Today's online consumer marketplace is a constantly shifting sea of new technologies, retail strategies, and marketing ploys. Developing an effective business strategy in such a fickle atmosphere is no small feat, but staying on top of market changes and forecasts is essential to capturing as much market demand as possible.
Here are the top 12 trends that experts predict to see driving e-commerce spending in the new year, and how you can leverage this information to create opportunities for your own brand:
1. The percentage of online retail sales will rise to 16% of all retail sales, up from 11% just five years ago.
What this means for you: Now more than ever, you must know and understand your online consumers and what drives their spending behaviors. With so much revenue at stake you cannot afford not to have a strategy in place to discover and attract potential customers, as well as recover existing customers with abandoned shopping carts.
2. The fourth quarter will continue dominate online sales, and more brands are extending their holiday sales past the holidays.
What this means for you: This should come as a shock to no one - and now is the perfect time to take a look at your analytics from your 2015 fourth quarter and begin fine-tuning your strategy for this year. Consider what will help you stand out from your competitors and strategically plan your brand's roll outs for sales and deals for Q4 2016.
3. Flash sale sites are growing more popular among online consumers, especially for high-end products.
What this means for you: Mimic a flash sale strategy. Online shoppers are often reluctant to pass up an opportunity to save a lot of money if they know the deal is only available for a limited amount of time. Brands offering products at high discounts for just a few days at a time are able to create a sense of urgency in their consumers' shopping behaviors and drive conversion rates.
4. Online loyalty programs will see greater growth in 2016.
What this means for you: Online loyalty programs haven't seen much growth in the past, but experts predict that new technologies will change that. If you don't already have a loyalty program in place to provide exclusive deals and discounts for your existing online customers, now is the time to create one for your brand.
5. Tablet shopping will increase in importance - but not in the way you might think.
What this means for you: E-commerce brands often overlook tablet shopping in favor of smartphones and mobile conversion rates, but studies have shown that tablets are actually more likely to be used for researching, browsing, and comparing products. Use this information to your advantage by making sure your online store is tablet-optimized and easy for your customers to navigate when they are researching different products and brands.
6. The benefits of multi-channel selling are growing.
What this means for you: More and more, e-commerce brands are experiencing difficulties when they don't make their products available on large retail sites such as Amazon.com or Etsy. Stay ahead of the curve by exploring the different channels available for your brand to sell its products, capture new customers' attention, and drive organic traffic to your e-commerce site.
7. Social media marketing will evolve to drive conversion rates directly.
What this means for you: Social media is a powerful tool in any e-commerce marketer's belt, but its significance is becoming more prominent as more social networks (Pinterest and Twitter, for example) are opening their systems for retailers to post and sell items. Where social media has always been a factor for indirectly driving traffic and conversion by connecting customers with brands, experts anticipate that 2016 will see social media being used to directly drive conversion.
8. Exit-intent popups are being used to capture organic, qualified leads.
What this means for you: If you aren't optimizing your online lead generation with an exit-intent dialog popup, you should be. Take advantage of improving exit-intent technology that can detect when a visitor is about to close their browser or navigate away from your page, and allows you a "last chance" to communicate something important to the customer before they leave your site.
9. When it comes to designing online retail spaces, less is more.
What this means for you: Make your site's homepage as simple as possible by decluttering your online storefront. Your homepage should have one or two powerful high-resolution images and only a few paths for the customer to choose from - the simplicity of navigation prevents customers from becoming overwhelmed by options and makes their online shopping experience much more pleasant.
10. Technological improvements are giving real-time analytics a leg up.
What this means for you: Now that real-time analytics are becoming more advanced, e-commerce retailers are able to examine their customers' behaviors while they're navigating the site. Having the ability to analyze visitors' reactions in real time lets you make accurate, effective decisions on the spot.
11. Content must be better and more informative than ever before.
What this means for you: In order to stand out from your competitors, your content must be as good or better than the products or services you offer. This principle is deeply important to keep in mind when considering your online marketing strategy. Product photos must be amazingly detailed and high-resolution. Descriptions must be rich in language, yet concise. Branded blogs must contain content that is relevant, interesting, and accurate for your consumers.
12. Shipping can make or break your customers' online shopping experience.
What this means for you: Take a cue from companies such Amazon.com with their Prime and Same-Day Delivery services. Online customers desire the convenience of shopping from afar and the instant gratification of immediate (or as soon as possible) delivery. Make sure that your brand has a solid shipping method in place, and consider offering customers free shipping for minimum orders, holidays, and loyalty benefits in order to better stand out from your competition.