It’s nearly February (where is the time going?!) and the new year is now well and truly in full swing.
The UK is back in its usual trading pattern as we wave goodbye to January Sales and the more regular shopping routines come back into force. The first quarter of the year can be great for some online stores and not so great for others, but ultimately everyone will be back in their normal groove by now.
Now things have calmed down a little after the busy festive period, it’s fair to say that most eCommerce businesses will probably have already spent some time reflecting on last years’ successes, what maybe didn’t go so well and the areas they could improve in 2018. Staying ahead of the competition has never been more important and may prove even more crucial this year as our reliance on internet shopping intensifies.
The eCommerce industry itself is still growing and evolving all the time, and this year is guaranteed to be no different. What will be the next big thing to hit the eCommerce market?Tweet this now
The eCommerce industry itself is still growing and evolving all the time, and this year is guaranteed to be no different. What will be the next big thing to hit the eCommerce market? We’ve already seen huge strides in a variety of areas such as payment methods, delivery speed, customer review systems and triggered emails to name just a few.
With all that in mind, we’ve gathered together some of the things you should be looking out for in 2018 when it comes to your own eCommerce store and how you can maximise the returns from your customers in the year ahead.
When it comes to delivery in the online world, one organisation continues to push the boundaries – Amazon.
Not only has Amazon single-handedly normalised the idea of next day delivery, their plans this year include the increase of their same day delivery service. Customers that regularly shop with Amazon are growing increasingly familiar with this seriously speedy delivery and now expect similar service from other companies, but many are struggling to match Amazon’s performance.
Free delivery, on the other hand, has really hit a peak. However, as customers demand faster and faster delivery times, chances are many businesses will begin passing some of the associated costs back the consumer by charging delivery fees. Unpopular maybe, but very likely.
Not only that, the pressure on postage carriers like the Royal Mail continues to grow year on year. Postmen and women are working later than ever before as evening cut-off times for delivery grow in popularity – when will it end? Delivery drones, probably.
There was more joy for Amazon over the 2017 Christmas period when it announced stunning sales of its own Echo devices. Powered by the now-all-too-familiar Alexa, customers are seemingly keen to engage in voice search and smart home devices – don’t forget Google is heavily invested in this area too, so chances are this will be a hot trend for the years ahead.
Typed searches are a thing of the past! It’s believed that 2018 will be the year voice search grows exponentially, with customers choosing to ask their home devices where they should buy products instead of tapping their query into a smartphone or tablet. This may bring about an indirect shift in Google rankings as those search results focused around answering the spoken rather than the written word may see a boost in traffic.
Also, don’t forget about noughties-super-organisation eBay (who have already partnered with Google Assistant in both the USA and Australia) entering the voice search market this year in the UK.
Another change to the way customers search for products could relate to images. Visual search has already been rolled out by eBay across Europe and the UK in the latter half of 2017 and is set to be a key element of eCommerce moving into 2018.
This is truly an intriguing way to search. Not only does the software have to identify the product in question, it has to be able to locate and match up these details from the business database. This process is challenging but being made easier day-by-day thanks to GTINs and associated product data – there’s still a long way to go though.
If you want your store to take advantage of this trend earlier than most, you’ll need to take the time to optimise your images, categorise all your products and enter the Item Specifics and Product Attributes to maximise any return.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
This is one area that won’t just be having an impact on the eCommerce industry in 2018, but on other elements of our lives too. AI has the potential to add great value to any buying process, helping customers find what they’re looking for by understanding and evaluating their needs.
AI already helps us with existing tasks that you might not even have noticed – for example, it’s artificial intelligence that decides the best route to take when you enter a destination into any sat nav.
In terms of eCommerce, AI will be used primarily via store add-ons like chatbots, but it’ll also contribute to more relevant search result listings, add extra value through repricing tools and create better product listings.
Already a massive industry in its own right, especially online, the ability to personalise products has huge appeal to consumers. This extends further in terms of eCommerce however, as sites can now adjust how they appear visually to individuals based on the information they have on them.
Sites that already do this really well include Amazon (of course), ASOS and NotOnTheHighStreet – all capture user data in a very friendly, hands-off way that doesn’t alarm or concern the customer. This data is then used to customise the site, creating a more engaging and relevant experience the next time that customers return to shop online. It’s this kind of personalised interaction that customers value right now, rather than just being seen as another number.
So how can your store capitalise? Keep things personable, capture data by offering something in exchange for a discount and don’t bombard your audience with emails or pop-ups.
Keeping hold of existing customers can often be neglected by some online stores, who fall into the trap of focusing so hard on attracting new shoppers that they neglect and ultimately alienate their existing audience.
Capturing a single customer for life isn’t easy, but it’s comparatively affordable when compared to the cost of attracting new ones. This is where the tried-and-tested method of email marketing reigns supreme when it comes to communicating with any captive audience. Keep your customers topped up with a good balance of news and personalised offers if you want any chance of retaining them for the long term.
Some companies have gone the other way here – Yumbles, Spotify and Amazon (not again?!) all offer subscription discounts for new customers rather than money off a one-time purchase. The modern-day subscription isn’t just for food or tv nowadays either; everything from beer to razor blades can be repeat ordered for a reduced monthly fee.
If you sell anything that consumers may want to purchase again and again, then you should consider offering a subscription service as this is a proven way to tap into a customers’ routine and maximise the return from that individual