9 e-Commerce Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2018

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9 e-Commerce Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2018

Kaartik Iyer
9 e-Commerce Trends You Can’t Ignore in 2018

As the e-commerce industry ticks another year off the calendar, the search for trends for e-commerce trends for 2018 reaches a new high. Whether you are a top e-commerce website development company, a would-be entrepreneur trying to understand how to set up an online boutique, a consultant for the online marketplace or simply a customer who is hungry for more, it will be extremely interesting to examine what 2018 holds for all of us.

And no wonder everyone is so anxious to find out; after all, e-commerce sales reached US $1.86 trillion worldwide in 2016, and are projected to grow to 4.48 trillion US dollars in 2021! Naturally, everyone, from the would-be entrepreneur to the mid-sized company to established e-commerce companies like Amazon, wants to gear up for changing trends.

Here is what we consider will be the most important trends for e-commerce for 2018. We have grouped them as (a) Customer-focused trends, (b) Technology-focused trends, and (c) Engagement-focused trends.

Customer-Focused Trends

1. Customers Will Expect More 

To begin with, the customer will expect a neat, bug-free website, a smooth shopping experience and have a clear returns/refunds policy without any unfair fine-print.

Next, the customer knows big data has come a long way. Hence, the customer will expect you save her time by knowing her shopping patterns: suggest her the right product, at the right time, at the right price.

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Inbound communication can be personalized in real time with the right technologies.  Brands need to create relevant and meaningful engagement with their customers adding value to their business

The buying patterns of customers are changing fast. They are going to be more research-oriented than before. A customer will conduct a good deal of research faster, across different sites. She will type in a keyword (e.g. “coffee maker”) in the search box and hit enter. When she lands on a particular page, she will quickly skim through the product details, pricing, and the photo. If the layout doesn’t please her, the details are too vague or too technical, the pricing is not clear or the photographs aren’t interesting enough, she will quickly move on to the next site. And you lose another customer – just because your site wasn’t organized enough.

What you should do:

A.  Get your act together: Choose the right partners, to begin with. Get your technology right and integrate it with your e-commerce store.

B.  Have a friendly website: Keep the browsing experience easy, secure and swift. Present details the right way. Respect the customer’s time.

C.  Get more out of your analytics: Implement heat map tools on your website. Study the most subtle buying patterns. Figure out what works best. In 2018, have your analytics team pore over the fine print.

2. Shipments and Agility Will Be Key

E-commerce companies that can move goods out the moment the customer places an order and yet charge zero or negligible shipping fees are going to win by a bigger margin. In this competitive environment, e-commerce companies have to be innovative in optimizing their last mile deliveries.

2018, we might see a lot of drone delivery services companies like Flytrex kick-starting their operations, as well as mainstream logistics companies like DHL and UPS will invest more in drone delivery services to make it accessible for e-commerce store owners.

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Amazon is starting to use drones to safely deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less -  it is called Prime Air.

E-commerce companies will need to fine-tune their logistic partnership &  shipping integrations, do packaging quality-checks to ensure the customer receives the right product with the right packaging at the right time.

What you should do:

  1. Focus on delivery: Gear up to manage logistics well. Your customer wants you to deliver to their doorstep quickly. Get the right logistics partners onboard.

  2. Consider Dropshipping: You can consider dropshipping to cut inventory costs. However, make sure you get the quality checks right.

  3. Add value to packaging: In 2018, Customers will want better, safer, and more attractive packaging. Grab the opportunity to add value to packaging.

Technology-Focused Trends

1. Artificial Intelligence Will Grow

With Artificial Intelligence (AI), we will see increased use of natural language processing to ultimately bring up vastly better search results. Next, we will be seeing AI tracking customer’s purchase (or cart abandonment) behavior at a much deeper level than humans are capable of. With that, AI will lead up to a hugely efficient and productive sales process because it will generate real, high-value leads for email marketing.

By the end of this year, you will see that customers calls will be reduced and they are going to be using this form of contact less and less time. Instead, customers will be buying products and services and making orders and requesting support through Chatbots.

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The AI tool on North Face website helps customers choose jackets.

AI will equip chatbots to handle a number of tasks, from carrying out conversations to handling order processing. Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa and My Starbucks’ Barista are considered among the examples of rising AI deployment.

What you should do:

A. Deploy your human team better: Let AI handle primary interactions. Use your human team for more creative solutions. Use AI as an assistant, not a substitute altogether. The technology isn’t perfected yet.

B. Explore Chatbots: Chatbots, with their increasing skills, will guide much of your initial sales & support interactions.

2. Augmented Reality Will Grow Too

Just a couple of summers back, Pokemon Go showed how exciting Augmented Reality (AR) could become.

