Business as usual isn’t the future of Ecommerce

Ecommerce is an ever-expanding world and there are many contradictory articles online regarding the future of Ecommerce. Whilst many discuss the proliferation of Ecommerce, there are a few articles predicting its death, in 2018 Harvard Business Review for example said” no industry is failing faster than retail”. The rise of global consumers with escalating purchasing power, the upsurge of social media users, and the strides in technological advances, we wanted to look beyond the sound bites and the clickbait and dig deep into deciphering just how vibrant (or not) the future of Ecommerce really is. From the data and research gathered, the one thing we couldn’t overlook was the importance of customer choice. It’ not innovation at the center of ecommerce, but rather the value of customer choice.

We have put together 10 growth trends to ‘arm yourself with’, to stay ahead of the curve and to ultimately elevate your eCommerce business to new heights in the years to come.  

Happily, ever after: Physical + Digital

Lines are blurring between physical and digital commerce environments. For years we’ve been hyping and debating over which was better, but the truth is that war never existed. It has never been about the location, it’s always been about choices aiding or demising consumer’s buying choices.

Online-born, pure-play microbrands are currently thriving and brick-and-mortar companies have been taking major hits in the recent years. However, it’s certainly not the end of the road for brick and mortar since it still dominates online sales by over $20 trillion.

Companies can no longer hide behind legacy giants, online-born microbrands, or the clash of physical vs. digital retail environments when it comes to the success of brands. According to Fab Dolan, Head of Marketing at Google Canada, “The brands that are winning are the ones that understand and own the fundamental interplay between experiential and transactional”. Whilst most sales might happen online or through call centers, the buildup for the magic of product still and will continue to happen in the real world in real time.

Retail will take on a different look and will definitely function differently in the years to come, but it will always depend on how companies intertwine offline and online worlds in relation to the relationship between customers and the product. The future of ecommerce belongs to direct-to-consumer (DTC) models referred to as “digitally native vertical brands” (DNVB). DNVB is a brand born online focusing on the customer experience. While a DNVB may start online it often extends to brick-and-mortar.

All hail Content

Audiences are currency for brands and content is the way to their hearts. Whilst there’s much talk about the power of content- what many fails to understand is it doesn’t reside in its ability to generate sales, but rather in its ability to tell a consistent brand story centered around people. Of course, not all content will generate the same level of results. Let’s also not forget that there are over 198 million people using ad blockers across the globe, and an estimate of $21.8 billion has been lost in ad revenues in 2015 because of it. However, using written, audio, and experiential content to drive marketing campaigns generating awareness, interest, desire and eventually conversion is what will set your content apart from the plethora of content already available.

Social Media and ecommerce: not the match made in heaven

For decades we’ve seen companies going “native” by eliminating onsite sales and predominately selling within their social networks. Whilst the benefits of social media lend its self well to ecommerce (worldwide reach, the number of accounts and the increase in time spent online) there seems to be an unwavering disconnect. Social media is surprisingly not influencing people’s buying decisions the way it was projected to.

Acquiring new customers is most effective with low-cost engagement campaigns that originate with entertainment or emotion, user-generated content, or with influencers. Story telling is crucial for securing new customers. promotional marketing is ideal for existing customers since they are more likely to engage with campaigns. Retargeting needs to be sequential, personalized and cross-platform, varying depending on each visitor’s last interaction. Finally, bring social online by turning your social media content into shoppable galleries for your online store.

Put your company’s money where your mouth is

Consumers have always bought with their hearts and justified the spends with their heads. Digitally native companies have latched onto this tactic by serving smaller niches where they are able to better attend to their customers wants and needs than their legacy competitors. To further explain this, we will turn to ThirdLove, a San Francisco based online-only bra powerhouse. Last November, Victoria’s Secret came under fire after Ed Razek, Chief Marketing Officer of Victoria Secret made controversial comments about why he didn’t think the company’s annual fashion show shouldn’t feature “transsexuals” because “the show is a fantasy” during an interview with Vogue. Heidi Zak, founder of ThirdLove, wrote an open letter to Victoria Secret on New York Times calling out the appalling commentary and explained why Victoria Secret’s male-fantasy marketing tactics, un-inclusive sizing and discriminatory culture has in fact prompted brands, such as ThirdLove, to grow in the marketplace.

Writing the open letter might have been a big risk on ThirdLove’s end, but it took a strong stance on a very current and relevant issue and it didn’t go unnoticed with consumer. Consumers are no longer making decisions based solely on products or prices, instead they’re assessing what a brand is saying, what it is doing and what they stand for. The letter was more than marketing, it connected the brand with their consumers. Other examples of brands connecting with their consumers on real issues include: Gillette’s “The best men can be” and Nike’s campaign with Colin Kaepernick.

Instagram worthy spaces are too shallow

In an attempt to know their consumers and understand how they want to shop, pop-up store with staged Instagram-worthy spaces have taken over our social feeds, but it’s looking like it has run its trend course rather quickly. Alternatively, think about spaces that connect with the consumers and offers a functional space that is in line with brand values. Yeti, the leading premium cooler and drinkware brand, for example, was able to bring the many facets and dimensions of its brand to life with their flagship store. They took their retail environment and elevated it to an experience center positioned around outdoor living. To bring the elements of the outdoors into the store, YETI implemented Mood Media’s ScentAir System so consumers are surrounded by the scent of campfire whilst shopping, they have hosted live music shows on the instore stage, including SXSW musical showcase, and installed a bar to elevate the experience of their customers further.

Physical stores are also a great way to gain valuable insights and feedback from consumers day in and day out; helping brands grow with and for their clients.

To each their own {commerce}

If you look online it’s almost impossible to get away from digitally native brands such as: Warby Parker, Allbirds, Hims, Casper and Leesa. The worlds of technology and commerce are more intertwined today than ever before. Even though these products provide different services and products, what they do have in common is their unwavering focus on “brand equity” and “brand purpose”.  All these brands focus on the value of the brand; centered around the people and the product over the price and the location. The notion of “selling something worth buying” is being altered by DTC brands. For example, many DTS brands didn’t offer holiday discounts for the sake of holiday discount, instead they cut through the clutter by hosting discounts that were delivered and seamlessly built into the onsite and check-out experiences in ways that were in line with brand values. Fashion Nova for example, fasted-growing fashion brand in history, started the holidays with the biggest online flash sale in history. During the busiest retail week of the year, Thirdlove, a company that firmly believes every woman deserves to feel comfortable and confident, redefined the meaning of BOGO and offered a different kind of Black Friday deal. Every time a customer purchased a bra, they gave one bra to a victim of the California wildfires.

ecommerce isn’t completed online

The customer journey is not as straightforward as it used to be, it might start on Pinterest and end at a physical store front or via an Instagram buy button imbedded in an onside feed. Customers could be ignited to purchase by an article through paid content, organic search results, or simple through organic search results. 

All the various channels present a different set of obstacles for brands to overcome. We often see businesses scrambling to adopt a multi-channel or an omni channel solution. Multichannel marketing refers to the ability to interact with potential customers on different platforms and the consumer gets to decide how they want to engage with the brand. Omni channel marketing provides the consumers with an integrated shopping experience. They can be shopping online from a desktop, mobile phone, or at a brick-and-mortar store, but their experience will be seamless.

In an attempt to be everywhere to everyone, businesses often end up being nowhere for anybody. It is critical brands let go of the expectation that consumers want everything in one seamless experience. Instead focus on the importance of having the backend part of the business functional. Before you unite channels, ensure your inventory is maintained well and there is a system to how the orders are managed. Customers who don’t get what they ordered when they were told they would can be very unforgiving. Always keep in mind that ecommerce isn’t completed online, it is complete when brands deliver.

Mobile-first buying is the new normal

Exponential growth in mobile users, ever in markets such as Sri Lanka, means mobile traffic is surpassing desktop. However, mobile sale conversion rates are still not reflecting these changes, and in fact are less than half those of desktop. Thus, mobile-first buying with convenience and easy access has to be thought through all the way from the early design stages. Long gone are the days when we can simply adapt a webpage for mobile based purchasing. Few recommendations for mobile-first designs include: personalizing mobile experience with page curl notifications instead of pop-ups for product recommendations, bypassing traditional checkouts by providing mobile-first payments options within product pages, and having scroller bars at the top of screen indicating spending thresholds and tiered discounts (spend $50, save $10; spend $199 save $40)

We are seeing more and more brands launching Progressive Web Apps (PWA) to keep up with mobile-first buying. PWAs provide an installable, app-like experience (saved user data, instant loading, push notifications) on desktop and mobile that are built and delivered directly through the web. PWAs are a great way to tackle mobile-first buying experiences.

Personalization is everything

As the marketing tactics you employ become more and more sophisticated, so do your customers. One-size fits all advertising messages are not as effective as it was once thought to be, making way for micro moments. Such moments fall into two school of thoughts- pattern interruption and effortless experiences.

Pattern interruption is especially evident in the success of dynamically-generated unique coupon as appose to generic coupon because unique coupon code signals to the consumers that the experience is personalized, thus creating a level of urgency. The formatting of a coupon code may seem like a tiny mundane detail, but it’s a big signal to a sophisticated shopper.

Effortless experiences are the opposite of pattern interruption and counts on impulse buying. Effortless experiences keep track of your last orders and interactions and suggests new purchases to enhance your experience. They aren’t generic post-purchase offers, but rather timely messages and email notifications leading customers to your store or online site.

Double down on global ecommerce markets

Ecommerce is no longer a thing of the West, we have already seen strategic shifts towards marketing for the Asia Pacific region. Brands such as Rothy’s Everlane and Allbirds have identified the importance of penetrating the Chinese market. Keep in mind that when marketing in different global markets, you have to do it the local way, the way you marketed in the U.S. might not work in Chinese markets. It is not the time to shy away from global opportunities, instead find innovative workarounds and local partners to help tap into global markets.

The future of ecommerce will manifest itself in meaningful brand stories centered around people and relationships. As marketing tactics become sophisticated, so do customers. Consumers are no longer making decisions based solely on products or prices, instead brands are becoming an extension of who they are, thus they’re assessing what a brand is saying, what it is doing and what they stand for. Are you ready to foster direct and meaningful connections with your customers, today?

The article has been written by the EFutures team(www.efuturesworld.com).
This information is our opinion, through our experience in the industry and other content sources.
If you would like to contact us, please email @Ricky.