According to Statista, global ecommerce sales are expected to increase 246.15% by 2021, from 1.3 trillion in 2014 to 4.5 trillion in 2021.
The ecommerce industry is booming and shows no signs of slowing down.
Nowadays, stores can’t compete without offering excellent ecommerce options, and 56% of in-store purchases are influenced by digital commerce. This means, if you aren’t reaching your customers online, you could be losing half of your potential revenue.
With ecommerce’s rapid growth, comes rapid changes. It isn’t enough to post product images to your site and hope your ideal customers will find them. In 2018, there’s a whole lineup of new trends that could kickstart major growth for your ecommerce company if you pay attention.
To help you reap the many benefits of ecommerce in 2018 and into the future, we’ve chosen the top 10 trends we think will change how people buy and sell online.
1. Shopping Natively
In an experiment we ran in 2017, we found our Facebook audience favored native video content 160x more than non-native content.
That same preference for native content is true with ecommerce: there are great visual platforms being used by millions of people already, like Instagram and Pinterest, and a lot of those users don’t want to leave the platform to visit your site. So why not offer the option of purchasing your products from within those apps?
A great example of native shopping is Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature. When you see a picture of an outfit you like, you can click any part of the outfit you’re interested in purchasing, and find details about the item of clothing within the Pinterest app. You only need to exit the app when you’re ready to purchase (you can also pin it and return to it later).
2. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
You know what’s even better than seeing a product in-store before purchasing?
Seeing it in your home before purchasing.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are going to gain some serious traction in 2018. Eventually, it will become standard for companies to offer AR and VR options.
Houzz, a home design and interior decorator company, found AR made their consumers 11x more likely to purchase a product, and also kept them in the app 2.7x longer.
IKEA also offers an AR app that lets you place 3D products in your home. These products are true-to-scale, so you can see whether the product will fit and how it’ll look in your space.
Ultimately, these added benefits are worth the initial investment in new technology. As ecommerce grows, consumers are going to buy from companies that allow them the option of visually testing out products before purchase.
3. Automation and Chatbots for Online Ordering
With 1.3 billion people on Facebook Messenger, it makes sense to take advantage of chatbots for marketing, customer service, and sales.
With ecommerce, you can take it a step further.
Domino’s uses its Messenger bot, Dom, for full-menu ordering. The implications of this are huge: when fast and simple are priorities for consumers, Domino’s will beat out all the competition.
Plus, chatbot ordering is an opportunity for Domino’s to cater to its audience in a new way, proving itself to be a helpful and forward-thinking company.
If it makes sense for your business, I’d suggest creating a chatbot like Dom while it’s still an open field. In a few years, this could become a mainstream way of ordering, and lose some of its current novelty power.
4. Voice Search Compatabilities
As Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other voice-activated devices grow in popularity, voice search will become the preferred method of search. 40% of millennials are already using voice search before making an online purchase.
It’s critical to optimize your business for voice search in 2018, or you could lose the vast majority of consumers who choose to shop through voice-activated devices.
Walmart made it possible for consumers to order any of their items by voice on the Google Express, and in the future, they’re going to allow consumers to place in-store pickup orders via Google Home. Target, Costco, Kohl’s, Staples, Walgreens and many other stores are in the process of creating similar options for consumers.
Since voice search is 3x more likely to be local, it’s also important to ensure your business listing is updated on Google to reach those local searchers (with accurate hours, an up-to-date address, photos and reviews, etc.).
5. Mobile Primary, Desktop Secondary
62% of smartphone users have made an online purchase on their mobile device within the last six months. As mobile purchasing continues to grow, it’s important to create an ecommerce site that’s optimized for mobile.
Fingerprint and facial recognition technology, as well as one-click payments, will simplify mobile payments and further encourage consumers to switch from desktop to mobile. Mobile will soon become the preferred payment method for ecommerce transactions. It’s estimated that mobile will reach 70% of ecommerce traffic by the end of this year alone.
Starbucks created a Mobile Order and Pay app in 2015. By 2017, 30% of all Starbucks orders were paid via mobile. Starbucks said their Mobile Order and Pay app is so popular, it creates congestion in stores and extra-long wait lines, which they’re attempting to solve by hiring more baristas. If mobile ordering leads to a larger pool of in-store consumers, I’m thinking it’s a worthwhile investment.
6. ROPO (“Research Online, Purchase Offline”)
It can be tricky to track how your digital efforts translate to offline sales.
Luckily, ROPO (“research online, purchase offline”) is a tool that will become more advanced and reliable in the upcoming year, and can help retailers accurately measure how well their digital ads are contributing to in-store sales.
ROPO combines information from social media, mobile tracking/geolocation, mobile payments, in-store inventory, analytics tools, CRM systems, and more, to figure out which ads and site pages led consumers to in-store purchases.
This is invaluable information. By knowing which digital ads are most efficiently contributing to sales, ecommerce businesses can create higher-conversion, more targeted campaigns, and feel confident that what they’re doing online is meaningful to their consumers.
7. Machine Learning and AI
You come across machine learning and AI every day. You just might not realize it.
Take Netflix: rather than dividing viewers by age, location, or gender, Netflix created 1,300 “taste communities.” Netflix makes recommendations on similar movie or TV show preferences based on what’s most popular for the viewers in that community. This is the future of machine learning.
Other ecommerce platforms will soon see personal benefits from using machine learning and algorithms to uncover which content they should deliver to which audience. In the future, content will be divided by machine learning and AI, so consumers are fed only the content (or products), they’re most interested in.
8. Image Search
Picture this: you’re in a store and see a beautiful couch but don’t feel like paying full price, so you take a picture of it and use eBay’s image search to find similar products for a better deal.
As ecommerce transitions to mobile, companies will begin offering options to visually search for products by using personal photos, or photos found online. It’s estimated that image and voice search will make up 50% of all searches by 2020.
Since image search offers opportunities to find similar products at a cheaper price online, it could eventually drive consumers to shop online even if they started in a physical store.
A few ecommerce businesses have already successfully implemented image search functions into their online platforms. Pinterest, for example, has its own image search function. On Pinterest, you can zoom in on an object in a Pin image and find similar objects. Target will eventually integrate this same technology (“Lens”) to allow consumers to search an image and find similar products in Target’s online catalog.
9. High-Quality Product Videos
Even when consumers are online, they’re still going to have the same questions about a product’s functionality and design that they’d have in-store. To compete in ecommerce, you’re going to have to answer all their questions digitally, and one of the easiest ways to do that is through video.
A high-quality video addressing your product’s design and function is one of the best ways to sell your product. Your video can appeal to your consumer’s emotions, persuading them more convincingly than text.
Redsbaby, an Australian baby stroller company, does a great job of this. Their videos of baby strollers display actors using Redsbaby strollers throughout a “typical day,” so consumers can feel confident that they understand what they’re purchasing, despite having never seen it in-store.
10. Same-Day or Next-Day Delivery
Last year, Amazon opened a ton of new shipping centers near major cities so they could promise same-day delivery to Amazon Prime customers. TechCrunch reported that Google will launch a competitor same-day delivery service, “Google Shopping Express.” Google Shopping Express will offer same-day delivery from stores like Walmart and Target.
As these big-name ecommerce sites offer same-day delivery, they’ll win out with the majority of consumers who want their needs met, fast. As it becomes the norm, people will become comfortable paying extra for same-day delivery.
If you don’t give consumers the option of same-day or next-day delivery, they’ll turn to competitors who will.