Another great year for ecommerce is drawing to a close, with online sales in 2016 sitting at £60.4 billion – a 14.9% rise on 2015 (which was 16.2% up on 2014).
Before we talk about the main E-commerce trends for 2017, let's take a minute to talk about who's doing the buying. While online shopping is popular across all age groups, two in particular stand out: Millennials (aged about 18-35) and Silver Surfers (aged about 50 to 70). Both of these groups make up a huge percentage of the general population, but have different ideas and expectations when it comes to shopping online.
Who's doing the buying?
Very tech savvy – have grown up around tech and are 'digital natives'
Growing older, and may have worsening eyesight
Adapt (and adopt) quickly to new technology, using mobile more than desktop
Adopted tablets quickly, but historically prefer desktop
Have short attention spans, but are very social
Aware of value and service, and expect high levels of both
These differences definitely need careful consideration, especially when putting into action what we believe will be the main 2017 e-commerce trends:
A greater use of real time
Web 2.0 has been around for years now, and systems like Zapier and IF make it easier to connect different Web 2.0 enabled systems together. This is great for saving time, for example Zapier files a copy of Amazon receipts in Xero without you lifting a finger. Now that we can connect more and more systems together in real time, we're able to give our customers useful information when they need it.
Delivery companies are doing this in simple but effective ways. While some use the old method of telling us which day our package will arrive (handy, but still means we have to wait in all day if it won't fit through the letterbox), companies like DPD use real time technology to tell us the estimated delivery time down to the hour.You can even watch the delivery van’s progress through your neighbourhood. As consumers are given more ability to service their information needs, they'll be able to choose what to show.
You've probably already seen Facebook Live and Instagram Stories? Let's imagine how that concept could be used for retail. Customers have the ability to get their friends opinions on an outfit when they're still in the changing room, and to leave reviews in real time too.
Focus on personalisation
The cost of manufacture has been driven down and down, but one area where price has held firm is personalised goods. Dell is often hailed as the 'pioneer of personalisation' (although in their case it went unchecked and become too unwieldy) and the rest of the world has now caught up. Buyers are looking for this functionality across the board. This can be as simple as letting people include a greeting card with their order (as Amazon does), or to personalise the item completely (like notonthehighstreet.com).
On a similar note, size matching databases like Truefit and Etilize have made it easier to choose the correct clothing size while buying fashion online. These databases have information on which brands or ranges are sized slightly bigger or smaller than the average industry delimiters. This means that shoppers can buy the right size first time, reducing the need for returns and refunds.
More use of "Artificial Intelligence"
AI (as the market calls it – as someone who studied AI at University I will forever debate the use of the term) is finally becoming mainstream. Businesses are using the forever increasing amounts of data that they collect to accurately predict products that their customers will want to purchase, and to answer their questions properly. Proper use of "AI" is likely to result in higher conversion rates. Customer service conversations will happen through Kik without anyone realising they're talking to a robot – we've come a long way from Elisa on the Amiga!
Greater use of social integration
If you're not already aware that social networks are building intricate profiles about you, then you should be. Although social engines let you hide your activity from other users, the networks themselves are still able to watch the actions you perform. They collect data on every article you like, share, and comment on; every video you watch, every advert you click and the amount of time you spend on these activities. Meanwhile the 'login with..." buttons that make it so easy to register on external websites feed social networks even more information about you. This allows them to build a more detailed profile, and is something to think about the next time you use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or WhatsApp (or even when you search on Google).
Next year, we should start seeing further use of this information. It'll target customers more precisely and, when successfully combined with "AI", it might even get it right! Some may see this as an invasion of privacy, while others will enjoy the convenience of the end result.
Deeper online loyalty
In the past, online shoppers were fickle. They'd find an item they wanted to buy, and then browse competing e-commerce sites to see if they could find it cheaper. This is changing now, with far more loyalty to stores than ever before. In many cases, people are actually going out of their way to transact with the brands themselves. Whether this is because of great customer service, fast delivery, or the fear of being ripped off by inferior quality copies, the shift is present and definitely bears watching in 2017.
Digital wallet comes of age
Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet have all changed the way we pay for purchases in the offline world. I often use my Apple Watch to pay for small things, and I'd happily use it for bigger ones if there wasn't a £30 limit on contactless payments. People are really embracing contactless technology, and during the Olympics, athletes were given their own payment rings so that they didn't need to carry cards or cash.
While browsers can store credit card details, you still (annoyingly) have to enter those 3 digits from the back. It's important for retailers to let customers pay using their own preferred method (whether that's PayPal, Apple Pay or even Amazon Payments). I think next year we'll see an increase in the use of contactless payment in online transactions.
At Mercurytide we believe in making e-commerce work for everyone, the customer and the business. That's why we have developed a bespoke e-commerce approach to rapidly deliver everything you'd expect from an e-commerce website, but fully bespoke to match all your needs.
I hope you find my thoughts on UK ecommerce trends for 2017 interesting, and useful for the coming year. If you have any questions about the points I've raised, or want a more in-depth chat about all things ecommerce, please get in touch.
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