5 Predictions for the Future of (Your) E-Commerce
What will 2018 look like for your online business?
Now’s the time to think about your goals for the year ahead and to plan for new challenges your business will face. What will your customers expect, and how can you stay competitive?
Take a look at these e-commerce trends for 2018 to get a sense of what’s coming and how to get ready.
1. Think mobile, mobile, mobile
The share of US e-commerce purchases made on mobile devices will nearly double over the next twelve months, rising from 19% to 27%, according to one study. Another estimate projects that mobile purchases will account for half of all e-commerce revenue by year’s end. Why the growth?
In part, it’s because people no longer sit down to their desks to make online purchases. They shop at the bus stop, on the train, in waiting rooms, and in bed just before they go to sleep. For most of us, it simply makes more sense to buy something on our phones when we need it (or when we remember that we need it) instead of setting aside a specific time and place to shop online.
As more retailers adopt a mobile-first strategy, smaller sellers have to make mobile shopping easier, too, or risk being abandoned by customers who want convenience.
How can you do this? First, make sure your online shop is optimized for use on smartphones. This goes beyond having a responsive site template and a readable display. Your shop must include fast page-load times—even on pages filled with product photos—as well as easy-to-navigate menus and the simplest possible secure payment options. (No one wants to key in a credit card number on their phone, especially in public.)
2. Provide personalized shopping experiences
One of the most helpful shopping trends to evolve from the combination of data analytics and automation is the personalized shopping experience. Every time Amazon suggests products you may like or Sephora shows you a menu of products that go with the items you’ve added to your basket, that’s personalization in action.
Increasingly, consumers expect merchants to provide that unique experience. Besides keeping shoppers on your site, personalization can boost your bottom line.
According to Bart Mroz at Multichannel Merchant, “retailers that implement personalization strategies see sales gains of 6%-10%, a rate two to three times larger than other retailers, according to Boston Consulting Group research.” But less than 10% of retailers serve up personalized product suggestions.
That means there’s plenty of room for your store to gain an advantage, and the technology required to offer personalization isn’t restricted to major retailers. E-commerce platform extensions, like Nosto and Softcube for Magento, integrate personalization into your store with just a few clicks.
3. Learn to love luxury
Remember 2012, when Millennials were going to destroy the economy with their thrifty ways? It turns out that being careful with money when you’re young frees you up to really treat yourself as you get older.
Not only are Millennials the fastest-growing group of homebuyers (oftentimes leapfrogging over the “starter home” entirely in favor of a mini-mansion), they’re also leading a projected doubling of spending on luxury goods in the year to come. What does this mean for your store?
If most of your customers are between the ages of 20 and 36 and you’ve been tailoring your offerings to price-conscious shoppers, now’s the time to take a closer look at how your customers’ spending habits may have evolved over the past couple of years.
Based on the demographics for your particular customers, it might be time to add some higher end products to your store, to test the waters and to keep luxury-seekers from going elsewhere for what they want. Because margins are typically higher on luxury items than on mass-market products, even a small uptick in high-end product sales can boost your store’s bottom line.
4. Package your products properly
How does packaging relate to e-commerce? Customers expect their purchases to arrive undamaged, and more than half say they won’t shop with an online retailer again, or would buy from a competitor instead, if their stuff is damaged in transit.
But adding enough packing material is only part of the picture for ecommerce sellers. Packaging Digest says that consumers increasingly expect “frustration-free packaging” of items they buy online. (If you’ve ever cut yourself opening a plastic clamshell package to get at your $5 gadget inside, you know why consumers want things to be easier.)
Using packaging that makes for a more appealing unboxing experience, and using recycled materials, also add to your products’ customer appeal.
5. Set up more shipping options
Another trend that’s been brewing for a while is consumers’ high expectations for shipping choices.
Recent data shows that not only do shoppers want fast delivery, even on nights and weekends, but they also don’t want to pay a whole lot for it, and virtually ever shopper wants to know when their packages will arrive. To meet customer expectations, now’s the time to review your delivery options, features, and pricing.
High shipping costs, no free shipping option, and slow delivery times are all key reasons why shoppers abandon their online shopping carts. Most retailers do better with a menu of shipping options that customers can choose from depending on whether they prefer speed or savings. Every option you offer should include tracking, and not only because customers expect to be able to follow their purchases from warehouse to mailbox. Tracking and delivery verification can also cut down on instances of fraud by proving that your items were delivered to the right address.
Ready to take your store to the next level in 2018? Check out our tips for marketing your site.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.