The Future of Ecommerce: Trends That Will Shape 2018
Trends are constantly changing and evolving, but don’t discount them as passing fads. As an ecommerce store, it’s important to stay on top of trends.
First, while some trends may be short term fads, many are here to stay, so not following them is a huge risk. These trends then become expectations in customers’ minds, and if your store doesn’t live up to these expectations, customers will move on to the next store.
For example, a few years ago, free shipping on all orders and returns was a new concept. Companies that adopted this at the front end saw huge spikes in orders. But today, customers simply expect free shipping. If you are not offering free shipping, at least at a certain order value threshold, likely customers will turn to shop somewhere else.
The same is true for mobile ecommerce experiences. The first stores that optimized for mobile were unique, but today having an ecommerce store that is optimized for mobile is an absolute must. Customers are no longer willing to struggle through navigating your desktop site on their mobiles phones. If your mobile shopping experience is not up to snuff, your store will be disregarded.
Second, being on the front edge of these trends generally means that you’ll get the most out of them. They make your store unique and poised for growth. There are diminishing returns on trends. The later you are to adopt, the less effective they will be on average for your store.
2017 Trends That Will Continue
Here are some trends that we’ve observed in 2017 that are sure to continue in the coming year.
Mobile commerce has been on the rise year over year and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. Make sure to make it easy for your customers to browse your site and checkout on their phones.
Checkout Innovation and Optimization
Checkout is the most painful part of the checkout process, both on mobile and on desktop. In 2017 there were serious innovations in this area. Now not only is there mobile pay and the possibility to take a photo of your credit card in order to enter your details instead of typing them in manually, but there are new speedy checkout options like Shopify Pay. With Shopify Pay, you can checkout on any participating Shopify store just by logging in. The innovations so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Expect drastic innovations and improvements in this area next year.
Importance of Imagery
We would argue that imagery has always been important. Product photos and lifestyle photos for your site make a huge difference in your conversion rate. But now, stellar imagery on your site has just become expected. If you don’t have it, you are at a huge disadvantage. Expect the imagery bar to continue to rise in 2018.
Related to the above, ecommerce site designs are simplifying, making room for that incredible imagery to stand out. Site designs are fading into the background so that the products can stand out and shine. Now site design is all about being simple and easy to use.
Back in the day, companies often tried to pull one over on their audiences in order to make the sale. Oh how times have changed. That tactic does not work at all anymore due to social media. If you claim anything more than what your product delivers, your brand is toast. Instead, today transparency is king. Not only do you have to tell the truth about your product, but customers are caring more and more about the story behind your brand.
Social proof has changed online commerce drastically. Consumers no longer have to believe what you say about your brand. Instead they have access to what their peers say about your brand, and that is much more powerful. This is good news. If your brand stands up to your claims, your previous customers are your most powerful advocates. Make sure that you are incorporating social proof into your site and continually aggregating reviews.
Another trend that was hot in 2017 that will continue into 2018 is risk reversal. What do we mean by that? Well, simply put, customers take a risk when they are purchasing from you for the first time. If they are unfamiliar with your brand and don’t have any experience of their own to rely on, there is inherent risk in purchasing from you. From the quality of your product to your site security there are risks involved. The trend now is to take away as many of these risks as possible from your customers by offering free shipping, free returns, and quality guarantees.
Live Chat & Chat Bots
Live chat and chat bots are becoming increasingly popular for sales and customer service. This may sound old school, but has been reinvented to be highly effective. Especially for higher end products or B2B businesses, live chat can be a great way to convert site visitors. You can answer their questions right then and there so that the barrier to purchase disappears.
Trends to Pay Attention To in 2018
Here are some more cutting-edge trends that haven’t yet grasped main steam to follow and consider implementing on your own site.
Risk Free Trial for Physical Product
We’ve seen this for digital products for a long time, but now the trend is moving beyond digital into physical products. Sites that offer free try on are taking the world by storm. One of the main barriers to purchasing online is the inability to touch and feel a product, to try it out, before placing the order. With free trial products, this is changing. Stores are exploring allowing customers to try on one (or several) products and sizes for free, without even charging their credit cards. In the end, customers are only charged for what they keep. If they don’t keep anything, the entire experience is free!
Another area of shopping where physical retail still takes the cake is immediacy. If you buy something at a brick-and-mortar store, there is instant gratification. You can take your product home with you. In the past, online shopping hasn’t been anywhere near this (unless you’re willing to pay a high premium for overnight delivery). Now, fast and free delivery is becoming an increasingly popular trend, with more and more brands attempting to achieve same-day delivery.
Personalized Shopping Experiences
Each year, marketing has become more and more personalized. Instead of just a couple of customer segments, companies now have dozens (if not hundreds) of customers segments and sequences to deliver more personalized and relevant marketing messages. Now even on site shopping experiences are being personalized, so that the products and messaging that you see when shopping is specifically relevant to you. With new technologies and automation, ecommerce platforms are getting better at doing this in a scalable way each and every year.
One Step Checkout
As we mentioned in the 2017 trends, optimizing the checkout is a major trend. In 2018, we will see companies moving to a one-step checkout. A couple of years ago, the gold standard was a one page checkout, but this year, we will see many shopping experiences get down to a single step.
Instead of social media referring back to your ecommerce site to complete a purchase, selling increasingly is taking place on social media platforms themselves. If a customer sees an ad with a product that they like, new platforms will actually allow them to purchase right in the context of that experience.
Another trend that we expect to take off in 2018 is the integration of online and offline experiences. We saw some of these showroom type of experiences emerge in 2017, but in 2018 they should really take off. Now when you walk into a store, you’ll be able to scan a product to learn more information about it and purchase for yourself with a single click from your mobile phone without ever having to visit a register. These combined in store and online experiences combine the best of both worlds.
You might be wondering how Facebook messenger can qualify as a new trend…and the answer is in the way that it is being used. Rather than simply for direct communication, brands are now using Facebook messenger to send out promotions and newsletters as they previously would have done through email. Brands that are on the front edge of this are seeing great results as it opens up a direct line of communication with customers, so response is high. But in terms of implementation, you can blast out info in mass as you would though email.