Keeping up with the latest eCommerce trends and figuring out how to use them can be quite a difficult task for eCommerce platform owners as there is so much information to make sense of.
Especially because every year brings about new, advanced strategies for eCommerce optimization.
I’ve got you covered.
In this article I will summarize the 21 most important eCommerce trends for 2018 and give detailed explanations to help you reach your business goals for the coming year.
Let’s start with what happened in eCommerce in 2017:
Exceptional growth in markets, larger profit margins, exciting case studies revealing huge growth potentials, new buzzwords, and bigger expectations for future trends than ever before characterized an exciting 2017. People began monitoring global changes in eCommerce marketing trends, so keeping up with the news has become more important than ever.
Online shopping expanded worldwide. According to these statistics, revenue for eCommerce shops reached 2.29 trillion dollars in 2017. Based on recent years’ growth in revenue, we can predict a bright future for eCommerce.
This tendency holds true for the US as well. Revenues gained from selling physical products online in 2017 exceeded the 409.2 billion dollar threshold – already 50 billion dollars high than in previous years.
The Chinese eCommerce market experienced a boom in 2016 by generating nearly 50% of all eCommerce revenue globally and thus became the world’s largest retail markets. Their huge market share only increased in 2017.
One recurring topic for international ecommerce has been the untapped potential of the Asian and Pacific regions. One study concludes that 1.4 billion people will join the global middle-class, and 85% of these people would live in these 2 regions. These people are all potential customers for eCommerce shops. Those businesses who enter this market early will certainly get a headstart on their competitors.
What are the defining ecommerce trends for 2018? Let’s delve into them!
1. Use Data-driven CRO Techniques to Quickly Beat Your Competitors
CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is going to have great significance this year as well, but in a different way. CRO is becoming more and more widespread due to the sheer amount of data you can gather by using it. It helps you get insight about your customers at different buying funnel stages and their lifetime value. Even though it will take time and energy to analyze it, this data provides awesome insight.
You have to make the decision:
You can either accept your average 2% conversion rate or take initiative and act differently. In this latter case, you would analyze, research, do A/B testing and immerse yourself in your own eCommerce platform data. Based on the results you would think about all the different options available for design, text, and product category alterations and eventually make the necessary changes.
Analytical tools such as Google Analytics will produce even more valuable data for your CRO goals in 2018. Whether you want to find out the main focus of searches on your site or about the most frequently visited landing pages, the key thing is to research it in order to move beyond the 2% conversion rate.
2. Provide Easier, Quicker Payment Options for Ecommerce on Mobile
Users shopping on mobile expect the same speed, simplicity and freedom in their experience as when shopping on their favourite eCommerce platform’s desktop cite. Cynthia Savard, director of design at Shopify, claims that traditional payment forms (with countless fields to fill in) will be less common in 2018. Even if we happen to run into them we won’t be too happy about filling them out, or – most likely – will not be using them at all. In the not so distant future it will only take one click or one touch to pay.
Pretty cool, huh?
Let me point one thing quickly though:
The implementation of this easier payment is mostly to be expected in those eCommerce platforms which keep up with the latest trends.
3. Implement Voice Search to Enhance Customer Experience
Speed is a force to be reckoned with, even in search. Who wouldn’t save time by speaking instead of typing their queries into Google?
It is a lesser-known fact, but voice search has been around for some time. According to Google, 20% of mobile queries are voice searches and this is becoming an integral part of browsing the Internet. 2018 is going to be the year when voice search revolutionizes customer experience on the world wide web.
Recently, Google and Walmart teamed up to enable Walmart shoppers to sync their profiles with Google Assistant’s services, making voice shopping possible with simple voice commands.
Users get product recommendations based on their past searches and behavior on Walmart’s website, which in turn makes shopping easy and helps identify individual customer needs.
4. Use Emotional Personalized Animations and Videos to Increase Clickthrough Rate
Most eCommerce companies see their landing pages as targetable commercial surfaces, which are easy to create and modify based on their goals. Some even use landing pages for product intro videos.
