How eCommerce Changed in 2017
The trends, successes and lessons of last year should be a great indication as to how eCommerce will evolve in 2018, and beyond.
The Year of Mobile Commerce
It seems that 2017 was definitely the year of growth for mobile commerce. The rise in mobile-sessions increased significantly, and in sectors such as fashion, it even outperformed desktop for the very first time in terms of usage.
We saw in the Wolfgang Digital 2017 eCommerce Study, that businesses that had more mobile page and tablet page views grew revenue faster, yet, as expected, desktop sessions were still responsible for the majority of revenue.
As the emphasis on mobile commerce continues well into the New Year, it’ll most likely bring with it new challenges for some merchants. Now more than ever, it’s so important for businesses to evaluate the usability of their mobile-site and consider investing further in marketing efforts and storefront apps to boost mobile sales.
Amazon really set the standard in 2017, and not just by breaking sales records on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Temando State of Shipping in Commerce Report really highlighted the disconnect between retailers and consumers when it comes to shipping expectations. And what’s caused this disconnect? Two words: Amazon Prime.
“Not only has Amazon set the standard for how to do retail well, it’s set the new consumer standard on shipping. Prime-like shopping is the new benchmark with Americans demanding ultimate convenience and immediacy at a low cost.”
This shift in consumer expectation and behaviour shows us that shipping is definitely an area that merchants must look at in 2018, in order to grow and compete. The study showed that those who invested in shipping during 2017 grew because of it, with 50% of retailers seeing an increase in sales after adding shipping choices and 43% seeing a boost in revenue.
Some other interesting takeaways from the shipping survey included:
- Consumers want more options to control their deliveries – they want to dictate how, when and where products are shipped.
- 40% of consumers expect to access Amazon-prime style memberships in the next 1-3 years.
- Shipping fees and lengthy waiting times cause shopping cart abandonment.
- 59% of shoppers will opt to buy from a bricks and mortar store if they feel that the delivery fee for buying the same item online is too high.
- Retailers are struggling to find a profitable model for premium delivery services, and as a result, retailer adoption has slowed down.
Perhaps drones will be the answer to all shipping-woes in 2018? After all, we already know that they’re being tested right now by companies such as Amazon. Boasting transportation times of just under an hour, delivery drones would definitely be a game-changer for the eCommerce industry should they be introduced this year.
The Growth of B2B as B2C
When we think about the successes of the eCommerce industry in 2017, the growth of the B2B market might not be the first thing we think about, but it’s definitely one we should talk about.
Last year showed steady growth for B2B eCommerce, as merchants began to master things like personalisation, bulk shipping and customer quotations – recognizing the importance of streamlining their purchasing process.
You might remember our blog post back in May last year, written about the exciting announcement made at ‘Magento Imagine’ that there were to be huge developments for the B2B market in 2017. Well, those new and more-accessible features, including things like corporate account management and customisable pricing, were introduced last year and have already taken Magento’s B2B clients from strength to strength.
If the growth of B2B eCommerce has shown us anything this year, it’s that consumers – regardless of where they shop, what they buy or for what reason – need to be treated as individuals with specific needs. As we grow accustomed to the personalisation perks and features of our B2C online shopping experiences, our expectations of B2B platforms will continue to rise as well. To really raise the bar in 2018, B2B merchants should consider introducing these key features to their eCommerce site:
- Intuitive navigation and search.
- Product recommendations based on shopping habits.
- Personalised accounts.
- Tailored pricing.
- Quick repeat ordering.
The evolution of B2B as B2C is definitely a hot topic in eCommerce right now that’s for sure. It’s even been estimated to grow twice as large as the B2C marketplace by the end of the decade – so watch this space.
AI and Voice-Search
One of the most discussed topics within the industry in 2017 had to be about the increased use of AI, Voice Search and Machine Learning for eCommerce. Whilst these technologies are still very much advancing, tools used for fraud protection, predictive learning, customer personalisation, and so on, have definitely made a noticeable impact this past year, especially Voice Search.
