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The start of a new year always seems like a good time to pause and give some thought to what’s coming on the horizon. What are the trends, the innovations, and new technologies that are going to reshape (or at least influence) the way we do business? Global e-commerce sales will skyrocket to $4.5 trillion […]
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The start of a new year always seems like a good time to pause and give some thought to what’s coming on the horizon. What are the trends, the innovations, and new technologies that are going to reshape (or at least influence) the way we do business?

Global e-commerce sales will skyrocket to $4.5 trillion by 2021; an increase of over 246%. If you want your company to participate in that kind of growth, it’s crucial to anticipate it and know what’s coming.

Here are a few factors that we think will be very important for e-commerce success in the months and years ahead.
1. Personalization

A recent 2018 Internet Trends Report discusses the current ‘privacy paradox’ which is the double-edged sword that people are reluctant to share their private information but clearly respond well to personalization and recommendations.

The arrival of web-based commerce with the introduction of the massive selection and convenience of eBay and Amazon shifted the driver towards utility. That lasted only about 20 years when data became the dominant driving trend.

When personal data is managed well and responsibly to offer targeted recommendations and curated product discoveries, the benefits are clear. However, if personal information is seen to be mismanaged, the reputational risk is massive (think Facebook – Cambridge Analytica scandal).

Good data usage for personalization purposes has an important impact on customer satisfaction. Of the five leaders in internet data usage, four of them rate an American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) score that is above the average of 77, with Amazon rating 85. Conversely, 33% of customers who abandon business relationships report doing so because the service lacked personalization.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation in the EU in 2018 has made the collection of personal data more difficult with users more readily opting out of data collection. Nevertheless, personalization remains a critical component for the growth and success of any e-commerce endeavor.
2. Subscription Models

Birchbox subscriptions

Personalization is also an important factor in the growth of another leading e-commerce trend, that of online subscription services. In just one year, Netflix and Spotify have achieved 25% and 48% subscriber growth and have leveraged user data to retain them, In Spotify’s case, to convert them from users of their free service to their premium paid subscription.

Subscription e-commerce sales have more than doubled every year, climbing to $2.6 billion. But the rising popularity of subscription isn’t limited to the consumption of media. An increasing number of consumers are signing up to receive products on a recurring basis via a monthly ‘box subscription’. Among online shoppers, approximately half have signed up for a subscription service of some kind, and 30% of them are subscribers for a monthly box of curated goods.

E-commerce subscription services can generally be categorized into three sections:

Curated services

This category represents 55% of e-commerce subscribers and aims to provide customers with new or highly personalized selections. Blue Apron and Birchbox are two well-known examples.

Replenishment services

Of e-commerce subscribers,32% opt for these services for the convenient, recurring purchase of items. See Dollar Shave Club and Amazon Subscribe and Save.

Access service

To gain exclusive access to discounts and other perks,13% of e-commerce subscribers sign up for services such as NatureBox and Thrive Market.
3. Social Commerce

For years, there has been a great deal of hype about the integration of e-commerce on social media platforms, but the “buy” buttons were slow to pick-up. What has happened is that social media has become an important resource for discovering products that people will later purchase.

With the average digital adult spending as much as 2½ hours per day on their devices for entertainment, social, or messaging purposes, according to Flurry, it’s a segment that cannot be ignored.

In the Internet Trends report, Meeker cites the results of a consumer survey found that 78% of respondents discovered products on Facebook, while Instagram and Pinterest both were discovery sources for 59% of them, and Twitter for 34%.

What’s even more encouraging is that 55% of those who reported discovering a product on social media went on to make the purchase online.

Social media’s importance as a referral source to e-commerce sites also continues to climb. In 2015, it represented 2% of all referrals which has now tripled to 6%.
4. Multi-Channel and Omni-Channel Retail

Big Commerce platform

73% of consumers will connect with a brand at multiple touchpoints in their journey to making a purchasing decision. That means that your product has to be everywhere your customer shops or even gets information about products.