Some other companies approach creating landing pages with more creativity and use refined animations and daring videos in the form of self-made motion pictures to lure in customers. Experts estimate that more eCommerce companies will start to use daring visuals in 2018.
Tailor-made and highly targeted animations play the same role in customer experience enhancement as do quick payment and voice search.
So you might ask:
How can you implement your fun, laid-back animations in your eCommerce platform or transactional e-mails?
- Deliver simple messages (saying goodbye)
- Express emotions (thank you)
- Even express urgency (if your product is out of stock)
While a few well-timed animations will enhance the customer experience, video content would make an even bigger splash.
Here is some data to back it up:
Researchers conclude that video content increases click-through rate 200-300% and also boosts buying intent by 97%.
Ecommerce platforms will move towards focusing on user created videos (user generated content –UGC). This provides even more options for ecommerce businesses as they only need to support/encourage the creation of these user generated contents without having to spend any money directly.
5. Bring Your Channels and Your Customers Together with Omni-Channel Management
Ecommerce businesses will need to spend some time on choosing and unifying their sales channels in 2018. It is common knowledge that omni-channel sales, one seamless experience regardless of method of purchase, is one of the main keys for success.
Today’s standards require you to reconsider how you can really integrate these channels seamlessly into one. Those eCommerce businesses that can successfully find the connection points between the different channels will be able to reach and lead the customer all the way to purchase.
What does omni-channel mean in practical terms?
Basically, it means that the potential customer gets the same value proposition and thus the same customer experience. The same conditions would apply regardless of if a customer is in a brick and mortal store, at an event, receiving a transaction email, newsletter, shopping online, or visiting a company’s social media page.
How does this apply to your business?
The fine line between physical and online shopping is gone, it is only shopping now.
What matters is the customer experience. The benefits of omni-channel thinking go well beyond the channels.
6. Refine Customer Interaction with Facebook Chatbots
Don’t miss out on this one.
One of the biggest hypes of 2017 in eCommerce was the introduction of artificially intelligent chatbots into everyday life. Their appearance on the scene foreshadows the automatization of online communication.
Chatbots will still stick around thanks to Facebook, as their role with Messenger reached new heights in 2016. Their chatbots exchange more than 2 billion messages per month with customers.
The presence of customer service chatbots will only grow in eCommerce in 2018 as they are able to perform increasingly difficult tasks. They not only recommend products or answer simple questions, but they also walk the customer through all the stages of online shopping –from search through the completion of a purchase.
7. Use Intelligent Product Recommendation Systems
Intelligent product recommendation systems used in eCommerce are able to deduce what the customer wants using machine learning. During online shopping, these systems mapped out the different search queries and based on those, offered suggestions.
In 2018 product recommending services will be able to recommend products using data other than query based results.
These could result from semantic or thematic matching, but on the customer behavior as well, and on the customer’s preferences perceived on the eCommerce platform. Regardless of which will lead to the given conclusion, intelligent product recommendation systems will tailor their recommendations to the individual and will certainly contribute to countless purchases.
8. Speedy Delivery on the Very Same Day (The Sooner the Product Meets the Customer, the Better)
Product recommendations lead the customer to a purchase decision, but this is not the high point for them and neither is placing an order. The best part, for the customer, is when they receive the purchased product and grasp it with their own hands for the first time.
This is why it matters how quickly the product arrives to customer’s place.
Here’s a good rule of thumb.
Delivery expectations are straightforward in 2018: speed, speed, and speed.
Most customers deem immediate or at least same day delivery as ideal, which is a high request for eCommerce companies to deliver on.
Online shoppers also want product deliveries to fit into their schedule. And to be free, or at least cheap.
Same day delivery is a great challenge for eCommerce businesses and stiff competition pushes companies to do more. Shops with better delivery options will gain long term advantage over their competitors. By ensuring same day delivery for their customers, you can gain your customers’ trust and approval.
If you haven’t looked into drop shipping or remote warehousing, that might be a great way to streamline your delivery.
