Eight Top eCommerce Trends for 2016

The eCommerce industry is growing at an insane rate, and total eCommerce sales around the globe topped $1 trillion dollars in 2015 for the first time. As consumers continue to skew more towards online buying, the companies that master that domain while integrating their brick and mortar establishments will perform at a high level in 2016 and beyond. Based on what we’ve seen in 2015 and the latest advances in technology and consumer data, here are the biggest areas for growth and advancement in the eCommerce space that we at Verbal+Visual are seeing. Many of these are being implemented in spurts — I believe most will become standard across many brands by the end of the year.

Deepened Personalization Experience. 
Personalization is nothing new, Amazon has been doing it for years and with great success. Retargeting, while considered creepy for some, has more than proven itself as an effective personalization method. Where personalization will grow even further is having an intimate knowledge of a consumer and reflecting that on your website.

For instance, where a user is from and what month it is could dictate whether you show your snow gear or your beach gear on the home page. Getting their location can show the closest physical location and integrate everything you do (bookings, click and collect, etc.) and make the entire buying process completely seamless from digital to physical.

Super Rush Delivery.
With services like UberRUSH becoming more mainstream, getting your goods quickly is already making a huge difference in the ordering process. Getting your products quickly (same day) is nothing new and has been around since the initial dot com burst, but having them delivery by drones or self driving cars will become the face of things going forward. This is one that will have a few phases — first, UberRUSH and the like. Next, drones and self driving cars will make a dent by end of 2016 and then by the end of the decade at least one of the two will be fairly mainstream. The first brands to capitalize on automatic and immediate order fulfillment will reap giant rewards over the long haul.

Multiple Channels of Sales.
While most brands stick with their website, their stores, Amazon, Etsy, and a few others, the places where people will buy will become widespread. It’s already started with Instagram and Pinterest, and will only grow from here. Pretty soon you’ll be able to pause a TV show on Netflix and order the shirt that the main character is wearing (not to mention having it delivered to your house in an hour or less). Brands that realize this will get themselves on every social channel, put out great content, and make it easy to buy. They’ll also sell more product than anyone else out there.

Conversion with Content.
Brands that are ahead of the game are turning their attention 100% towards creating exceptional content in the digital space. They’re becoming media companies, putting out relevant, optimized content which is tailored to what someone is searching for. Looking to rent a tux for a wedding? You’ll probably Google what kind of tux to rent, and how to get one that fits and looks good. Tuxedo companies that put out content related to those searches will perform highly and see the highest levels of conversion.

If you’re a brand looking to drive conversion with content, create great pieces of content and then reproduce those pieces of content in various forms (blog posts, eBooks, podcasts, infographics, data visualizations, videos, etc.). Then measure how each area performs, and focus your efforts on the 3–5 channels and 3–5 types of content that works best. Lastly, and most importantly, promote promote promote. 80/20 it — 20% creation 80% promotion.

In-Store Experience Online.
Creating a digital experience that truly mimics the real world experience of buying is vital. Live chat has been around forever, but what about Virtual Reality? With Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift, VR is on its way to be integrated with Facebook, a top eCommerce source for many brands. It’s only a matter of time before you can put on your Oculus Rift and have a digital experience that feels real.

Mobile selling is the highest growing sector of eCommerce, but what about going a step further beyond simply going to a site and buying something from it. What about the ability to use your mobile device as a buying remote control, knowing what you’ve watched on TV or who you had drinks with the other night, interpreting that data and filtering based on your tastes and buying habits the items you might like. While the mainstream application of this is a few years away, the seeds are being sewn currently. The mobile device already is a remote control for your life, but big data is simply scratching the surface of what its truly capable of right now. The ways in which you can use your mobile device to buy things in the future is truly astonishing when you think about it.

Optimized Optimization.
Analytics, User Testing, and Big Data are used today to interpret and optimize a website experience. These methods prove to be incredibly useful, but they are still painstaking in time and requiring a combination of services and analysis to actually determine what errors are occurring in your eCommerce site and how to fix them. With advanced personalization becoming more widespread, and better, faster tools that can see stats in real time and even help secure a sale for someone about to leave your site, conversion rates of digital will continue to improve from the standard 1%–3% range seen today up to 2–4% by the end of this year, and up to 10% by the end of the decade. What used to take weeks or months to spot, diagnose, and fix, will take days or even hours by the end of the year for the most advanced brands.

Voice Recognition + Artificial Intelligence.
We don’t think this one will happen in a mainstream fashion in 2016, but with Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that he will be creating an AI personal assistant in 2016, we think that voice recognition combined with artificial intelligence will be a force to be reckoned with in eCommerce by the end of the decade.

Imagine simply saying: “Siri, I’d like a new coat in the $400 range, in black leather that can be delivered to me in the next hour”, and then boom, it gets delivered by a drone! That’s where we’re truly headed, and while that’s mind-boggling to think about, so is where we are now compared to 15 years ago. eCommerce is uniquely positioned in that people always need stuff, and thus eCommerce can truly drive where we go in the future. I, myself, am excited for the drive.