While AI is geared towards making interactions and processes faster and more efficient, AR focuses on product use and applications. If a customer is looking for, say, a flower vase, AR will place the image of a vase in a digital room so that the customer can see what it looks like with respect to the other objects in the room. If a customer is looking for sunglasses, they can upload a selfie and the AR will digitally superimpose a sunglass on the selfie to help the customer see how they would look with the sunglasses on.

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Ikea’s app allows users to see how specific furniture would look inside their home and also allow them to resize that furniture to see how it would look in real life

What you should do:

A. Have AR provide the right context: AR is awesome, but it still needs a strong strategy to back it up.

B. Go creative with AR: Use AR to bring customers to a deeper level of content in 2018. Have AR lead to better engagement tool. Get it tell a brand or product story. Depending on the products you sell, you will need to keep room for increased investment in AR.

3. It Will Be a Multi-Platform, Multi-Device World

No matter what other metrics you get right, if your store isn’t responsive, it stands no chance to win the battle in 2018.

Most customers begin their search on one device and make a purchase from another. If they see major alterations when they switch devices, it is going to put them off and possibly drive them away. That means you will have to keep everything, from product descriptions and searches to navigation, consistent and coherent, irrespective of the device and its platform.

warby-parker-glasses-iphone-x-300x200-at-2x.jpg

Warby Parker rolled out an update to its iPhone app just for iPhone X users that will use the new phone's front-facing infrared camera to map the users face and get them fitted for a new set of frames (as spotted by Joanna Stern on Twitter).

To add to the complexity, we are seeing devices like Amazon Echo. Since these devices are voice-controlled, they will likely influence voice-search designs. Adaptive and cloud-based, these devices aren’t going to be pivotal to your e-commerce website development in 2018, but they are sure something to watch.

What you should do:

A. Mobile First Approach: In 2018, mobile is where all the growth is going to come from. So, if you are focusing your efforts on conversion optimization or customer acquisition, one has to really make sure that mobile is on your priority list.

B. Prepare for being responsive: Ensure your website works great on all devices, all browsers, and serves perfectly across various platforms. Invest in automated testing to see that there are no loopholes in your store.

Engagement-Focused Trends

1. The Importance and Versatility of Email Will Continue Growing

With all the content marketing tools around, email stands tall. According to CampaignMonitor, in their 2016 report, every dollar spent on email marketing fetches an ROI of $44 – or a 4400% return!

In 2018, use analytics to build better-targeted email marketing campaigns. Depending on whether it was a casual visitor, a customer making her first purchase or a loyal customer returning, your emails will change. Emails will perform a variety of functions from selling to remarketing to re-engaging, and they are only getting more powerful.

On the other hand, brands like GoRebel are bringing in revolutionary, and possibly disruptive, features. These highly interactive emails let customers add products to cart, make purchases or submit product reviews without having to leave the email. And they are integrated with most major email service providers.

GoRebel promises to take email to the next level.

What you should do:

A.  Use email better: Email brings great ROI. Get email to send reminders, make offers and confirm orders.

B.  Build your mailing list: Have a mailing list, but don’t email like you are a spammer. A/B test the contents, timing, and design of emails.  

C. Anti-spam rules are getting tighter: Acts like the CAN-SPAM Act will get tougher in 2018. Find out creative ways to deliver value rather than SPAM.

2. Data Analytics Will Improve Marketing at Every Stage

Sophisticated analytics are now able to produce data on every action taken – or not taken – by visitors and customers. For instance, any leading Magento e-commerce development company can help you set up the analytics for your site for improved Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The question is how e-commerce companies will use this wealth of data.

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Starting from keyword analysis, SEO experts will have to work on a lot more things in 2018.

Analytics might tell you certain products are often bought in succession, say running shoes followed by drinking-water bottles. With that information, you can set up exit intent campaigns for customers who buy shoes but check out without buying water bottles. You can set up triggers that prompt these customers just before they check out. Or have triggers that display discounts only to those customers who leave without buying, even after four sessions on the same product page.

All top e-commerce trends for 2018 suggest that in order to succeed, companies will need to use and evaluate the huge amount of user data to produce smarter content, a better shopping experience, and more targeted marketing techniques.

What you should do:

A. Shift towards better predictive analytics: Predict better. Focus on being able to guide and predict customer purchase behavior, based on data on hand.

B. Manage your pricing better: Know the maximum price your customers are willing to pay. Price management will be a key differentiator in 2018, for both revenues and profits.

3. Better content, yes, but video?

If there are a dozen online stores that sell similar products at comparable prices, a customer will buy from a store that excels in engagement. And that engagement will come from personalized, ‘storified’ content.  The coming year will see content that is superior not just at the sales point, but pretty much everywhere.

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You will need to pack as much punch in as little content as you can.