9. Enhanced VR/AR Experiences – Give a You Customers’ a Feel of the Product Before They Purchased It
Every online shopper wants to see a product in person before they purchase it.
So here is one of the big eCommerce questions in 2018:
Will this year be the breakthrough in AR and VR? Will their influence on customer purchases unleashed?
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are no longer so far-fetched that their implementation in the eCommerce and marketing work is unattainable.
You only need a special device – a headset or a pair of glasses, and an app to unleash the world of virtual reality.
The image of the product would appear on a screen or in the glasses, which would help shoppers get in close contact with the product, instead of just imagining it.
Simple technologies, such as represented by Google Cardboard (paper VR-glasses and the accompanying app), make VR openly available for all eCommerce businesses.
Or at least in theory.
Companies such as Google, Facebook, and Apple are investing a lot of time and effort to make AR and VR part of our everyday life. Just think about the ARKit, the Augmented Reality platform of Apple.
Will AR and VR influence eCommerce in 2018?
Experimenting with AR and VR strategies will, without a doubt, lead to a whole new level of customer experience.
It’s worth repeating:
AR- and VR- experience can be used to enhance the customer experience before the purchase takes place.
You can deliver the chosen product into your would-be customer’s hands, room or office, well before they buy it. This would do so much more than the most expressive picture, most descriptive text description, and the funniest of all videos could.
According to one research study, using AR as part of the customer experience can increase customer brand loyalty by up to 70%.
If this is true, it won’t take long before others notice the potential and AR and VR go viral.
So don’t lag behind!
10. Cryptocurrency and Blockchain – New Channels and New Payment on the Horizon
Another exciting question is whether virtual currencies – cryptocurrencies, will gain the same popularity in online shopping as blockchain has.
Can it become a reality in 2018 and if so, should you be ready to integrate cryptocurrency payment methods into your eCommerce website?
It may take a while before it becomes widespread, but it is only a matter of time before cryptocurrencies and the online commerce world start to build upon each other. It is also no secret that the most popular cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, have already been accepted in the eCommerce for quite some time. To name one example, Shopify already has accepted it as a valid payment method for years now.
The ’getting familiar with it’ phase is over. Blockchain-technology is the foundation of cryptocurrency payment. Transactions are transparent and, at the same time, security and privacy are guaranteed
Alibaba, the eCommerce giant, keeps it no secret that they use blockchain-technology for tracking the origin of foods and counterfeit foods. Amazon has recently tried to get on board as well, and registered 3 domains related to cryptocurrencies.
11. Use Email Automatization for Loyalty and New Customers
Whereas we are only going to get a small glimpse into the acceptance of cryptocurrencies and blockchain in eCommerce, e-mail automatization will certainly become an integral part of businesses in 2018.
Everyone knows about the efficiency of e-mail marketing; online eCommerce webshops have already gained firsthand experience with the benefits for email marketing. It is easily automatized and, at the same time, the unique content stays untouched.
Let’s find out why 2018 will be the year for email automatization:
- Building email lists is the easiest and cheapest way for eCommerce businesses to reach their customers. It is also great way to boost loyalty among your customers and to encourage them to buy more often by recommending products based on their individual needs.
- Upsell recommendations included in an email newsletter are much more likely to be read than those that are recommended elsewhere. A great place to include these recommendations are when you email a customer to verify the receipt of payment.
- Another big advantage of email is its measurability. You can easily track opening and click-through rates, which both provide data from which you can draw conclusions about how to increase conversions.
In addition, A/B testing is rather simple when it comes to emails. Based on previously gathered data, you can identify the places where changes would improve your conversion rates and you can easily tweak your messaging.
Emails are very personal, which helps you get closer to your customers
12. Social Media Campaigns and Retargeting – Improve Customer Loyalty
For most eCommerce businesses, social media presence means having a Facebook page. They mostly post about their current sales campaigns and sometimes start building a community.
Social media could have a much larger role in 2018, especially in regards to increasing customer loyalty and store traffic.
Understanding customer behavior will be the key.
