U.S. online retail sales grew faster in 2017 than they have since 2011. Ecommerce made up 13% of all retail sales in 2017 and also contributed to almost 50% of the growth in retail sales for the year.
Ecommerce has a lot of potential for businesses, but there is so much out there that it can become overwhelming and difficult to know where to focus your time and resources. We have compiled a list of the top eight ecommerce trends for 2018 so you can fine-tune your ecommerce business strategy for the year.
Eight ecommerce trends for 2018
1. Mobile explosion
It is no longer enough to have a mobile-friendly website. Desktop usage will take a backseat to mobile in 2018 in the ecommerce world as more people buy online from their phones and other smart devices.
The shopping experience needs to be equally smooth on both mobile and desktop. This means you have a mobile-friendly search, any product videos and pictures must display well on mobile, and that you support digital wallets.
The main areas to focus on here are supporting mobile checkout and reaching out to customers via SMS rather than just email. You need to support the entire mobile experience.
Magento offers a number of extensions to help sellers with mobile optimization, making this a platform to consider if you want to be mobile-ready.
2. The rise of social media
Ecommerce retailers need to embrace social media in 2018. Posting your products on sites such as Pinterest and Instagram are going to be effective ways to increase brand awareness in the coming year.
Facebook stores are becoming more popular. Many vendors such as BigCommerce allow you to build your own Facebook store with a built-in checkout.
2018 will see shoppers making more purchases directly through these social media channels, allowing people to buy without having to navigate to a different site or app. Retailers need to pay more attention to social media advertising if they want to capitalize on this trend.
Ads should be dynamic, responding to users based on items they previously viewed or purchased. Customer testimonials and videos are excellent tools for creating an online community that is loyal to your brand.
You also need to track how much you’re spending on social media advertising and the ROI so you can make sure you’re getting a solid return, and tweak your campaigns as needed. Analysis and monitoring are critical for success.
3. Faster delivery
Customers always want their items as fast and cheap as possible. Same or next-day delivery are becoming common, with the expectation of immediate delivery increasing in 2018.
Amazon Prime has accustomed many shoppers to free two-day delivery, but other platforms such as Jet also offer shipping advantages to customers with free shipping over $35 and grouping items together in ways to reduce shipping costs.
You may want to form a partnership with a delivery service or explore the possibility of using physical stores as distribution centers. If that is beyond your means, integrating your ecommerce platform with SAP Business One or another ERP system will enable you to fill orders faster and get them in your customers’ hands in a timely manner. Integration will also keep your inventory updated in real-time so you can process orders faster.
4. Better payment options
There are now many ways to pay – PayPal, Apple Pay, Android Pay. Buyers want to be able to pay the way they want when they buy from you. You need to set up shop in a way that supports multiple forms of payment, otherwise, you may find your customers shopping somewhere else.
WooCommerce is one of several ecommerce platforms that support sellers in accepting many forms of payment. It comes bundled with a number of payment gateways and provides extensions for adding more.
Cryptocurrencies are also becoming more popular in ecommerce, with sites such as Shopify and Etsy already supporting Bitcoin. It will take some time for cryptocurrencies to fully make their way into ecommerce, but retailers need to be aware that they are beginning to make their introduction. You need to understand what cryptocurrencies are and begin to educate yourself on how they will play a role in ecommerce transactions
5. Checkout efficiencies
Mobile checkout is a part of this trend, but it goes deeper. Buyers want to check out in as few clicks as possible, so you need to support this. They do not want to enter shipping, billing, or payment details repeatedly.
Amazon’s “1-Click” ordering has been around for years; while few shopping platforms have copied it, because Amazon is so dominant, one can safely say it has added to customer expectations.
This places an additional burden on you when designing your ecommerce business, but it does have some added benefits. One-click shopping encourages customers to buy more frequently because the process is so simple, making it in your best interest to create a quick and painless checkout experience.
6. Photos and videos
The quality of photos and videos has grown to a level where buyers now heavily rely on images to determine whether or not to buy. Retailers can no longer use poor quality, static images to sell products.
You need high-quality images, showing your products from all angles. Videos displaying your product in action will also draw customer attention and help increase sales.
This is important on all platforms, but eBay is a great example of where buyers tend to focus more on pictures and videos so they can see the quality of products.
7. Voice and image search
Amazon Alexa and Google Home have become a regular part of everyday life for many people. Customers are conducting more searches via voice. Walmart’s recent partnership with Google to enable voice shopping through Google Assistant is an example of how this trend is going mainstream. This requires some preparation on your part.
You need to have a firm understanding of who your customers are (customer personas) and how they shop (what language they use). This may take some research, but as voice search continues to rise, the investment here will come back to you in sales.
Image search is also gaining popularity as buyers are able to take a picture and then search for it. There is an obvious investment in supporting image-based search, but it can open your doors to new customers as it overcomes any issues of misnaming a product or speaking a different language. You suddenly are able to reach a much wider customer base.
8. Omni-channel approach
You may already sell in more than one place – such as Amazon or Jet – but the tendency to sell in more than one channel is going to increase in 2018 and beyond. Social sites are now making it easier to shop right from within the channel.
Channels available include:
- Websites (Amazon, Shopify, Jet, WooCommerce)
- Brick-and-mortar stores
- Pop-up shops
This is proving to be an effective way to create strong brand awareness. A good omni-channel strategy requires you have a bit of knowledge about each channel, so you can decide which ones are the smartest for your business. You also need to decide how much time and money to invest in each channel, as some may have a better ROI for you.
Managing each channel can be intimidating if you do not have the right tools and technology in place, but there are ways to make this process efficient.
Shopify is one of the leading ecommerce platforms that supports this multi-channel approach, providing many ways to sell your products.
Stay ahead of the competition
You don’t need to jump on all of these ecommerce business trends at once in order to succeed in 2018. But you do need to take some time to think about them and identify the ones that resonate the most with your business.
Create a plan of action around the top trends you want to embrace. Use the latest tools and technologies so you can adapt to these trends quickly without breaking the bank.
One tool that can help you with a number of these trends is Alluvia’s revolutionary integrator for SAP Business One. Alluvia provides rapid and affordable integration between SAP Business One (or other ERP systems) and various ecommerce and marketplace platforms. Integration can be setup in less than a day through a simple mapping wizard that walks you through predefined templates.
The benefits of this tool are:
- Delivers integration at an affordable price.
- Supports the omni-channel approach by allowing you to easily manage your ecommerce business on multiple platforms.
- Provides real-time inventory updates so you only sell what is available.
- Removes manual entry of orders so you fulfill orders faster, supporting the faster delivery expectations of customers.
- Changes to integration requirements by ecommerce platforms are handled automatically for you, keeping your business running smoothly.
This is a great example of how important it is to stay aware of new advances in technology that can help your ecommerce business grow and expand. The right tools keep you flexible so you can adapt to an ever-changing ecommerce world.
Every ecommerce business needs to stay current on trends. It’s the only way to increase sales and customer loyalty. Educate yourself, make choices that fit your business, and use tools that keep your business streamlined and efficient.