With technology developing and growing at it’s standard lightning fast pace, ecommerce is an area that thrives off the latest tech to implement strategies that help companies stay ahead of each other in a highly competitive and innovative industry. 2017 looks to be another year of creative and exciting advancements and here are five of the booming trends showing signs of mass adoption:
1. Booming Social Selling
This seems to have been floating around ecommerce trend articles for a while now, and although it’s unknown how effective the efforts of the big social networks are going to be in ecommerce, they have a vested interested in increasing selling options for brands. With the enormous number of global active social users, it has the potential to help brands boost sales with very little extra cost or effort.
2. Booming Chatbots
We’ve all most likely come across chatbots in some form or another before, whether aware or not. They are automated programs simulating human conversation that are set up to answer a pre-programmed set of customer questions and scenarios, usually the most repetitive and mundane one's that humans are actually much slower at working on. With people now exchanging more than 60 billion messages a day through Facebook’s WhatsApp and Messenger it’s no surprise ecommerce sites and many other businesses are going to want, and get, a bigger slice of that chat volume. These chatbots are common in messaging apps where we can talk to them just as we would another contact, to make a dinner reservation, buy a shirt, order an Uber, check flight reservation or find out about the day’s weather and news.
This creates a new channel for ecommerce merchants to sell their products online through the use of mobile messenger-connected chatbots. This future approach stems from the idea brands can use chatbots to interact and engage with customers through their apps and any other messaging apps. Ecommerce shopping platform “Spring” is one of the early adopters making use of its strategy to be one of Facebook’s launch partners for the Messenger Platform. Here's what it would look like communicating with the shopping bot from Spring:
It seems simple enough and I’m sure Facebook has made it as simple and effective as they can to help widespread adoption, but for some further information, here’s what Facebook claims to be the main capabilities within Bots for Messenger:
The attractiveness of chatbots in ecommerce comes from the recognised cost-effective advantages of having a computer program in place of humans, and increased levels of productivity for basic customer support conversation. This automation is helpful for SME’s who are thankful for anything that can help them handle several conversations at the same time, whilst bridging the gap of personalisation and automation to the experiences customers face with online shopping.
3. Booming Predictive Analytics
With the masses of Big Data being captured at every stage of a consumer's buying process, predictive analysis is quickly gaining popularity with ecommerce merchants. Ever been a little stunned when an email has come through asking if you’ve recently run out of a certain product and need to buy some more... when you actually have? That’s you playing your part in an accurate piece of predictive analysis that’s helped the company optimise their email communications.
By exploiting data from customer profiles and interactions, predictive analysis can be used to understand the consumers purchasing habits, preferences, and by all means, their next purchases. Achieved through running comparative analysis of other ecommerce customers with similar characteristics and profiles. The ideal is a 4 step process - to offer the right customer (1) the right product (2) in the right way (3) at the right time (4).
4. Booming Same Day Delivery
A report by Forrester claims 29% of consumers are willing to pay extra for same-day delivery, whilst drone delivery seems to be just another “shot down” attempt heard about in the press, this stat does show that for ecommerce owners, improving their delivery service and speed is important to compete with their competitors. Rurally, I’ll be surprised if it turns out to be a viable and profitable option for ecommerce, but who knows what options will be available in the future…
UberRUSH, Deliveroo and Postmates are all on-demand delivery services running in major cities cashing in on the ecommerce trend already, giving an edge to ecommerce shops who can now offer same day delivery, fast and easy, albeit for a slight delivery premium I’m sure. However, take for example that you decide as an ecommerce site to offer it as a new USP, and your close competitor doesn’t offer it. When a potential customer is one of the 29% recorded as willing to pay for it… who’s more likely to win that customer? Worth a shot right. Besides if you can offer it when you competitors don’t, at a price you’re breaking even on or higher for the delivery, I can see only benefits.
In 2017, many consumers will be receiving their first same-day delivery, whether at home, at work, or at a drop-off point of their choosing. ‘Delivery and returns’ has always had it’s fair share of problems and criticisms from online shopping experiences, so there’s no doubt this could help ecommerce shops bridge that gap.
5. Booming Mobile Payment with Loyalty Apps
With the magic of contactless payments, and with the continuing amazement of many that it’s already commonplace in our world today, mobile payments is an area that is going to grow substantially with merchants’ upgraded point-of-sale systems. Everyone’s a little tired of hearing mobile, mobile, mobile, but at least it’s based on a solid foundation that mobiles are a backbone and opportunity of success for many industries, not just ecommerce merchants.
Nobody likes the messy, dog-eared and dirty paper loyalty cards stuffed in their wallet that a dozen and more outlets try and get you sucked into. Besides, even if you manage to not lose it or put the card in the wash, it’s only showing you’ve purchased something at the outlet at some date in the past, and at one time in the future are due a freebie. It doesn’t take much ingenuity to think of a smarter, more valuable alternative that provides analysable data such as customer purchase patterns, frequency, product variety and average spend to name a few.
Plastic cards can be even more annoying than its paper counterpart, but it does provide the opportunity to link to your mobile through an app, which certainly doesn’t have to be very sophisticated to beat a thousand year old invention with colourful print and a stamp on it. Not only would you then have a customer data capture tool, you’ve provided a platform to share news, offers, variety/product specials and loyalty schemes.
Everyone seems to be striving for differentiation alongside personalisation - so why not reward them for being a valued customer and stepping foot inside your store or ecommerce site, by offering them free coffee on their birthday if you’re a coffee shop, or a special discount/free trial of a new product in your range.
Starbucks now has 27% of its customers using Mobile Payment and a 233% increase in their Mobile Order and Pay transactions in Q1 2017 compared to to Q1 2016, helping generate a 7% increase in revenue. Their active U.S. Rewards Membership is up 16% to 12.9 Million.
Gaining valuable data about customer behaviour is crucial for future enhancements online and offline. People really aren’t afraid of having relationships with brands, we’re all just wary of being used by them for company benefit only. A loyal customer is the greatest customer, ecommerce merchant or not, make your customer feel valued and show the benefits flow both ways, and it’s a route you’ll never overlook again. Loyalty is one route you can’t ignore.
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