There are some main areas that you need to understand in order increase customer loyalty:
- Why do customers abandon their cart before submitting their order? And what message would get them to return to it? With Segmented retargeting ads you can convince cart-abandoners to return to continue their shopping.
- How can you convince customers by using others testimonials and opinions? There is great potential in social proof. You can even use all this in retargeting ads to target cart abandoners. Currently 87% of online advertisers use video content – why would eCommerce be any different?
13. Social Selling – Broaden Your Reach with Instagram
Purchasing on social media sites, such as Facebook shops, started years ago.
According to one survey published in 2016, 18.2% of participants had purchased directly via social media. They were the early birds of social shopping and their followers will only grow in number in 2018.
What else is to come?
It is worth noting that Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing site, could be a new shopping platform offering unique opportunities. The Facebook owned company has more than 800 million active users, but this could soon reach 1 billion.
Social selling is getting more and more popular, just like shopping on mobile phones. No surprise there since both have the added advantage of offering simple and comfortable shopping. Sooner or later the 2 will merge and mobile shopping will dominate on social media sites as well.
14. Influencer Marketing – Make Buzzwords into Reality
Influencer marketing started off as a promising buzzword for eCommerce businesses in 2017 and made its impact. One of the biggest challenges for web shops will be to find credible influencers for their business.
Would the influencers make a difference? Can you build your whole marketing strategy around them? Is it worth it?
You might be wondering about the possible ways of using influencers:
Your target group needs to be exposed to credible influencers. This can be done in several ways. To put it, see the bulletpoints below:
- The influencer can showcase the product and service as he/she uses it or even give it a rating.
- Their presence also works with promotions. They can offer discounts on their social media profile such as links leading to special online offers.
15. UX: Focus on the Mobile Experience – the Desktop Experience Is Becoming Secondary
At the end of 2017, we noticed a significant increase in mobile shopping, which in turn led to a new consumer trend to watch. During the end-of-year holiday season, 33% of all online shopping happened via mobile devices. You can see why it’s so important to provide a top-notch mobile experience. If you don’t, customers leave your site for your competitors who provide a better experience. In the US, 62% of smart phone users have purchased something via mobile shopping in the past 6 months — a 10% increase compared to previous years.
When did it all start?
The defining moment happened in 2015 when internet usage on mobile devices surpassed that on desktops for the first time. Ecommerce statistics show a steady increase in mobile shopping ever since. It is no coincidence that ecommerce businesses are constantly reminded to keep their ecommerce platform responsive and optimized for mobile devices. According to one survey conducted in 2017, 11% of those interviewed claimed that they shop via mobile on a weekly basis.
Mobile shopping is defining eCommerce trends. As mentioned earlier, more and more people shop on their mobile on social media sites (Facebook, Instagram).
It is estimated that in 2018, 40% of eCommerce revenue will be generated by mobile shopping. This will make mobile shopping the main focus for customer experience.
It has always been important to provide the same quality experience for both desktop and mobile devices, but due to the gradual increase in mobile shopping, the priority has shifted toward improving the mobile experience. Responsivity is important, but it is not the only thing. The mobile experience will impact how your customers view your brand.
Of course, desktop sites still need to remain transparent, user-friendly, responsive, and with quick loading time. However, the main focus will need to be directed to the mobile experience. It needs to be transparent, well-indexed and should request no more fields to fill in than what is absolute necessary for a quick, straightforward shopping experience – with one click or touch if possible.
16. Make Shopping a Fun Experience: More Personalization, Precise Localization
The needs of online shoppers grow in direct relation to technological advancements.
A couple years ago it was enough to provide a quality customer experience with simple order management, perfect delivery and logistics, and available customer service. Having all this in the past made your shop quite advanced, but now, in 2018 it is the default. If you don’t give you customers something extra they might take their business to a competitor.
Personalization and localization can give users a reason to stick with your shop. All you need to implement to take advantage of this are:
- smart analytical tools to make sense of the data
- determination to implement the right strategy based upon the collected data
The more unique and personal data you collect, the more you can enhance customer experience:
- You can recommend new products based on past searches in the web-store, the content of the cart, previous orders, and geographical location.