It may seem like implementing and managing a multitude of selling channels will represent a massive undertaking requiring lots of time and resources, not to mention the headache of managing inventory. Out-of-stock issues can be very costly in terms of revenue and from a customer service perspective. Being in an overstock position can be equally expensive.

Fortunately, some platform solutions can provide the kind of infrastructure needed for multi-channel and omni-channel retail. Your multi-channel software should guarantee consistency across all platforms, consolidate data from all channels, reach customers at every possible touchpoint, and help manage inventory.

Some of the leading solutions include Sellbrite, SellerCloud, and BigCommerce.
5. Good Content

Custom content remains a valuable driver for e-commerce engagement. It’s often the best way for a potential customer to learn about your product.

It has become such an important marketing strategy that 78% of Chief Marketing Officers consider custom content to be the future of marketing. A good content strategy should attract more people to follow your brand on social media and increase conversions significantly.

E-commerce marketers will increasingly look to interactive content as part of their strategy. Consider adding videos of your products since 60% of consumers prefer watching a product video over reading a description. Furthermore, they are up to 85% more likely to purchase after watching the video.
6. Voice Search

Voice search predictions in the U.S

Cortana, Siri, and Alexa are now mainstays in the daily lives of countless potential customers. Shopping searches are now increasingly done hands-free from the car, on the phone, or in the home with shopping by voice in the U.S. predicted to grow to $40 billion in 2022.

The average voice search is done quite differently than standard typed queries. Where one might type “best sushi restaurants Albuquerque,” the voice search will be formed as a question in natural speech: “What’s the best place for sushi in Albuquerque?”

It’s also important to understand the relationship between the form of the question posed and the customer’s intent to purchase. What, who, and how questions generally seek information and would, therefore, be used more in the research phase of a purchase. When and where questions may suggest a readiness to buy. These are general guidelines to think about and not hard and fast rules. For instance, a question asking, “What is the best price for an iPhone X?” is an indication that the customer is closer to purchasing than a question like “What is the difference between an iPhone X and a Galaxy S9?”

In order to capitalize on this trend, companies will need to adapt. Content should be written conversationally to answer the possible questions customers may be asking and take into account the intent behind a question. The future of web content is less and less about keywords and more and more about context and semantics.
Conclusion

When thinking about the future of e-commerce, there is much to be excited about, plenty of opportunities and maybe one or two challenges to overcome.

But with the right kind of planning, the proper infrastructure, and sound strategies, your company will be ready to experience substantial growth.

Learn the tools and technologies needed to meet the challenges of tomorrow with a Postgraduate Diploma in Digital Marketing. Download a brochure today!

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People who decide to ditch their ‘9 to 5’ job in favor of starting a blogging business, e-commerce website, or finally writing and publishing a book on Kindle are almost always well-intentioned but may lack a true understanding of what it takes to be successful in business. Of course, it is good to set big […]
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People who decide to ditch their ‘9 to 5’ job in favor of starting a blogging business, e-commerce website, or finally writing and publishing a book on Kindle are almost always well-intentioned but may lack a true understanding of what it takes to be successful in business.

Of course, it is good to set big goals and dream big, but surprisingly many budding entrepreneurs and business people at various stages of business development either don’t or can’t grasp what’s fully required to hit their goals. Sure, generating a million dollars within five years from start-up with an online business is an admirable goal. However, do you know what it’s going to take to get there and ensure that you don’t become today’s “flash in the pan”?

With that in mind, here are five online business success tips that if followed will make you and your business stand out and help you reach your goals:
1. Be Yourself!

Your business is an extension of you, no matter how big or small it is at the present time. It will succeed or fail by how others perceive your brand, and ultimately how they feel about doing business with you. All aspects of your business (customer service, product creation, back office) should respect your values.

The old adage that people like to do business with people they “know, like, and trust” is even truer today. Even with the largest companies, people want to see the CEO come out to represent the company and speak on behalf of it.

Authenticity is the key. You’ve got to be you, whether it’s the smooth, sophisticated type or the person with rough edges and an attitude to match. Only you know what works for you and your target audience, but the one thing that can guarantee failure is not being authentic.

If you’re not comfortable being the representative of your business you’ll still want to create some type of persona to represent your company and brand and humanize your business as much as possible.
2. Over Deliver

Set benchmarks for yourself with your products and services, and try to exceed them, simple as that!

This is especially important with your initial offerings, because a strong first impression may mean a host of customers for life. Just imagine the glee on people’s faces because they feel that they have got the better end of the deal! It’s your reward for having given so much value at such a low (or reasonably low) cost. Certainly, expectations will constantly be high, but that’s the way it should be.

Note: When I refer to “low cost” I’m not referring to the actual price. I actually don’t believe that competing on price is the best way to compete; rather the perception of the price should be considered a great value from the standpoint of your customers and clients; even if you are charging premium prices.

Over-delivering means going beyond the call of duty at all times to become not only a viable business but a market leader that all others admire and envy.

Remember the purpose of a customer is not to make a sale, rather the purpose of a sale is to get a customer. Make their first purchasing experience with you a great one and they’ll continue to buy your products over and over again increasing the lifetime value of your customers an maximizing your revenue.
3. Focus on Serving, Not Selling

“You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.” is a famous quote from the legendary Zig Ziglar (1926-2012) and it’s more than just a quick phrase to throw around at cocktail parties. Teaching and coaching are known as “giving” professions, but in the 21st century, more businesses will have to adapt their techniques in order to earn customer trust and ultimately sales.

Learn how to identify your target market’s problems, concerns and issues to better create and position your offerings as the best solution in the marketplace. The better you can relate and speak to them with effective copywriting the more they’ll realize you truly are the solution to their problems.

“How much money can I make for myself?” Answer: As cliche as this may sound, don’t even think about the money. As a business person, real money always follows from demonstrating the benefits of your services and products to the ideal customer.
4. Meet Your Customers Where They Are

Thanks in large part to social media, the world is transitioning from a corporate-dominated, sales-based economy to a trust-based economy. In the past, dominant companies could count on “blind” brand loyalty from customers to guarantee steady profits, even if their products and post-sales service were severely lacking.

Not anymore. Today, there is truly global competition across many industries, and the smallest glitch or weakness shown by corporations are quickly exposed, spread virally by consumers through the Internet, and exploited by ruthless competitors. The auto industry is a great example. No matter how big the company (e.g. GM, Toyota) individuals have the power to make them fall to their knees if they fail to deliver. Social media generally isn’t friendly to the airline industry as well, but the dangers are worse for smaller businesses who don’t have the time or money to invest in online reputation management.

On the plus side, when used properly, social media marketing and Facebook provides a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business owners as it’s a great way for your most loyal and enthusiastic customers to share their love and excitement for your company and brand.
5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude

It so easy to forget the people who gave you advice, introduced you to key suppliers, or simply served as a sounding board for your crazy ideas. Quite frankly, many of them wouldn’t take it personally that you are not contacting them anymore. They know that you are busy and have time-consuming obligations.

However, part of what makes success stories stand out is paying attention to little details, and calling your mentors to say ‘Thank You’ really goes a long way. So what if a teacher, former employer, or business coach has retired to Florida and isn’t part of the scene anymore. They’ll appreciate your gesture that much more because it will remind them that they helped someone achieve their goals. This could also lead to opportunities for them to feature you to their audience, use your success as a case study, and potentially drive more traffic and sales into your business.

On a more practical note, keeping contact with key members of your inner circle gives them a reason to continue following your progress and helping you even more in the future. This could be done on a one-on-one basis or even facilitated through an email newsletter.

Follow these five simple steps and you’ll surely be laying the foundation for a long-term, sustainable, and profitable business.

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