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Customers have been evolving ever since we know! Whether it is comparing products to make an informed purchase decision or purchasing a product a celebrity promoted, their buying behavior is developing. To keep up with the trends, retailers are also constantly adopting newer technologies and tactics to stay relevant. 2018 was a year full of influencers, social media, augmented reality, faster shipping, and adoption of voice search, everywhere!

We expect continued growth in the following year and a stiffer competition (Yes, time to buckle up)! Marketplace is becoming more customer-centric and customers expect more. For instance, if I search for “summer dress”, I expect you to recommend products based on my “choice in clothes”, “type of body” as well as “brand I usually buy from”. On an average, users “assume” the system “knows” enough about them to show them the relevant product.

Consider this scenario. Say, I purchased a pair of boots from your physical store recently. As a matter of fact, I “expect” you to recommend me complimentary jeans or jackets (Read here). Smarter browsing patterns, short attention span, and eager to find a “one-stop solution” are all evolving online shopping.

Here are some trends we think will go far the following year.

Voice Search

“Coldplay playlist”. “Pizza near me”. That’s pretty much why I use voice search! You might be using it with a different set of queries but the purpose of voice search was limited to hyperlocal demographics and quick search queries, for a long time. However, the drift has been changing now.

Voice Search in E-commerce Trends
Voice Search in E-commerce Trends

Such a beautiful technology. Simply tap, ask your query and let the tech people handle the rest. Why not leverage it for your product? Make it easier for consumers to search and use your product. With Amazon and Google investing in Echo and Google Home, you ought to be out there. Along with embedding voice search on your platform, go a step further to add an extra skill. Add an Alexa skill! Let people who have smart home automation systems easily browse through and use your product. Amazon already uses this skill. You can use Alexa voice shopping to shop from a wide range of products on Amazon. It’s time for you to use it too! Make rich voice content. Use textual content in the form of paragraphs in order to appear rich in snippers and knowledge graphs.

Social media transactions

According to Instagram, shopping is just not an errand. It has a more entertaining purpose and a way to discover new products as well as connect with brands. They also found out that user’s who watch Instagram stories are particularly interested in the brand. As a result, they introduced newer ways to shop on Instagram. Users can now shop via Instagram stories. Brands can promote products with a link to the product page. And bingo! With a single tap, you take users to your product page. The feature might be available only to a few demographics, but they certainly are expanding and bringing their best to you.

It is not just Instagram. How many times have you seen a picture of your friend, colleague or family member just to wonder “Oh, those shoes!” How often have you tried searching for those shoes or asking your friend for a referral? Wouldn’t it be just perfect if you could simply tap on those pair of shoes and the system redirected you to the product page?

Businesses are recognizing this need and hence, integrating transactions on social media. Whether it is “Shop Now” ads on Facebook or Instagram stories, social media plays a massive role in helping consumers finding and exploring new products.

Instagram shopping by Ted Baker
Instagram shopping by Ted Baker

It is all moving faster than we thought! Consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by social media. Influencers play a massive role as well. 2018 was the year of influencers. We saw influencers gain popularity and traction. Brands also rely on influencers to get their social media up and moving. Whether it is a celebrity endorsement or a social media influencer, you need to leverage their following. And why does this work? Trust and a way to connect! Users trust influencers and buying products endorsed by influencers gives a sense of connection to brands and influencers.

We’re still in the early stages of social commerce and would love to see it’s evolution.

The rise of shopping via video content

Yes, we mentioned how social transactions via Instagram stories are taking place and shopping via voice content. Video content is no far behind! We’ve been using videos for promotions for ages. From traditional ads on television to ads on your YouTube channel, video ads have been around for long.

It is no brainer that users consume video content more than textual content. We’ve been showing ads to users with similar interests and behavior. It is time to go beyond interest targeting. Essentially, target video ads based on interests and behavior, customer intent, life events, demographics, and re-targeting.

Over 60% of users say videos have given them ideas and inspiration to purchase new products. Humans are inherently, designed to hear stories. And video does just that! When you engage a user with a backdrop, users are more likely to feel connected to your brand.

You can generate traffic from YouTube ads currently but it is not far when you’d be able to shop via YouTube as well. Google identifies the power of videos and they are going lengths to simplify shopping on YouTube.

Snap and shop

Video content and engagement on social media is there to stay. We still believe “snap and shop” will be a game changer. Yes, the technology is still in a nascent stage but it is not for long that we make progress in the same.

There are tools like CamFind and Slyce where you can search a product with an image. With image recognition, their system is able to scan the image to generate an exact match or similar product online. Target’s integration of visual search in collaboration with Pinterest is just a step forward to the future of visual search. Image and voice search could make up to 50% of total search queries by 2020.

Clicking an image is easier than typing in the product description. Since mobile shopping has been on the rise, visual search will change the way we shop. Although the technology is still in early stages of development, we can work with labeled objects, identifying product features and visual characteristics to start with.

Smarter chatbots

What do all product features cater to? User Experience. What can you do right now to offer a seamless user experience? Yes, apart from product page features and ease of use? Offer 24*7 customer support. Businesses have been incorporating call and email support to offer 24*7 customer support, and it has been working for them. But how about minimizing the number of steps a user needs to take to reach support? Yes, support on your site. Chatbots!

How chatbots function
How chatbots function

Speed and availability of service are two of the most valued factors in the eyes of a consumer. Let the user ask his query in a single tap, without leaving your platform, thereby reducing a potential drop-off. Customers want a “personal assistant” who can listen to their concerns and offer the most suitable solution. Let your chatbots do just that.