- Analyzing the user’s social media behavior (what they liked, rated, commented on in your Facebook shop) can also help personalize their experience.
- Even localization based recommendations are personalized. To do this, you only need to locate the customer by their IP address.
17. B2B and eCommerce: this year they are interconnected
Whereas B2C customers are automatically personalized, B2B customers are treated differently. If you only consider the revenue generated by the 2 platforms, then the B2B platform generated considerably less than its counterpart.
There are some new positive tendencies within B2B markets which speak for themselves:
What took B2B shops so long to see this massive growth?
The biggest issue is that with B2C platforms, the customer is the center of attention, while in the B2B sector this isn’t the case.
However, this could all change in 2018 as the B2B eCommerce sphere has started growing and webshope are adhering to the new trends.
In many cases there is only a fine line dividing the quality expected of B2B and B2C businesses. The CEO who has a positive experience mobile shopping on their favorite brand’s web-shop will expect the same treatment in the B2B world.
In other words:
B2B webshops only need to follow user needs and provide a proper response to them. One such example would be exceptional delivery experience.
18. Delivery: Be Fast, Attentive, and Wrap It Up
2018 will be the year of personalized delivery.
Be it for B2B or B2C companies, speed will define customer experience, which makes sense from the customers’ point of view.
Any store that can reduce the between order placement and delivery will get more orders.
Flexibility is key when it comes to the requested place and time of the delivery. The customer may not be sitting at home when the carrier arrives, so any store that acts promptly and considerately will be sitting ahead of their competition. In order to get ahead, you will have to be creative and attentive to your customers’ needs.
Also, you have to wrap it up.
Wrapping products quickly and efficiently requires no extra expense and makes a great impression on customers. It looks like you went out of your way and did a little something special for them. It’s the perfect way to boost customer satisfaction. A small little gift and the right wrapping paper highlighting your web-store’s uniqueness can make all the difference.
19. Content Marketing – Increase Loyalty, Traffic, and User Experience at the Same Time
It’s no exaggeration that companies providing the right combination of useful information and unique insights started to gain the upper hand in the eCommerce sphere.
I know this might seem strange.
Let’s look at a few numbers:
- Currently, 78% percent of CMOs see custom-made content as the future of all marketing strategies.
- HubSpot goes even further. They claim that conversion rates can be doubled from 6% to 12% by using a mix of educational, helpful, and entertaining content.
- The dollar values related to having a consistent content marketing strategy are also quite significant. According to recent research, businesses that heavily rely on content as part of their marketing efforts save over $14 on each new customer acquired.
The variety of the kind of content available and its saturation on the internet will change a lot in 2018. Text, video, infographics, games and other interactive pieces of content (tests, quizzes, calculators) will become more popular than static text.
These interactive pieces can be used in a myriad of ways: to entertain, showcase products and features, educate, or gather feedback.
Facts are stubborn and numbers never lie.
Marketers for whom their blog is a priority are 13 times more likely to achieve a positive ROI.
Even though blogs are important, it might do more harm than good to jump on the bandwagon without proper preparations. Everyone who intends to do it right needs careful planning, no matter whether they have or have not been involved in content marketing before.
In order to choose the right channels and the right content to publish, eCommerce businesses need to know their audience, demographics, and consumer habits. They also need to know their competitors’ online communication style, the keywords they used for website optimization, and on what platforms they advertise.
Choosing channels must not be self-serving or arbitrary. You can use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube to name the most readily available for content marketing, but make sure whatever channel you decide to use is also used by your target audience!
20. It Is Time to Differ from Others – Use Storytelling to Create your Brand’s Identity
If you have done your homework, you know your customers’ preferred channels, their pains and goals, and if you possess the required resources to pull off a consistent content marketing strategy, all you need is quality content. Make sure your content is creative, intelligible, direct, personal, and above all, distinctive so that it not only generates traffic, but encourages engagement and therefore increases conversion too.
This year you will hear marketing experts talk about how important storytelling has become for eCommerce businesses.
