5 Ecommerce Trends to Watch in 2015
The distinction between retailer and etailer is becoming less defined, as more consumers turn to the web for product information, recommendations and purchasing decisions. In 2015, this line will continue to blur. Omnichannel, mCommerce, brick meets click, and lightning fast checkout are important strategies for ecommerce merchants to embrace.
In 2015, retailers need to bring their ecommerce A game. Today’s consumer is not only knowledgeable about which product she wants at what price; she also wants comprehensive reviews and information, inventory availability, and fast (often free and overnight) shipping. Consumers are becoming less like your grandparents and more like your demanding two-year-old (Shoes! Now!).
Where and how something is purchased will matter less to customer loyalty and retention than price and product quality and speed and cost of delivery. Increasingly savvy shoppers will watch checkout totals very closely, which makes shipping estimates, delivery dates, sales tax, inventory availability and final pricing critical. Get any of these wrong and lose customers or, worse, make them angry. On Facebook. And Twitter.
People shop online—more than ever before. Knowing how and why they do it is critical to retailers.
Here are five ecommerce trends to pay close attention to over the next twelve months.1
- Mobile commerce (omnichannel advantage)
- Social commerce (influencers, incentives, consumer to consumer advocacy)
- Wearable technology (Google Glass, iWatch)
- Shipping, inventory, and same day service (speed and accuracy at checkout)
- Compliance in the cart (data security, sales tax, final pricing)
1. More screens more of the time: Mobile commerce and the omnichannel advantage
Effective mobile commerce isn’t happening in a vacuum. Mobile shoppers don’t use phones to the exclusion of in-store or full website research and purchasing. Consumers don’t live in one channel. Flipping between tablet, phone, computer, and store is merely part of today’s shopping experience. Mobile commerce may have been considered an add-on in 2012, but in 2015 it’s simply the way things are done. It’s not hard to imagine a customer researching a product online, comparison shopping while in the store, and later ordering the item from their iPad.
Driven by technological changes that create opportunities to capture more of the market, payment and delivery of goods across channels will become ubiquitous in 2015. Consumers expect retailers to give them what they want, when and where they want it.
Mobile-centric strategies should continue to be top of mind with retailers going into next year, with an emphasis on:
- Easy to use and secure mobile payment options — Whether Apple Pay will live up to the hype and shine where others have failed to catch on remains to be seen. What is clear is that mobile payment options (POS or online) are a must-have.
- Optimized mobile web — Small screens are big and companies who optimize the mobile web experience (faster load times, user-friendly, and customized presentation) will be better positioned to capture market share.
- Hybrid shopping — Integration between brick and mortar, online, mobile commerce and other platforms will be the norm rather than a game-changer in 2015. Not only are more ecommerce merchants optimizing sites for mobile, they’re implementing mobile payment and brick meets click strategies to capture more sales. More channels mean more money.
2. Social commerce and personalized marketing
Social commerce sales of physical goods are projected to grow by 93% per year in the U.S., reaching $14 billion by 2015. As a result, ecommerce merchants will have to “socialize” more if they want to stand out from their competitors and protect their brands. Citizen reviewers, raving fans, and, yes, complainers, take to the blogosphere and Twitterverse to endorse products, share favorites, make or ask for recommendations and lodge complaints. Now, more than ever, engagement is key, and the customer is always, always right!
In addition to implementing effective mobile and omnichannel strategies, smart retailers will use social networks to customize product and service offerings. As people turn to their peers on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for recommendations, social selling must be part of any ecommerce company strategy in 2015—a strategy that centers around:
- Big data and analytics — Big data will be more broadly used to understand customer behavior and shape strategies to customize offerings. Rather than assembling data siloed in the research department, companies can leverage “customers also bought,” wish lists, Facebook campaign “likes,” and Pinterest board activities to market to customers in niche product areas.
- Responsive content and interactive design — Responsive web design with functional customized views (based on social as much as data), and personalized rather than corporate content will be a brand differentiator.
- As-they-happen deals and sales — Target and Facebook launched a beta version of “Cartwheel,” a market disrupter that unites social web with in-store deals and real-time savings. With Cartwheel, Facebook leads the customer to his or her preferences while they are in the bricks and mortar store. Similar efforts (RetailMeNot, Coupons.com) will likely take off in 2015 and provide an opportunity for ecommerce retailers to set the standard for capturing more social web market share.
