Year on year, the e-commerce industry continues to boom with more and more companies moving to the web.
The rapid pace of business is amplified online, with the proliferation of apps, new technologies and seemingly daily digital changes affecting how you operate.
Analysts and experts are always attempting to predict the latest trends and developments which could make the most difference to online retailers, so we’ve pulled together some of the most talked about, and hotly anticipated predictions for the e-commerce marketplace in 2015.
We’ve focused on the developments we think could affect your business the most in the next 12 months. Whilst some of these online retailing trends have been developing year on year, others may just be set to explode in 2015;
1. 2015 might be the year for mobile
Every year, industry analysts predict that mobile payments and mobile technology will see a massive change in the e-commerce industry, but each year those predictions have fallen short. This year however, mobile e-commerce is finally beginning to live up to those predictions.
Global m-commerce sales are predicted to reach $120 billion globally in 2015, according to a report by specialist market analysis firm Paul Budde Communication, and forecasts from Google believe that 50% of UK-related retail queries will be from a smartphone this Christmas.
Omnichannels, multi-channels and screen swapping are all buzzwords for mobile this year, referring to how smartphones and tablets are taking over the market.
In order to have an impact, advertisers and e-commerce retailers need to ensure they have responsive websites and optimised ads, which work seamlessly across different sized screens and devices to appeal to customers.
Even in a physical shop environment, mobiles are increasingly making their mark. As customers search for price points and product reviews in-store, retailers are beginning to embrace m-commerce to advertise, promote offers, and enhance the user experience of shoppers whilst they’re standing in the shop.
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Plus with the rise in contactless payments, on-the-go transactions, mobile POS systems, and the imminent arrival of Apple Pay in the UK, this looks like a trend that’s set to continue steadily, if not explode over the next 12 months.
2. It’s time to engage with social media
If your e-commerce business is not active and prominent on social media, then you’re already missing a trick, but 2015 is predicted to see social media have an even stronger impact on e-commerce sales.
According to many of the industry’s experts, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that social media isn’t just about promoting a brand; in many ways engagement and connection with your target audience is a given. What’s important is storytelling and interaction.
Online social marketing campaigns should be geared at generating a buzz amongst people, and the best ROI comes from users naturally sharing and talking about a brand. People buy from people, so e-commerce social campaigns should be targeted at promoting customer interaction, suggestions and recommendations.
Of course, utilising flash sales via platforms like Instagram and Snapchat will still play an important role, but expect to also see the continued rise in prominence of review sites like Trustpilot, with a greater importance placed on what other customers are saying.
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62% of people are more likely to buy from a company after seeing a positive review from other users, and conversion rates increase when users on an e-commerce site see recommendations from other customers.
But if the key point here is that people buy from people, surely the customer service you deliver in store is still just as important and valuable? Whilst an online social media trend might continue to grow, don’t forget it’s still vital to deliver great customer service offline too.
3. Customise for your audience
As well as natural social engagement, paid social should also continue to play a big part of e-commerce marketing plans, in large part because of the huge potential for customisation. The amount of data now available on prospective and current customers means that e-commerce retailers can actively target exactly who they want.
Expect to see market segmentation continue to grow, with a big focus on targeting niche audiences. With so much data available, mass customisation based on personal preferences could become second place in the e-commerce industry, as retailers tie in targeted advertising with up-selling and product suggestions, cart abandonment marketing, and personalised nurturing.
However, data acquisition and privacy issues are still thorny issues, and with the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee publishing a report last week calling on social media sites to be more transparent about their terms and conditions, there’s likely to be a lot of debate on this subject in the coming 12 months.
4. How quick can you deliver?
More and more, e-commerce customers are not only hoping for quick shipping and delivery, they’re expecting it. As the demand for instant access to goods continue to grow, gone are the days of waiting weeks and weeks for a product to be delivered.
The importance of a speedy delivery will continue to grow for e-commerce retailers in 2015. The success and growth of Amazon Prime demonstrates this, as does the increase in a number of retailers offering click and collect services or home store pick-ups, to speed up the access to purchased products.
It’s a lot of easier in the UK to promise next day delivery than it is globally, and the UK is arguably leading the way with their delivery network.
Customers in 2015 will not expect to have to pay anything for standard delivery, and expedited shipping is no longer the luxury it once was. To compete, online retailers will need to offer great deals on delivery and a fast turnaround time on all orders.
And yet, brick and mortar stores still have the advantage when it comes to urgency, because they can offer immediate fulfilment. For those last minute birthday and Christmas gifts, they’ll be hard pushed to be replaced solely by online retailers.
5. Wearable tech is here
Google Glass has already launched in the UK, Apple’s iWatch is set for release in 2015, and there are a host of other smartwatch, smart wristband and even smart clothes retailers with products already on the market or in production.
That means that wearable technology is definitely on the rise, with Gartner, the technology research firm, predicting that the global market for these types of products will reach around £3.2 billion by 2016.
Could wearable tech add a new dimension to how we interact with shops and retailers, and how e-commerce operates?
It’s a bit of a curveball, and it remains to be seen exactly how the technology and the application uses play out for e-commerce purposes, but, it is likely to add another channel for advertisers to make use of, and further enhance the in-store shopping experience, just like mobile devices.
They make online information even more accessible in the real world, and where other electronic devices are not practical, wearable technology is. Imagine a customer walking past your shop, and having a limited time offer immediately displayed on their watch, tempting them in.
Travel, entertainment and retail industries already make use of digital technology for things like boarding passes, tickets to events and discount vouchers, and this is only going to grow.
Will it change the in-store experience and transform e-commerce practices? We’ll have to wait and see, as the technology is still largely unproven.
Predicting the future of e-commerce
These trends might take off in 2015, but then again, they might not. What is clear is that e-commerce continues to play an extremely important role for retailers of all shapes and sizes, and paying attention to stay on top of the game is vital.
Consumers today are extremely knowledgeable, constantly seeking cheaper and broader retail options. They know prices, they know where to find the best deals, and they expect good, rapid service and delivery. In today’s online marketplace, speed, price and availability matter more than customer loyalty.
So what are your e-commerce plans for 2015?
This article has been written by ByteStart’s regular web and technology contributor, Nick Pinson. He is a Director at iWeb Solutions, an e-commerce website design agency based in Staffordshire. Twitter: @iwebtweets