By Jake Rheude
We learned a lot in 2017 about where eCommerce is headed and what will impact its path. As a whole, eCommerce is losing much of its innocence and becoming a mature market that must act appropriately. Here are seven eCommerce trends to watch in 2018, based on what we learned last year.
1. Trust and Hacks Are Becoming More Complex
Online shopping is growing, but so are the risks and worries of your customers. They want to trust you, which is why your competition has been putting up more reviews, ratings, and trust icons.
What really set 2017 apart was the Equifax hack in September. More than 143 million people were likely impacted. Equifax taught consumers that our information couldn’t always be safe. There are some companies who have our data, and there’s nothing we can do about it. So, it’s likely our response will be to hold those brands we can control or impact to a higher standard.
Your eCommerce company is one such brand. In 2018, consumers will demand more guarantees and signs that things are safe. Your company can respond with more reviews, trust icons, and a clear explanation of what you do with customer data. Visibility and clarity are going to be two hallmarks of successful eCommerce brands this year.
2. Facebook Ads Should Send You Local
In 2017, we saw Facebook reach more than 2 billion active users, and 18.6 million Canadians use the site. Ads on the platform were even called the “most underpriced product in the world” last year. While costs are shifting somewhat, there’s still a lot of potential for the service.
Facebook ads are a fantastic way to drive traffic, and that lower cost is perfect for small brands. What we think the next step is for these ad units is pushing local shopping. Facebook’s mobile audience is growing, and mobile devices allow for greater recommendations.
Consider serving ads to people in your local area. Have the click-through page include a way to find the closest store using whatever the device’s native GPS or map app is.
3. Amazon May Be a Channel You Can’t Avoid
We often call Amazon a giant, but we might need a new name for the eCommerce brand. 50% of Canadians visit Amazon.ca at least once per month, and they’re much more likely to buy something than they are from other Canadian online retailers. Amazon.com snagged 4% of all U.S. sales in 2017, a new record. If you look at just eCommerce, Amazon sales account for 44% of the American market.
What this means is that you might not be able to compete without joining this or similar online marketplaces. The good news is, you can incorporate this into your channels, ERP, WMS, and other software with minimal fuss now.
Plus, the right fulfillment partner can also help you achieve the fast-shipping promises Amazon often demands, or you can opt for its fulfillment service. If you’re fighting to stay independent, you might have a better local game but could be missing out on a broader market.
Additionally, Amazon is a core adopter of innovative technologies. We’ll speak about one of its biggest promotions later, and it might be the tipping point to getting you to become an Amazon partner.
4. Combine Channels When Possible
When a company has both online operations and brick-and-mortar stores, there’s a significant amount of opportunity for improved customer service. You can use retail locations as local warehouses for shipping or customer pickup, while online serves as a larger sales channel.
While eCommerce is a dominant shopping trend, there’s still plenty of purchasing happening in physical stores. For most goods, in-store purchases are still the norm. If you own both, it’s time to link them as much as possible to encourage users to buy in new ways.
If you’re a small brand, you can use your online sales data to show how beneficial you’ll be on the shelves of retail partners. Boosts to your local efforts can translate into regional sales, allowing you to spread with the growth and trends of your customers.
We see the two-pronged approach as the smart path forward. You can see it in moves that major brands are making. In 2017. Target unveiled a pilot that allowed users to shop online and then get their goods at a retail location — the interesting part of the pilot is that your order is delivered to your car, so you don’t even need to go into the store.
Target also purchased Shipt, an online delivery service, for $550 million so it can go head to head with competitors that promise fast, convenient shipping. Part of the Shipt effort is to provide quick grocery deliveries, showing that no product category is immune to these shifting sands.
Combining the two can allow an eCommerce brand to have more brand recognition, which will be much more important when you get to our last point.
5. Free Shipping Is a (Needed) Final Push
Studies are now pegging free shipping as the best way to get people to make a purchase. One even goes so far as to claim that 93% of online shoppers view free shipping as the final push to have them buy from you.
78% of Canadian businesses currently offer free shipping with a minimum purchase. Free shipping and fast shipping have stopped being a bonus and are now an expectation. Find a way to offer them, or your eCommerce store may go the way of the dinosaur.
6. Voice Is Coming
It seemed like we couldn’t turn on the TV or the radio without hearing some ad for Alexa or other home assistants during the 2017 year-end holidays. Often the core part of these ads was the use of the system to make a hands-free purchase, so searching and shopping didn’t interrupt whatever else was going on in their lives.
Voice-based purchases are becoming a new standard. A Walker Sands report found that about 19% of people who could, did use these assistants to make a voice purchase in 2017. That could rise as high as 33% in 2018.
So, what does that mean for your eCommerce efforts?
First, you’ll need to get in with the marketplaces that are supported by such digital devices — yet another reason to consider an Amazon channel. Second, you’re going to have to make sure you’ve got name recognition and products that are easy to remember.
If you were going to create a radio ad for your brand and top product, would you need to spell either out so that searchers and shoppers could find it? Voice purchases are about speed and ease, so you’ve got to be top of mind. If customers are wondering how to spell a product or they try to buy your goods and can’t because it’s hard for the system to know what they’re saying, then you risk losing potential customers.
7. No One Is Completely Safe
You might think that your eCommerce brand is safe from these impacts, or other trends in the space, and you’re most likely wrong. Last year, we saw proof that even the giants of retail are taking hits when they fail to adapt.
Case-in-point: Starbucks. The company had to reduce its earnings forecasts last year because it expected to see less in-store traffic and lower same-restaurant sales growth. The company achieved a 6% growth in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the year before, missing its high-single-digit projection.
The main culprit: eCommerce. Fewer people heading to malls and out shopping has led to fewer casual drinkers and dips in sales, especially during a store’s non-peak hours. The complete picture has some nuances that show shifting consumer tastes as well. Building on one point we made above, the company is focusing more on the mobile app and rewards customer sales to help stem casual consumer losses.
What eCommerce trends will you be watching in 2018?
Jake Rheude is the Director of Business Development for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.
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