You might notice many ‘experts’ claiming videos are the way to go and that you had better up your video content; we advise caution. Customers are increasingly short of time. In most cases, customers would prefer textual product descriptions and decent photos over videos. Reserve videos for overly complex, technical products that need detailed instructions for assembling, setting up or operating. If Amazon is anything to go by, it is best to use videos sparingly and not generously.

video.png

It might be best to reserve videos for products that require detailed instructions in, say, installations.

What you should do:

A.  Go easy on video: Not every sale needs a video. Learn from your customers’ buying patterns to see when video works best.

B.  Context is key: When a product doesn’t need a demo, use video to tell stories and build your brand persona.

C. Entertain, don’t just sell: You will need to keep entertaining. Use tasteful humor to keep your customers coming back for more.

4. A Stronger Social Media Strategy: Free As Well As Paid

Over the past year or so, social media platforms, specifically Facebook and Instagram, have come up with complex algorithms. In the first couple of hours of being posted, every piece of free content is exposed to a limited viewership. If the early responses do not indicate a strong engagement potential, the algorithm will hugely reduce the future reach of the post. Paid content, on the other hand, will have no such restrictions and therefore will rise in 2018.

Instagram will push further to make use of its ever-growing 800 million active monthly users in the year ahead with direct purchase functionalities throughout the platform like tap to purchase, and purchasing options can be expected for sure

E-commerce in 2018 will need a better Social Media strategy for free, as well as paid content. E-commerce companies’ paid content will need to smartly integrate Call To Actions (CTAs) that prompt users to reach landing pages. After that, the landing pages must be equipped to take over.

What you should do:

A. Beginner? Go slow: If you are starting out, begin with only a couple of social platforms. Social will be taken seriously in 2018, so you don’t want to end up serving tasteless content.

B.  Build a 2-way street: In 2018, you will need to better showcase your online stores on social media and highlight your social presence on your online store. Provide a connection to both places.

C. Earn followers by building a personality: Engage more. Listen fully. Be eager to serve. You will want a deeper understanding of social media in 2018.

Conclusion

E-commerce is growing rapidly, and to stand out from the crowd, one needs to be a trailblazer and innovate with the changing trends prevailing in the e-commerce industry. Those in charge of developing e-commerce marketing strategies in 2018 should pay close attention to these major trends and formulate an effective strategy to stay ahead of their competitors and convert as many potential customers as possible.

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Kaartik Iyer is the co-Founder and Director of Marketing at Infigic, a digital, web & mobile development company. Kaartik is a must follow "ecommerce expert" and has contributed to sites like Huffington Post, Yourstory, Tamebay to name a few. He's passionate about fitness, entrepreneurship, startups and all things digital. Hit him up on LinkedIn for a quick chat on any of these topics.
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Naseem Kaloo
These are really the trends we cannot ignore and in fact are the most essential things for e-commerce today. If you can't please your visitors, they will not revisit you. In order to walk meeting shoulders with current trends, we should include essential and applicable elements in our niche. It's a great read Kaartik, I must say.
Melanie Nathan
I think the tech trends are bang on but I wonder how a mom-and-pop online business would/could apply them? Especially when it comes to AR. Doesn't it seem like these trends would only be useful for big brands with lots of capital? Maybe it's just me.
Kaartik Iyer
Melanie Nathan
Hi Melanie. Thanks for taking time to read the article. The trend covers eCommerce industry as a whole, some of them would be relevant for small players, some for big and some for both.
Ben Kazinik
Hey Kaartik, solid post. I think it's all about the free and hassle-free shipping these days. That's a must.
Kaartik Iyer
Ben Kazinik
Thanks Ben !
Simon  Cox
Goode article but a lot of the advice here will only work for certain types of products and brands. Price is the biggest factor - the very fact that e-commerce exists is because it can move goods at cheaper prices than shops. Adding augmented reality to a mom and pop e-commerce store isn't an appropriate move and even video might be beyond their budgetary reach. Yes, lots going on this year though!
Kaartik Iyer
Simon Cox
Thanks Simon. Yes, some of them would be adopted by larger brands as they would have thicker budgets. But, overall there are going to be some radical changes expected in the eCommerce industry in this year.
Great Post. I found a lot of useful information on your blog.
thanks
Kalaivani
Kaartik Iyer
kalaivani
Thanks Kalaivani
Season Mudbhary
Well written article. Good observation for tech changes and expectations for 2018.

Thanks
Season
Kaartik Iyer
Season Mudbhary
Thanks Season. Appreciate the feedback.
Jamie FitzHenry
Fantastic read Kaartik. It's fascinating to see how these developments in technology will improve the e-commerce experience for the end user.
Kaartik Iyer
Jamie FitzHenry
Thanks Jamie. Appreciate the feedback

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