Trend: the general direction in which something is developing or changing; often imbued with an aspect of transience, "here today, gone tomorrow." In the world of e-commerce, however, trends tend to send a more lasting message.
What's trending today, may indeed fall a bit flat tomorrow, but certain lasting trends benefit from public perception like surfers at the crest of a wave. Today, we'll take a look at some new trends in e-commerce, as well as some staples. We'll even make a couple of tentative predictions as to the way the wind will blow in the latter half of 2014 and beyond.
1. Mobile Purchases Poised to Increase
This e-commerce trend just started ramping up in 2013 and it's undergoing a veritable explosion in popularity this year. While, for the moment, desktop purchases narrowly outnumber mobile ones, it's widely believed that those number will not in any way remain stable in the near future, or ever again for that matter.
When something works, people tend to take notice. Mobile browsing, shopping, and commerce all work like a charm. Online shoppers are taking more than a casual interest in making purchases on the go, and as the consumer confidence rises, so too will the tendency to make conversions on a mobile platform.
This being the case, you'll end up seeing a lot of online retailers responding to the market need by taking part in the next trend on our list.
2. Responsive Websites
It's important for your website to be handheld these days. As mobile purchases increase, more and more retailers will feel the pressure to accommodate their traveling consumers. Of course, the idea isn't just to facilitate, but to actually optimize the mobile shopping experience. What's the most popular e-commerce trend that's being tapped to meet the need right now? Building a responsive website.
Responsive websites are those that adjust to the devices that view them. In other words, they resize to a more attractive format based on the size of the screens that are viewing them. This is a trend not only in e-commerce, but in website design as a whole. Responsive is quickly becoming the norm, and fast becoming the preferred option over making a separate mobile site, or a native web application.
3. Individualized Targeting
Everybody loves cookies. The ones that websites tell you must be enabled to view their sites are slightly less popular than the sweet-smelling, fresh-baked kind, but probably a little more important to our discussion of trends in e-commerce. These cookies track different bits of browsing data, and better inform websites about their users' individualized behavior on their return visits.
Social networking data collected from various network APIs is also being shared with major online retailers. More and more, companies selling online are able to learn about their buyers' shopping habits. This is leading to tailored offers based on an individual's habits.
Though privacy concerns may abound, there's no stopping the progression of data collection when it comes to capitalistic commerce concerns. But hey, don't get too worried yet. Most of your personal information won't ever be processed by a human. You're far more likely to be entered into an algorithm to determine appropriate responses. And that leads us to trend number 4.
4. Marketing Automation
So people are lazy. Shocking, I know, but that doesn't make it any less true. If we can find a shortcut for something, we most certainly will. And as marketing gets more complex, informed by larger sets of data, collected from ever-increasing populations of consumers, a certain degree of automation becomes a necessity.
Luckily, software suites simplify the average online seller's life by leaps and bounds. While blast email services like Mail Chimp have been automating campaigns for a while now, new software suites like Infusionsoft combine multiple aspects of the marketing mix to make generating leads, obtaining website traffic, and converting visitors a smooth and seamless process.
Such tools make it nearly effortless to organize and execute all your marketing campaigns across multiple platforms — even including social marketing campaigns, which is another trend poised to explode in the near future.
5. Social Marketing
It's no secret that social networks have made a big impact on the marketing world. It is, after all, nothing more than word of mouth on a grander scale. Still, this burgeoning technology is making advances. With sexy labels like “Trending Items” (pictured above) smart e-commerce sites are taking advantage of this trend by showing their visitors which products are getting the most attention.
That's why social media buttons on your site are so important, and why many marketers are putting them on their product pages as well. Allowing your products to be liked on Facebook or pinned on Pinterest allows for the potential to go viral. If you strike the right chord with your content, products, or services then you can bet your audience will want to share what you have to offer.
This is another older trend that keeps increasing in efficacy. Geotargeting is the practice of gathering data on consumers based on their location and designing marketing campaigns to reach them where they live.
This could be something like offering free shipping to customers within your general area, as that will obviously be much more affordable for you than free shipping to someone across the globe. Or you could set your PPC campaign to display only to visitors in a particular area.
It's just one more subset of individualized targeting that can be used to great effect.
7. Same-Day Delivery
Today's consumer's value speed. If you are at all able to offer same-day delivery, even for a substantially greater cost, it may be worth looking into. Amazon has been able to implement the service to great effect, Google is poised to launch a similar service, and if you have the resources to receive requests quickly and employ a same-day delivery service, then it could certainly be a boon to your business as well.
8. Online/Mobile/Universal Payments
This one transcends trends, really, and belongs in the realm of e-commerce necessities. Paying and getting paid is an essential part of the e-commerce universe, and the payments a website can accept will often make or break it.
With the mobile wallet becoming more and more prevalent, the adoption of these “universal” payment systems will also become of greater importance. Almost everyone accepts PayPal at the moment, but what about Google Wallet? Or the upcoming Amazon payment system?
These are major service offerings from e-commerce giants, and they will almost certainly make a big splash in the years to come.
9. Balanced Feedback
Keeping with the water metaphor, another way for your website to make waves might not seem like the best idea at first glance, but allowing two sides of an argument to be visible statistically increases engagement. I am, of course, talking about bad reviews.
While an ever-increasing number of glowing reports about your products may enhance your credibility, it also arouses consumer skepticism. The fact is that e-commerce visitors looking for negative reviews are informed buyers. If they see only good things on your website, they're more likely to think you paid for reviewers than they are to believe you're offering the perfect product.
Statistically, consumers will remain on a website five times longer when they interact with a bad review. Not only that, but the same consumers will convert close to 85 percent more frequently than others. That's because they've seen a balanced view of the product offering, and still thought it was worth their money.
10. Coupon Box Alternatives
Some e-commerce trends exist to address well-intended offerings that end up costing you conversions. One such offering is the coupon code box. It's great if your visitors have a coupon, but if they don't, it can become a stumbling block to conversion.
More and more, e-commerce sites are removing this box in favor of a button that says “Click here if you have a coupon.” It's a small psychological trick that can be used to keep customers from feeling like they're missing out on additional savings.
11. Login With Facebook
Want to get easy access to a customer's likes and interests? If they have a social media account and an account with your website, you can combine the two and access much of their personal data. Additionally, this tactic ensures a secure login process that you outsource to a reliable third party. It's just one more example of trends in commerce combining with social networking.
12. Content is Still King
Content marketing isn't so much an e-commerce trend as it is a staple. Giving customers something for nothing builds trust, authority and recognition. Continue to provide quality content and you're sure to continue reaping the rewards.
13. Drone Delivery
So maybe Amazon's widely publicized drone delivery program isn't exactly up and running just yet. This is, however, one of the most exciting innovations put to the public in a long while. And though there are skeptics aplenty as to the logistics surrounding unmanned single-package delivery, it's still something to keep your eye on because it has the potential to be revolutionary.
Speaking of revolutionary, untested, and intriguing, independent currencies such as Bitcoin have made a big splash in the public consciousness over the past couple of years. While highly volatile as yet, and on shaky ground with governments around the world at best, the potential for Bitcoin to become a regulated currency and a household name is more than just the pipedream that many once considered it.
Perhaps more relevant to e-commerce site owners is the fact that accepting Bitcoin as payment puts you in touch with a legion of Bitcoin loyalists willing to support any brand that supports the growing movement.
E-commerce is a fast-maturing field with many moving parts, and a flux of upward and downward trends alike. Why e-commerce trends do you think are poised to take the world by storm? Tell me about it in the comments.