As the holiday season comes to an end, and the New Year begins, online retailers start polishing off the crystal ball and doing their best impression of Nostradamus for the annual ecommerce predictions. We all know the deal – people are continuing to spend more and more online. Every year, e-commerce sales continue to grow at double digit rates , more business is being done through mobile and tablet devices and consumers are becoming far more fussy in their search for a more personalised online shopping experience.
But in an industry where the change is the only constant, predicting what lies around the corner is anyone’s guess. So here is mine!
One size doesn’t fit all
With faster broadband speed, larger screens and the roll out of 4G across all major UK cities, it looks like 2013 will finally be the year for mobile marketing. Taking this into account, and the fact that the mobile market is quite segmented, retailers will need a site designed for optimal viewing, no matter which mobile or tablet device is being used. This year we will say bye to the days of resizing, scrolling and otherwise struggling to view a site depending on the size of the screen. With this in mind, I would strongly predict that responsive design will become the status quo of 2013.
In keeping with the trend for more mobile based marketing is a newish buzzword “SoLoMo” to describe the use of location aware services to drive customer specific incentives such as coupons to mobile applications when customers are within the vicinity of a particular store. SoloMo has the potential to bridge the gap between the online and offline world, potentially stemming the decline of the traditional retail experience. However, the reliance on location aware data and customer specific information also has the potential to up the ante on the personal privacy debate.
There is a whole world of sales right at your doorstep. The traditional argument has always been that smaller companies lack the technical and financial resources to reach global markets. But with advancing technology and infrastructure this will soon become a thing of the past as new brands realise that their customers are everywhere, even if it’s the other side of the world, using a completely different language. In fact, tapping into the global market really isn’t as complicated as you may think. Check out these tips to get you started.
Let’s get personal
Creating a unique, customised, shopping experience is one of the pinnacles of success within retail. Web-only jewellers Ice.com tackle the bridge between the on and offline realms by using augmented reality technology. Their mobile application allows shoppers to try on their complete range of jewellery. This brings a whole new element of touch to the users shopping experience, which until now has been completely missing from the world of ecommerce.
Although still in its infancy, this technology offers customers a much more personalised shopping experience, which I expect will see mass take up within major industries like travel, finance and even gaming.
With consumers expecting this level of personalisation, we should expect to see more of the general data they share online used by other companies. Data exchange between retailers and social networks will offer helpful new insights into the psyche of the shopper. Most companies are already sitting on a pile of useful data but are not yet putting it to use. Something as simple as knowing what age or country your visitors are coming from can provide you with a wealth of intelligence that will help optimise your site and provide your customers with a stronger user experience.
In the coming year, I would expect to see more companies taking advantage of big data to deliver more targeted offers and promotions.
Bricks and clicks combined
This year will be the year where the boundaries between online and offline become increasingly blurred, as retailers fuse their digital and real-world offerings. I’d expect to see more online pure plays establishing locations, as we’ve seen with the likes of Amazon’s collection lockers and Ocado’s virtual shopping walls. It makes good business sense for sites to offer as many ways for customers to buy as possible, so that they can choose whichever channel is most convenient to them. Offering different options of payment and collection will be the only way for businesses to stay afloat. This means that retailers will need to be more innovative than ever to stimulate sales and preserve margins.