselves, expecting a major technological advancement to turn the market upside down in a matter of months, or propel a small business to global success. However fast-paced for previous commerce circumstances, all change is gradual, and all change takes time.
As this year nears its end and you go over the numbers, reexamine your strategy and reflect on these defining trends to give you some orientation for the upcoming year. Stay on your toes, stay updated, and as always – give your strategy a solid foundation and fix what needs fixing first before leaping on a new trend.
Natasha Lane is a web designer, a lady of a keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. Natasha is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends.