With eCommerce being one of the fastest growing industries on the planet - do you feel prepared going into 2017 to capitalize on this hyper growth market? If not, no worries now is the time. Making even a few of the top 7 eCommerce trends now will ensure your setup for success with your eCommerce store going into 2017.
Internet Retailer claims that online spending in the U.S. will generate $355 billion in 2016 and that this number will surpass the $400 billion mark by 2018.
Why this matters
As you'll see below, the difference between getting your site into the top 500K traffic spots and not is the difference between having a thriving business or failing business. Below is a table breaking down eCommerce revenue by Alexa traffic ranking.
Another way of saying this is:
There are 12m+ eCommerce stores selling products around the world today. Yet, ONLY 650,000 stores, are selling more than $1,000 US annually
The good news is that there is still an incredible opportunity! We know from eCommerce trends that it is the only trillion dollar market ($1.6T USD in 2015) in existence projected to grow at over 20% this year and continue growing at double-digit rates for the foreseeable future. Even better, we're still in the very early stages of traditional brick and mortar retail spending moving into eCommerce spending, with only 6.6% of the total global retail spending ($24T) done online this year. All that to say, it's not too late but now is the time. Below are the top 7 eCommerce trends to follow going into 2017.
1. Mobile Design is No Longer Optional
With Google now penalizing sites that are not mobile-friendly and eCommerce trends show mobile revenue crossing the 50% mark of total sales by the end of 2017 - Mobile friendliness and design are no longer optional.
Web development is mobile development
In fact, as of Q1 2016, smartphones have officially taken over computers as the top source of traffic for eCommerce sites. Many online stores have already adopted card-like layouts and responsive animations and transitions and you will only continue to see this expand in 2017.
Examples of things you'll need to consider
- Larger spacing and blocking of sections - let it breath y'all!
- Larger buttons, text, and line spacing
- Easy to navigate from any device
- Simplified checkout experience - think through what types of things you can automate to make checkout easier on a phone - hiding keyboard, auto advance to next field, less data entry, etc.
- SSL on all pages even non-checkout pages - Google now awards search rankings to sites who have full https over sites that don't
- Overall fewer things on the page
2. Mobile Wallets & Payment Gateways
As painful as it is to setup a payment gateway you can no longer survive only having one gateway. Sure you setup your gateway account and now can take credit card payments, yet in 2017 you'll need to do more. Be sure your site is setup to take payments from multiple processors and mobile wallets to accommodate for the shoppers who will only use one type of payment method. There is no reason to leave sales on the table just because it's painful to setup a new gateway. At the very least be sure to have the following five options: Credit Card (gateway of your choice), PayPal, PayPal Mobile Wallet, Android Pay, and Apple Pay. The last word of the wise, consider using a private gateway provider or local vendor - typically you can save a TON off your rates. For us, we typically can cut our clients processing rates in half by using our local vendor, if you want to get in touch with them send us an email here.
3. Shipping & Fulfillment
Customers will expect faster shipping and better shipping options. Unfortunately, your customers don't care that you're making a marginal fraction of Amazon's revenue - they expect you to handle their orders the same way - quickly, with tracking, and arriving within a couple of days. The good news is that with tools like NS FBA for WooCommerce you can actually leverage Amazon's shipping to work for you. But that's not the only option, other tools like Shipping Easy will give you discounts on your postage rates and automate the shipping process for you sending tracking notifications and all. Consider when it's right to outsource your shipping when the time you're spending packing boxes outweighs the cost to have someone else do it. You'd be surprised how low others are willing to spend time in a warehouse packing and shipping your product for you.
Be sure to understand your full supply chain costs - it's worth the research and savings you'll gain once you do. Have companies price compete on manufacturing and fulfillment, if you don't, you're simply leaving money on the table. And with the growing number of options, it's very easy to reduce costs by buying in bulk, finding local vendors, and using price competition to earn your business.
4. Automating Returns
One of the more prominent e-commerce trends to watch for in 2017 is automating your return process for customers. Again you'll want to think in terms of how Amazon does this - they are setting the standard for all online retailers. Your customers will need to be able to self-complete a return without having to make a call or send an email. The best way to do this is ensures that your customers my account page has easy access to a returns processing page as well as including instructions on how to process a return in the original customer receipt email. Things to consider:
- Self-login and easy access to find the returns page
- Ability to print postage with all information already filled out
- Instructions on how to package items and where to return
- Automatically refunding money back to original payment method
- Final confirmation email once return has been processed fully
You can consider using plugins like Woocommerce Refunds to do most of the heavy lifting.
In a recent Forrester study that was conducted by UPS - 81% of customers want an easier way to return products they buy online
Today’s customers want an easy and simplified way to return products. In the online world of buying and selling this is no longer optional.