3. Wearable technology (Google Glass, iWatch)
The word on the street for 2015 is passive Internet access. Nowhere is this more apparent than in wearable technology. While Google Glass had many concerned about looking like Robocop or a third grader with headgear, Apple’s iWatch promises to deliver similar convenience without messing up your hair.
What this means for ecommerce is greater access to consumers, easy like smartphones, but harder to misplace or drop in the street. Wearables will put the Internet within easy reach, making it part of the millisecond time-check running the lives of Type A’s everywhere.
Here’s how wearables might play out in 2015:
- Rapid updateson price changes, promotions, and marketing incentives offered to more consumers more of the time.
- Location-based dealsthat tie marketing information to the real-time location of the consumer (who might be walking by a Starbucks or the American Girl store).
- Bridging the gapbetween online and brick-and-mortar, more channels accessed more quickly will lead to happier consumers (ostensibly).
4. Shipping, inventory, and same day service (speed and accuracy at checkout)
Until now, brick-and-mortar stores have had a strategic advantage over online stores—immediate fulfillment. Purchase now, leave the store with your item has been the name of the game for physical shopping since layaway and delayed gratification became an artifact of bygone days. Leave it to ecommerce to convince consumers that touching, feeling, hauling goods, and rubbing elbows with the throngs isn’t necessary. Thanks to faster, cheaper, and easier shipping, consumers need not sit around pining for the UPS man any longer.
- Shipping — It all started when Zappos offered free overnight delivery and returns at the click of a mouse. The window of delivery has since shrunk further, as companies move to same day and 30 minute delivery options.
- Inventory control and availability — You can’t ship nothing, so ecommerce companies have had to get tighter and more accurate when making inventory visible to today’s consumer (only one more item left in stock!)
- Fulfillment by Amazon —As companies outsource fulfillment and shipping to third parties like Amazon, the turnaround on fulfillment is faster, and potentially more accurate.
5. Compliance in the cart (data security, sales tax, final pricing)
Lightning fast delivery, wearable technology, and market-disrupting deals are only window dressing if the underlying infrastructure isn’t accurate and compliant. Like the handsome, guileless homecoming king, it’s easy for retailers to be distracted by the hot, seemingly easy catch (ecommerce), and ignore the brainy, substantive wall flower: compliance.
Compliance may not be sexy, but it is the only way to succeed in ecommerce these days. It can potentially make the difference between a banner year and going out of business.
Here’s how retailers can stay on the right side of regulations and requirements in 2015:
- PCI compliance — The news is full of hacked customer financials and fraudulent purchasing. Not even the biggest brands are spared. PCI compliance originally set out to protect consumers from these kinds of breaches, but in-house auditing and assurance systems are often lacking. The costs of lost data to consumers and companies is in the billions. While this won’t scare many consumers away from online shopping, it might slow revenue growth if protocols aren’t followed and strict protections aren’t in place.
- Checkout accuracy — Customers expect to see a final price at checkout that includes accurate shipping rates and estimates, application of coupons, discounts, or incentives, and sales tax. Accuracy throughout the checkout process is critical to maintaining customer satisfaction and loyalty and growing your customer base. These days, checkout accuracy isn’t just about abandoned shopping carts. Unhappy customers can take complaints viral and ignite PR firestorms.
- Sales and use tax — If the national effort to require online sales tax succeeds, the already difficult, risk-prone sales tax problem will amplify. Sellers need a solution that can instantly and accurately apply tax rates and rules across channels and payment systems, including mobile, as well as state lines. Automating ecommerce sales tax processes within the shopping cart software solves two of the key challenges facing ecommerce: 1) giving customers an accurate cost, including shipping and tax, and 2) accurately collecting, filing, and remitting sales tax to all the right jurisdictions at the right time.
2015 might be a brave new world for ecommerce, but it needn’t be a runaway train. With the right tools for the job, savvy and planful ecommerce retailers will play to win. Staying on top of fast-moving trends like mCommerce, brick meets click, social web, customer loyalty and retention, and compliance are must-haves. Each strategy positions retailers to capitalize on opportunities to capture more market share before all of this becomes old hat.
1 Trends that are transforming the retail world, Business Insider.
2 Mobile payment trends, Retail Touchpoints.
3 Cloudy with a chance of Apple, Bloomberg.