Ecommerce has grown by leaps and bounds. By 2018, one in every two people across the planet would have shopped online at some point. It is also estimated in 2016 online shoppers would spend $500 more on online shopping, compared to their 2015 spend.
However, the rising market share attracts new players. As competition catches up, most ecommerce vendors are hard pressed to retain their margins, leave alone grow it. Side-by-side, customers have become more demanding, and expect a fast, secure and a complete experience. All these point to a spate of innovations in the days ahead.
Here are the key ecommerce predictions for 2016.
Google now places a high value on not just original content, but fresh content. Attracting audience in the social space also requires new, engaging content from time to time. As such, ecommerce vendors would invest in content in a big way. Apart from fresh textual content, videos, infographics, images, and other popular content types would be much sought after in 2016, all aimed at delivering super-rich experiences for potential customers.
It is getting increasingly tougher to get free search traffic. Frequent algorithm changes make it more and more difficult to get a genuine organic listing in the visible pane of the screen, more so in the limited mobile screens. Google search anyway lists paid ads at the top, making users scroll down for organic links. Rather than pay up, many marketers are exploring ways to build their audience outside the Google universe and reduce reliance on clicks. Marketers are exploring several ways, including increased thrust on social space, greater focus on reward and loyalty, geotagging, and more, to end overdependence on search results, and especially Google.
One way marketers would seek to end their overdependence on SEO is through an increased presence in social media. Marketers are striving to create a complete online shopping experience, complete with viewing and choosing products, and making payments, without leaving the social space, and not depending on the dedicated ecommerce portal at all.
In the payments front, the mobile wallet is poised for a huge surge in acceptance, come 2016. The surge in mobile Internet traffic and improved technical capabilities are two supporting factors for the mass acceptance of mobile wallets. Already, 14% of customers prefer to pay through mobile wallets than through risky credit cards.
The need for speed has never been felt so much before. Customers now expect instant delivery, and same day delivery is all set to become the norm rather than an exception. Ecommerce vendors would have to undertake a major overhaul of their delivery systems to make it happen, though. It is not enough to tie up with a reliable logistics provider who has the capability to deliver products on the same or at least the next day. Ecommerce vendors need robust systems in place to track orders, prepare for dispatch, and commence the delivery process, soon as an order is placed. Fulfillment by Amazon is a good benchmark others would strive to emulate in 2016. Smart brands would go further, and also try to leverage their logistic power into a marketing promotion USP.
Around 4.88 billion people currently own a smartphone, and still more own tablets and other mobile devices. In 2015, more people accessed the Internet using mobile devices, compared to the desktop. Mobile usage is poised to surge even further, and companies will soon see revenue from smartphone taking a clear lead over revenue from desktop.
Ecommerce companies are already investing to deliver superior mobile experience, including developing responsive sites, and offering mobile apps. However, ecommerce vendors would have to do more, as the spread of mobile computing has brought about a change in browsing habits. Online shoppers no longer rely on a single device or channel to complete the shopping, and seek integrated and personalized experience cutting across devices.
Increased competition and increasing transaction speeds raises the stakes, and ecommerce vendors have no option but to become more efficient. One way to do so is by putting analytics to better use than before. Online retailers are toying with using analytics to deliver greater personalization, and reward loyalty. Smart marketers would also try and integrate loyalty and rewards, as Starbucks has already done to good effect.
Using advanced analytics, more and more marketers seek to leverage loyalty programs, to retain customers and encourage repeat purchases. Marketers are combining loyalty programs with email marketing and social media to share exclusive offers and bolster a feeling of community with customers.
At present, the online shopping and in-store shopping from brick and mortar stores are two disparate streams, with completely separate experiences. Brands are slowly but surely understanding the benefits of integrating the online and physical store, and deliver a seamless experience between the two fronts.
Many leading retailers and brands have already taken clear steps in this direction
More brands would emulate such innovations, and offer several other options to integrate online and in-store experiences.
As of now, 41% of shoppers actively use mobile app while in store, and 75% of them research products both online and in store before making a purchase.
Marketers always try to apply the latest technological breakthroughs to ecommerce. Most marketers, for instance, have already applied automation in a big way to generate customised landing pages, offer tailor-made discounts and promotions, and display related recommended products for customers.
One emerging technology that is likely to gain ground in 2016 is beacon technology. Beacons, placed at strategic locations, would emit signals that smartphone apps capture. Marketers use such beacons to identify the location of prospective customers, to deliver special deals. For instance, customers get a welcome notification with a special discount as soon as they walk into a store.
A Nielsen study estimates 70% of consumers being aware of wearable technology, and 15% of them actually using wearables now. Among the leading wearables, iWatch and Google Glass lead, and Samsung’s Smart Watch is also set to catch up. Wearable devices are all set to add another channel for online merchants, with the added advantage of it having the potential to transform shopping and selling from an active and conscious effort to a natural activity, such as eating.
Gartner estimates the global market for wearables to touch £3.2 billion by 2016.
Forrester estimates consumers to spend US$327-billion per year on online shopping in 2016. The stakes have never been so high before for online retailers, as they go all out to gain a slice of the pie.