Voice Assistant devices like Amazon Echo, Siri, Cortana and Google Home, are changing the way in which consumers search, discover, shop, and live – not only that, but they’re changing the industry too. According to the KPCB Internet Trends Report, by 2020 at least 50% of searches will be made via images or voice commands.
Heading into 2018, we expect to see AI applications, such as chatbots and voice-activated devices, become more and more sophisticated. In turn, we’ll probably see a big shift in the way that digital marketers work, focusing heavily on long-tail keywords and semantic SEO in order to stay relevant in the age of voice search and an even more personalized sales process.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
We were astounded last year when Swedish superstar IKEA (previously known for their experimentation with VR) unveiled their latest technological venture, augmented reality for retail.
Partnering with Apple and their newly-launched iPhone 8 with ARKit capabilities, IKEA successfully developed and launched the IKEA Place App – and boy did it go down a storm. For the first time ever, customers had the ability to make solid buying-decisions by seeing products in their own home, without having to spend a penny doing so.
Bringing technologies like these, usually only associated with the gaming industry, into the World of eCommerce offers the opportunity to develop the use of AR and VR into accessible tools for real-life decision making. With it, we could expect to see all sorts of benefits for businesses, such as a decline in product returns, a more satisfied customer experience, and greater customer engagement.
In a time in retail where consumers crave online shopping experiences that are as personal, authentic and as close to the-real-thing as possible, it’s clear that there is a place for immersive technologies, like VR and AR, in eCommerce. Looking to the future, here are a few trends and developments we’ll most likely be keeping our eye on:
- Improbable’s development of large-scale virtual worlds. Offering the potential to create immersive buying experiences for consumers.
- The development of hand-tracking and human interface technology to revolutionize how humans interact with computers, website and other technology.
- Virtual changing rooms. The Walker Sands retail report claims that 35% of consumers would shop more online if they were able to try on products virtually.
- Amazon’s patented ‘Augmented Reality Presentation’ concept.
- Shoppable VR and AR experiences. Similar to the IKEA app and John Lewis’s 360 Facebook ads, we hope to see a more fluid and integrated purchasing process.
Selling products alone simply isn’t good enough anymore. With competition around every corner and a record-breaking number of store closures and bankruptcies in 2017, the need for a more personalised and emotionally-driven online experience has no doubt been a top-priority amongst many merchants this year.
Providing customers with a much more tangible shopping experience, similar to that of an in-store experience, will make all the difference going forward. Greater personalisation, greater emphasis on brand backstory, and a better customer journey are expected to be the holy grail for eCommerce merchants going forward.
Interested to see what else happened in eCommerce in 2017? We found some pretty telling results in some of the studies we read, here are a few:
- Customer purchase journeys are getting longer.
- Google remains the key driver of the web, providing the highest converting traffic – But could it’s influence be on the decline as consumers’ paths to purchase become more diverse?
- More mobile sessions than desktop for the first time.
- Mobile revenue is increasing – yet desktop remains on top.
- Pinterest gains power – Websites with higher traffic via Pinterest received higher average order values.
- Food sites are on the up – Conversion rates are 15x those of typical retail e-commerce.
- ‘Dark Traffic’ grew slightly this year – This relates to traffic that isn’t traceable by any Analytics programs. Including visits from text and chat app links, copying and pasting URLs, app links, private browsing, and other linking without referrers.
- Email still exceeds Facebook – Those who get more traffic from email enjoyed a higher AOV.
- Time is money – Longer session durations equated greatly to conversion rates.
- The value of the loyal, repeat shopper remains.
- People trust Google – Higher levels of Google organic traffic correlated with conversion rates.
- Site speed matters.
- Sticky websites sell more.
- Tablet users more likely to shop luxury – Higher than average tablet sessions correlated strongly with high average order values.
The trends seen last year will continue to influence the landscape of the industry for quite some time. And, as eCommerce continues to evolve in-line with consumer demands and desires, so should merchants.
Now we don’t have a magic ball to tell you how things will change again in 2018, but we are experts in the industry and so we can tell you that there’s never been a more exciting time to be in eCommerce – don’t you agree?