Overall, eCommerce has reached ‘critical mass’ and is beginning to more fully realize its explosive potential. The credit crunch and ensuing recession which descended in 2008 temporarily slowed the phenomenon across the world economy. But now, in 2013, the difficult times of the recession are receding in the rear-view mirror.
Here are some eCommerce development trends to watch out for in 2013:
That’s A Trillion, With A ‘T’
2013 is the year that global eCommerce should crack the $1 trillion mark (OK, so that’s only £630 billion… but who’s splitting hairs?). In fact, some growth estimates run as high as 20-25 percent for the year with internet sales reaching over $1.2 trillion (£790 billion). Smartphones in the UK alone are expected to contribute £87 billion toward that figure.
Touch Screen Propulsion
eCommerce development will be propelled forward by a wave of innovation, spurred by the rapid deployment of touch screen phones and tablets.
The early majority have shown by example that online shopping can be simple, safe and secure. Mobile devices are more user-friendly and woven into our lives than ever before. Mobile apps and responsive web designs are more accessible than ever before. In 2013 even the more timid element will find themselves attracted to the ease of touch screen usability: Mobile eCommerce (or ‘mCommerce’) will expand rapidly.
Last year, tablets accounted for 6.2% of all eCommerce with smartphones following close behind at 4.4%. I’ll do the math for you: That’s 10.6% of all eCommerce sales coming from mobile devices in 2012.
Expect even more than 10.6% of the £790 billion to come from mobile devices in 2013. User testing will no longer be an option as this market segment becomes evermore important.
Online, But Local
The dominance of global eCommerce players like Amazon, Play and eBay will be balanced by the emergence of online stores catering to specific locales and regions. Brick and mortar stores are quickly taking their knowledge of the local consumer market and applying it to their own eCommerce expansion.
Amazon, Play and eBay currently hold a lot of sway in the world of eCommerce simply because they offer a huge range and are trusted by almost everybody. They deliver traffic: Fair enough. However, they employ some fairly aggressive marketing tactics that are forcing retailers to rethink their strategies.
Amazon, for example, mandate that no retailer sells their products cheaper anywhere else on the web. The problem is that the retailer pays for the benefit of being on Amazon; forcing them into a position where they must either lose their margin on the Amazon shop or raise prices and stop competing on their proprietary website.
As social-local-mobile marketing (or SoLoMo as it has been dubbed) matures in 2013, online retailers will be able to focus their strategies more toward providing tailored benefits to the local market. By adding value that way, they can supercede the currently dominant Goliath-sized eCommerce platforms. Once again, the ‘Buy Local’ mentality will prevail.
Niches are Neat
Not just ‘local’ niches, but product niches.
Well-executed online niche stores with precisely defined product lines will surge. There is a type of consumer that feels more comfortable dealing with an ‘expert in the field’ rather than a global online retailer. Such niche enterprises will often include high-quality ‘How To’ style blogs and products/services that require more expertise.
Users may want to peruse the online offerings, but then rely on phone contact to further match their exact needs to the offerings, so cementing the complimentary real world touch-points will be a sound investment this year. Make sure your customer service is ship-shape as the internet gets more ‘personal’.
Social Media Analytics
Companies will increasingly ‘mine’ data generated by social media to fine-tune online product offerings. Dynamic products getting a good number of ‘likes’ or positive reviews may become specially featured items, for example.
This is the tip of a much bigger iceberg I mentioned in a previous post: Big Data.
Better Product Videos
A single still image accompanying a product description will increasingly give way to links to relevant videos. For consumers uneasy about making purchases without touching and/or experimenting with a product, expertly-produced videos can demonstrate features and illustrate capabilities.
We may also start to see more Augmented Reality (AR) and 3D Product Modelling rolled out across eCommerce stores. These cutting edge usability features would add another layer of ‘tangibility’ to the user experience. While there are some fantastically forward-thinking online stores out there who already offer a full ‘virtual reality’ experience (including moving up and down the isles and picking up products) it may be 2014 or beyond before the applications of ‘tangible eCommerce’ fully mature.
Dual Screening & Transmedia Storytelling
Recent studies show that around 70% of tablet owners regularly sit in front of the TV while browsing (something called ‘dual screening’). Further to this, tablet owners tend to fall very nicely into the ABC1 category.
What the heck is ABC1? It’s a name used by marketers to describe the three higher social and economic groups collectively, the members of which represent the target market for most consumer brands – and probably yours too. It’s certainly where you’ll find the best profit margins and brand loyalty.
Now that most usability issues have already been ironed out with tablet devices, advertisers are confident about integrating the tablet experience into more traditional campaigns. Given the findings of this research, TV commercials seem an obvious place to start. Enter ‘transmedia storytelling’:
How do you stand above all the other adverts on TV? By being the one who also has your advert on the iPad in the viewer’s hands! Because they are tracking a story across different media, the user feels more involved while allowing the brand to infiltrate more of their ‘periphery’. They implicitly ‘opt in’ to an adventure, rather than just being bombarded by a flashing screen while they stare mindlessly or put the kettle on.
But above all else, promoting the audience from couch potatoes to digital participants allows you to capture ‘big data’…. Where are they? Who are they? What age group are they? What time did they visit? Which advert convinced them to take action? Which products did they browse? With the answers to these questions, you can send timely, targeted follow-ups and convert interest into sales. That’s a big difference from a simple ‘old-school’ TV ad approach, I’m sure you’ll agree.
eCommerce Development Trends – The 2013 Outlook
These trends will all work together, providing clearer paths for successfully marketing products online. Mobile-friendly apps, product videos, and localised content will all serve to make eCommerce more credible for more consumers more of the time.