Projected E-commerce sales are expected to exceed 3 trillion pounds sterling by 2020, so from a competitive perspective online businesses will have to shape up in terms of deploying more effective ecommerce marketing strategies to stay ahead of the ecommerce posse into the future. Ever increasing customer demand for faster more efficient and competitively priced services and goods is forcing website owners and webmasters to rethink their online offerings and how they are presented to their potential customers. In line with this retail and wholesale dynamic, digital technology, which is advancing concurrently at the pace of knots, must be garnered, manipulated and used effectively to improve online retail and wholesale business experiences that should actively engage consumers and customers. In an ever changing digital environment the pressure is on e-commerce operators to be cognisant of these developments and to adopt and adapt the latest technologies to make their websites – which is really their online sales tool – relevant, appealing, totally engaging and competitive so customers choose to stay logged in and complete the purchase pathway. That objective achieved there is another constant or element that has to be maintained on an ongoing basis and that is SEO – Search Engine Optimisation. Websites have to be finely tuned and developed to accommodate the bots and to perform well in SERPS ( the Search Engines Results Pages) – essentially reaching and staying as close to the top of page one as possible.
When a consumer search query lands them on Page one of these results they are automatically attracted to the top performing result. That is where they click for the service or product they are looking for – thus the importance of ensuring your sales platform is attracting optimal consumer awareness by its positioning on top of page one in SERPS. To achieve that coveted position you must offer consumers a credible proposition that rings loud and clear with the Search Engine robots that crawl and assess your website content. If they can see that you are giving your customers exactly what they want you will be rewarded with top positioning in SERPS. That brand and product awareness that such a position in SERPS promotes requires an Ecommerce website that is finely tuned, from both a technical and marketing perspective, with integrated onsite and offsite SEO strategies implemented. The process of reaching pole position is achieved by design rather than by accident and requires the collective collaborative input of technical, marketing and SEO expertise. SEO is metaphorically the petrol in your online sales engine that propels it to top position in SERPS so implement it constructively to help your business perform better than the competition in attracting more online visitors and conversions.
As we will elucidate shortly, Artificial Intelligence or I Search, as an evolving system, is transforming the SEO landscape and is gaining traction as a major metric in Search Engine rankings. That is only one element in a number of E-commerce trends that could be potentially disruptive in 2018 and beyond. Those elements that will affect both marketers and consumers are worthy of mention as influencing factors in a fast developing digital and consumer environment. We will be considering what we think are the greatest trenders and how they might impact in terms of opportunities and challenges for E-commerce businesses.
The first element that creates food for thought on ecommerce platforms is the essential need for much faster shipping and improved delivery systems – the Amazon model of hosting a set of efficient logistics that accommodate the fastest ecommerce delivery system in the world being the enviable gold standard. Achieving better logistics could differentiate between E-commerce platforms in sorting the best from the rest and that is a goal worth achieving to place your online business ahead of the competition by giving your customers the fast delivery they desire.
The next factor, which we already touched on briefly, is the growing impact of Artificial Intelligence on SEO. With an increasing inclination towards machine learning technologies in Silicon Valley and other global digital hubs there is great certainty that it will present challenges for the E-commerce sector. We are going to witness greater integration of these technologies into E-commerce systems in the future. We are already experiencing the effects of AI in improving Search functionality and product recommendation engines. However the next few years are going to see a huge increase in such applications with the objective of providing more exact responses to search queries and generally offering the customer a more precise service in terms of getting what they want much faster and with less effort. Already, some Facebook retailers are offered access to new chatbox tools that permit conversational operatives within Facebook Messenger to organise payments directly within the app, bypassing the need to process the purchase and payment on another site. Increasing development of these apps will provide a helpful way of handling an ambit of complicated functions ranging from problem solving to the transactional app – to which we have alluded. The future in machine learning will see a move from key-word based recommendations to a greater host of signals ranging from product purchase histories to related products that are linked from both a theme and semantic perspective. Advertisers will also experience greater uptake of machine learning within Adwords and other digital advertising platforms.
Augmented reality technology is beginning to reach beyond the novelty factor with big efforts this year to achieve mainstream endorsement. E-commerce platforms will be the leaders in adopting this technology. Based on what IKEA achieved with their app (its Place app) which provides the public with the technology to see how different IKEA products would look like in their homes. Amazon have also bought into this technology allowing their potential customers to visualise what thousands of their products would look like in their homes without necessarily having to make a purchase. The latest versions of this AR technology are proving much more stable and instinctual so we will undoubtedly see a greater intensity of competition in the E-commerce AR space during 2018 and well beyond.
It is nothing new to mention the exponential growth in Mobile checkout or the Internet of Things but that is the current reality with E-commerce trends. With at least ten different mobile payment platforms available to consumers, including cryptocurrency and the nation’s favourite – Bitcoin – increasing numbers of consumers are expected for mobile transactions and payments in the future. There is currently a credibility issue due to consumer concern about mobile shopping but that is expected to change dramatically in the future with mobile overtaking desktop transactions. It is up to retailers to win their trust and custom going forward and to leverage the changing consumer trends to achieve an increase in conversion rates.
A growing e-commerce trend is the Internet of Things with interconnected devices such as smart toasters and fridges that can bombard us with special offers and other maddening ads. Whether we approve or not of all things smart the reality is that all internet connected devices, whilst surveying our activity, can act as a point-of-sale system with constant calls to purchase.
Voice Search will prove to be one of the leading lights in e-commerce space and will be synonymous with mobile. Sales of Voice Assistant Devices, such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, have been increasing gradually over recent times and indicate according to Amazon data that the average customer spend through Echo is greater than the purchases through prime purchase route. For retailers sales through Amazon Echo provided a 60% better opportunity of upselling other goods across certain product lines.
The next obvious trend in online shopping comes from the browser tradition of pricing across many retailers online offerings and then buying off-line. Consumers have been doing this since the inception of online shopping and have become canny shoppers, feeling empowered by the possibilty of finding the goods they require at the most competitive prices. This concept of Research Online and Purchase Offline driven by careful shoppers always hunting down a bargain is set to become more prevalent in the E-Commerce sphere. It will represent for retailers an opportunity to track shopper activity in conducting this type of ROPO purchase. The metrics can be derived from a number of channels including mobile payment data, CRM and point-of-sale systems, GPS tracking, customer purchase habits and social media interaction. A complete map of the customer journey can be plotted providing valuable data for retailers to make future marketing calculations and strategies.
Storefront Apps will make an impression in the coming months as the growing popularity of mobile and the increasing change from desktop to mobile shopping continues. Online shoppers have been using the apps provided by retailers for a number of years to browse and actually shop from their mobile devices. The future trend will see more SMEs employ storefront apps to prompt sales and garner customer loyalty. The popularity and success of storefront apps suggests that they will become increasingly de rigueur among online shoppers who may well opt for storefront dedicated apps as opposed to mobile site. Another factor that will drive this prospect is the low cost of entry for app development which in reality means that small family type businesses can afford to offer their customers dedicated apps – something that could limit growth in mobile search and purchase.
We hope that by presenting these possible future trends in the E-commerce sector we have provided you with food for thought and the opportunity to perhaps conceptualise and create marketing strategies that are more effective and rewarding going forward. It is vital to be cognisant of the potential impact of these trending issues on your wider business goals and objectives so your sales platform can adopt and benefit from implementation of improved online practices that attract more customers and sell more products and services.