5. Engage With Your Customer
Think about your loyal customers – why do they continue to buy your product? You need to get in their world and connect with them! What kind of customer experience are you providing and how can you enhance it? With customer retention at an all time low, you'll need to find ways to connect with your customer where they are NOT where you are. Engaging with customers is how your business will stand out, so don’t neglect it. From that same Foresters study, 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. A few ideas to consider:
- Loyalty programs - another way to reward and engage customers (often while bringing in new customers).
- REAL TIME customer service
- Engaging on social
- Making any mistake right right
- Removing the hoops for your customers to jump through - after all they are the reason you're in business
- Start using video to connect with them
- Use Marketing Automation (see below)
6. Marketing Automation
If you could only execute one thing in this list of the Top 7 eCommerce Trends to Follow Going Into 2017 - it would be this: Marketing Automation! There are many tools you can use, we personally use Active Campaign and have found it by far has the best UX, toolset, and price point.Marketing Automation allows you to have systematic, focused, automated marketing efforts aligned to your target market. Unfortunately, we don’t live in the “Field of Dreams” where customers will come to your site and buy by themselves. Although we find ourselves falling for that trap quite a bit - if we build the best product we'll win! Unfortunately, a great product has to have great marketing and sales and leveraging marketing automation is one of the best ways to capitalize on that. If you don’t have a plan to reach your target customer and let them know you’re out there and have what they’re looking for, your business is likely to go nowhere fast.Marketing Automation can do things like the following (and this list is barely scratching the surface of possibilities):
- Send a personalized discount coupon for any customer who has spent more that $300 in total lifetime sales
- Send a drip campaign of content after a customer makes a purchase showing them how to best use your product and eventually presenting an upsell opportunity to them
- Trigger a customer email or text message once a user takes any action on your site (clicks a link, subscribes, buys something, spends x amount of time on site, visits x number of pages, etc...)
- Automatically tag and segment your customer base for mass newsletter email campaigns
- Send product updates to only the customers who have purchased that product
- Automate abandon cart emails to pull customers back into store with a discount
Please understand, I fully believe THIS IS THE MOST POWERFUL THING YOU COULD DO IN 2017 BUT DO NOT OVER MARKET OR SPAM YOUR CUSTOMER!
Be sure to also experiment and try new things systematically, just don't do it all at once. If you're interested in testing frameworks check out our free lean startup experiment tool here.
7. A/B Price Testing & Optimize
You'll need a methodology to do this, but don't overthink it. Start by writing out your assumptions - what are the things you're assuming when you launch this new product, marketing campaign, promo, social media blast, etc? Once you've documented your assumptions create a quick test to validate those assumptions and actually find out if you're right on the money or in left field. Inside that experiment, you'll need to define the customer's problem and what is the best way to satisfy that customers problem using the least amount of resources possible to solve that problem - this is also known as a minimum viable product (MVP). Once you have your test, analyze your data, make appropriate changes and test your next assumption.
Testing and optimizing is a never ending ongoing process.
There are great tools that can help you with this. Marketing Automation tools like Active Campaign can automatically send different email subjects and content to users to see which one engages customers the most. Tools like Visual Website Optimizer can take heat maps of your site to see where customers are engaging as well as do A/B layout and content tests on a page. An A/B test will show two versions of the same page to customers in real-time so that half of your customers see layout A and half see layout B.
What we find personally to be the most important thing to test is your pricing.
You should be doing live A/B price tests with all of your products.
This will ensure you're striking the perfect balance of value for price. PriceLab is our favorite WooCommerce plugin which does live a/b price tests for you right inside your WordPress dashboard.
The reason it's important to have a real time test is to eliminate market fluctuations, seasonal changes, and one of customer behavior. Those tools will track your conversions and then you'll see which text A or B did best, publish that change and find the next thing to test. Continually improve, never stop optimizing.
One word of caution, be careful not to test too many things at once that's as effective as not testing at all. You may have great results but you won't be able to track what created those results and thus making the testing effort pointless as you will not be able to repeat it.
While there are a ton of really great tools that allow you to A/B test your website's page content (text, images, videos, layout, design) there aren't any that allow you to A/B test your products price other than PriceLab. The main reasons are that it's super complicated to show customers two prices and make sure that everywhere that customer goes they only see the one price they initially saw (pages, feeds, cart, checkout, my account, etc.). The good news and a sneak peak into Never Settle's development pipeline is that we're actively developing an A/B Price Testing plugin for WooCommerce and will be launching it soon! [Update Jan 2017 - PriceLab has been officially released and is now live!]
Conclusion for the Top 7 eCommerce Trends to Follow Going Into 2017
The market is massive ($27T globally) and yet eCommerce trends show spending is only going to shift more from brick and mortar to online which currently only represents 6.6% so NOW is the time to get on board! Use these seven best practices for eCommerce trends to follow going into the new year of 2017 and you'll be sure to increase revenue, customer retention, and overall customer satisfaction. Happy eCommercing!
If interested you can also watch the full talk on this subject at this year's WordCamp Denver here.