For ecommerce, 2014 was a year of milestones. Worldwide, sales hit a record high of $1.3 trillion. Alibaba claimed the title for largest global IPO ever. The overwhelming majority of U.S. shoppers are now buying products online. It was a good year.
But 2015 is expected to be even better, with global sales growing 6.4 percent. To support that growth, we’ll see ecommerce companies focus on improving the overall customer experience and reducing friction wherever possible, to drive and support sales.
With this in mind, here are five key ecommerce trends that will dominate the year.
1. Implementing more responsive design
Sixty-six percent of all time spent on ecommerce sites is done across mobile devices, and 61 percent of customers leave a site if it isn’t mobile-friendly. This is no secret, but the rate of change in response is enormous. This rate of change explains why optimizing the user experience for smartphones and tablets — not just smaller screens, but multiple devices with different screens — is more of a priority than ever before. Responsive design adoption is poised to grow rapidly.
Responsive design emphasizes a streamlined user interface and viewing experience, with easy reading and navigation enabled (at a minimum) through resizing, panning, and scrolling.
Today, only 9 percent of the top ecommerce sites use responsive design, but attitudes are quickly shifting to align with customer behavior. The benefits of responsive design include increased site traffic, improved customer satisfaction and higher conversion rates.
Site-flow is being simplified and optimized for all key platforms, including desktop and mobile. With no uniformity in device screen-size and multi-platform shopping more common than ever, many ecommerce brands will seek a responsive experience for their sites. (Candidly, my company is in the 91 percent of ecommerce sites that are not responsive, but we have made that goal our top priority for 2015.)
2. Bringing Apple Pay online
Apple launched its brick-and-mortar payment system last year, to much fanfare. Though Apple Pay is still strictly an in-store payment solution, there is speculation that it could become available to ecommerce merchants in the coming months.
Already, Apple has entered partnerships with online service providers such as Lyft, Uber and Airbnb, suggesting that the company’s long-term plan for the service involves more than just brick-and-mortar merchants.
If Apple Pay were to enter the ecommerce space at scale, it would be a true game changer. For ecommerce merchants, this means facilitating easier payments, reducing costs like credit card processing fees and taking advanage of the potential opportunity to team up with Apple for marketing promotions — a move most brands would see as an enormous benefit.
3. Combining Content + Commerce
This year, more ecommerce sites will couple content and commerce to create rich lifestyle-oriented destinations that keep shoppers coming back. Content will also double as a tool for SEO and branding.
Etsy does a great job at combining content and commerce by profiling artists and featuring DIY projects while using its social media platforms to promote all of it. In that capacity, Etsy has become more than simply an ecommerce site, but rather a web destination for a variety of audiences ranging from customers, and artists who may want to display their work, to visitors interested in the art/DIY lifestyle and culture.
Birchbox is another excellent example of an ecommerce site successfully creating high-quality content to generate repeat business. Its blog is packed with “how-to” guides and style tips that rival the scope of traditional lifestyle publications like Cosmo and GQ. There is also the option to buy any of the items featured in the post, whether they be dress shirts or watches. This is content and commerce working together to achieve the same objective.
4. Focusing on video
According to Cisco, by 2017, video will account for 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic. As shoppers grow more responsive to visual presentation and seek responsive layouts, video will become a front-and-center asset to convey product details — not just demos — and facilitate improved webrooming.
The shift toward video is already generating a high ROI for the advertising industry, especially among consumer packaged goods brands, many of which have seen significant increases in engagement and reach.
Video is a great way to deliver high-quality content, and it benefits ecommerce by leading to higher average orders and driving conversions. In 2015, the focus in particular will be on mobile video. Last year alone, 25 percent of all ecommerce video plays came from mobile devices, up from 19 percent in 2013.
As mobile becomes the dominant platform for online shopping, ecommerce retailers who have seen the benefit of video will focus more on leveraging it across multiple channels.
5. Mastering total remarketing
The proliferation of mobile has created an “always-on” customer. Retailers can now connect with shoppers wherever and whenever they are. And Facebook’s dominance across all platforms, especially mobile — the average smartphone user checks his or her Facebook account around 14 times a day — has made it possible to market to this huge audience on every device throughout the site.
As a result, the opportunity for online retailers to remarket to off-site targets has never been better. This is why 2015 will be the year retailers stop questioning Facebook’s ROI and fully embrace its power as a multi-channel marketing tool.
Facebook is already seeing this trend play out. Its sales jumped 50 percent in the final quarter of 2014, with mobile ads accounting for nearly 70 percent of total ad revenue. Two years ago, that number was just 23 percent.
Ultimately, this year’s ecommerce trends will be defined by the drive to constantly improve the customer experience. And by streamlining the path to purchase, online retailers will be in an even better position to take advantage of the category’s growth and drive real revenue gains above and beyond those of 2014.