But what kind of stories are people telling?
Simply creating a few good stories isn’t enough, you have to have a theme behind the content, so people can easily identify you brand on every channel you’re active on. Today’s customers have gotten accustomed to seeing consistent messaging with slight personalization from a company.
Your social media posts, blog articles, weekly newsletters, or inspirational videos that you secretly hope will become viral all contribute to your brand identity and make your brand more top-of-mind to shoppers.
Ultimately, storytelling and the emotional attachment created by it can be the deciding factor that distinguishes one eCommerce website from the other by making it stand out, which then creates loyal customers.
21. Capture the Moment – Focusing on Micro-Moments Will Be a Game-Changer from 2018 on
Customers are virtually bombarded by all kinds of content (ads, emails, tweets, push notifications) – all day every day, thus their attention span is short and every moment is crucial.
The way eCommerce businesses think about targeting and communicating with their potential customers needs to change.
Your customers’ behavior and preferences are defined by their goals. These goals are constantly changing, so you need to be able to monitor and respond to them. Google enables you to do just that by tracking micro-moments, a concept introduced in 2015.
The specific micro-moments that determine the success of your marketing efforts are the following:
- buying decisions at a given moment
- looking for a quick solution to a problem
- moments that culminate into reaching a larger goal over a certain period of time,
- trying out new things
Being able to identify these triggers makes it possible for you to understand the customers’ intentions during any interaction and enables you to optimize your marketing tools and content accordingly.
This is where marketing automatization comes into the picture. Without that, this is an impossible mission.
How can you use micro-moments to boost your sales?
E-mails sent after transactions can be turned into a hook that will help you retain your active customers. Sharing useful videos, tips, and how-tos via simple text or video tutorials can keep your customers engaged.
In 2018, it is time to stop beating around the bush and make it part of your daily efforts to improve your conversion rates.
I bet you wonder what the most important implications of these trends are for the future.
In summary: 2018 will be as much about improving customer buying experience as about optimizing conversion rates on every channel that your eCommerce business is active on.
Simple, and cheap, optimizations such as changing the text on a call-to-action or shortening an unnecessarily complex shopping process can bring spectacular results.
A study by Bain & Company indicates that an increase of just 5% in customer retention rates can increase profits by 25% to 95%.
The technology that is available in 2018 will help you tremendously in your conversion optimization efforts. There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of tools out there waiting for you to use them. One example is to use Google to run A/B tests – it’s easy and free!
Conversion optimization has become the go-to phrase for marketing agencies because it’s so impactful.
Trends like using machine learning have been popping up in different ways on eCommerce websites. Chatbots and intelligent site search solutions are not bold experiments in a marketing strategy anymore, but rather have become essential extensions that ensure an efficient and profitable operation.
I am sure that by now you are convinced that conversion optimization is needed and that you can achieve great things with it. However, all these tools are useless if you don’t combine them with a mindset where the customer and their buying experience are at the heart of each and every decision.
Potential customers come to your website for a variety of reasons and with a wide range of motivation, beliefs, and emotions.
Purchasing your product or service is just one of their many motivations.
- To get more information. Accurate information is always in short supply, by creating great content you can be their go-to source.
- To solve a problem.
- Or they are coming from another channel – which could be anything from social media to paid advertisement – and in order to continue their journey, you need to reinforce the positive impression you made in the previous stages.
The big and final question everyone would like to know the answer to is whether there is an easy way to do all this?
Unfortunately, there isn’t.
But if you follow this guide, you will have an easier time staying on the path to success:
The purchase of a product or service can only partially solve the problems of your customers.
Long-term success requires relentlessly optimizing the whole customer buying experience by paying special attention to your customers’ unique needs.
For those who want speedy delivery, you have to provide same day delivery.
For a customer who is puzzled, you should create “how-to” content that will give them the WOW experience they’re looking for.
Finally, there are those shoppers who are hard to please; they are a though nut to crack. You can always try to appeal to them through social media – perhaps you can get their attention through their favorite influencer who they surely trust!