Along with 24-hour service, chatbots can also personalize and recommend products based on individual customer’s needs. Chatbots do not go for a lunch break or have an “out of office” notification. They are there for you, 24 hours, 7 days a week. The power of chatbots isn’t limited to answering a search query. You can increase the engagement rate by offering coupon codes in messenger, personalize inside messenger, quiz your customer to identify untapped revenue areas and so much more! Refer this for a detailed overview of e-commerce chatbots.

Personalization

What is your goal when developing new features? Increase user engagement and retention? A better user experience? How can you cater to every user’s needs and improve their experience if not for personalization? We just cannot stress enough on personalization.

Personalized marketing is targeting individual users based on their behavior, buying pattern, demographics, and other personal data. Customer behavior has evolved. Customers expect more when buying from you, now. Marketers expect a better conversion and engagement rate. Customers are everywhere and they check everything. It’s no longer limited to a single device or platform or a single source. They talk to each other, review and research products – in short, put a lot of effort before making a decision to buy.

Netflix Homepage Personalization
Netflix Homepage Personalization

You need to personalize every touchpoint! Starting from your homepage to user UI, ads, search results, product ranks and even remarketing campaigns. Everyone acknowledges personalization is the way to increase customer engagement. Go beyond product recommendations and become intuitive. Recommend products based on user demographics and interests. Create an online shopping experience to make users feel they are accompanied by an in-store associate (not in a creepy way;) )! As they say, “think globally, act locally!”

Subscription box

We all talk about personalization, identifying user interests and interest-based targeting. How does staying relevant help? What will showing a “20% off on shoes” to a user interested in fashion lead to? As a matter of fact, yes, striking the right emotion! It all adds to the user experience; make the user feel special and noted. Leave them wondering “Oh, they know what kind of products I like”.

Now imagine doing that every month. Make your users feel special by keeping the “surprise” element. That’s correct – subscription boxes do just that. Get new users to complete a small set of questionnaire to identify their broad interests and bingo! Users sign up for your subscription boxes for a nominal amount and receive a package, curated for them, every month. The surprise, suspense, and delight keep the customer hooked and you get a boost to your retention rate. A win-win for all!

Stitch Fix asks you simple questions about your style and size preferences to generate a list of products you might be interested in. You can then choose to keep or discard certain products and based on your choices, the system “learns” your preferences.

Stitch Fix Subscription Service
Stitch Fix Subscription Service

Not only do subscription boxes cater to your monthly shopping desires, but also merge the excitement of getting a package but also the joy of opening a gift.

Storytelling

Creating a narrative around your product and brand – storytelling! Why are more and more brands focussing on building a story? Because humans are designed to hear stories. We relate to narratives more than features. Yes, we try to exercise logical reasoning for most of our day to day decisions. However, we are all driven by emotions. We remember how products/brands made us “feel”. Storytelling is a powerful tool. It is the reason why brands are building stories around their products.

Selling t-shirts online? Create a story about how a new t-shirt as a Christmas gift spread joy. Selling services? Show how your users relied on your service to enjoy the holidays. Every story you tell is a reflection of your brand, company, and mission. Every aspect of the storytelling process must involve what you want to tell about you or your company.

Consider meeting new people at a bar or a public gathering. You share an anecdote to make a lasting impression. The same goes for your product and brand.

Storytelling in advertising
Storytelling in advertising

What does the following advertisement tell you? That you can refresh yourself after work? Or you need to shake a leg after a stressful day at work? Feel like you “deserve” it? Yes, the feeling of enjoying a cold fresh beer after work or in the non-working hours. Notice “the feeling”? That is the power of storytelling!

Renaissance of physical stores

You might argue that the future of e-commerce is online. The only way retailers want to go, is online. Well, however true as that may be, brick and mortar will not die. Nothing that e-commerce offers can measure up to the experience of shopping at a physical store.

Every user has a different preference. While someone might want to shop online from the comfort of their home, someone else might want to turn “shopping” into “a day out with friends and family”. You, my friend, need to tap all of them. You cannot afford to miss out all the customers who come to your physical store from your next digital marketing campaign! How do you do that? By reviving your physical store.

Interact with consumers who visit your physical stores, digitally. Share email updates, newsletter, blog updates, upcoming sale, new stock, etc and invite them to be a part of your community online. Also, target offline buyers with paid advertisements across various channels. Keep in mind how online and offline buyers differ in behavior and offer what they might find useful.

Building a community of fans and followers

The final area where brands should focus on the following year is building a community of fans and followers rather than standard customers. Let the community buy from you via an omnichannel experience. Position yourself more than a seller. Engage with customers and transform your customers into your “marketing team” who spread word of mouth. Have dedicated social media content, posts, videos, and blog posts. Interact with customers face to face. Invite them to be a part of your brand. Host competitions, pop up stores, offline kiosks – go where your customers are.

UX Touchpoints
UX Touchpoints

The way customers shop is changing over time. It is imperative for retailers and businesses like you, to find newer ways to serve your customer. Adopting newer technological changes not only helps you stay relevant but also build trust, reliability and consumer relationship over time. 

While we expect some of these trends to stay for long, we’d love to hear what you think will dominate online shopping the coming year! Go ahead and leave us in “awe” by adopting these changes and more to your business.

If you’d like to contribute or want us to help your business, write to us at [email protected]

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