2016 eCommerce Trends: What Every Online Retailer Needs to Know

March 9, 2016 by Leah Na'aman

The digital industry is constantly evolving. And there seem to be new eCommerce trends emerging every week. But which trends are simply passing fads, and which will reinvigorate your business? Since January is the perfect time to start implementing new practices, we’ve compiled a list of top 2016 eCommerce Trends to watch for.

Top 2016 eCommerce Trends

2016 eCommerce trends to watch

#1: Exit-intent technology

The first of the 2016 eCommerce trends you should consider taking advantage of is exit-intent technology. Finding ways to convert visitors is top priority for retailers. It allows them to get a respectable ROI from the money they’ve spent driving traffic to their website.

One conversion method that has seen a rise in popularity throughout 2015 is the use of exit intent technology. These perfectly-timed pop-ups have a proven track record in converting visitors. Whether it’s getting them to actually buy something or to subscribe to your mailing list, they give you future conversion opportunities. With cart abandonment and bounce rates notoriously high across the board, and statistics showing that 97% of people fail to convert when visiting eCommerce websites, this is going to be a great strategy for e-retailers.

Exit-intent technology monitors visitors’ behavior on your site. And it uses their actions like mouse movements and speed, to produce a pop-up in line with their behavior. For example, if a user is leaving a product page, you can program a pop-up to appear. Offer them a discount if they buy something right then or off a future purchase, if they sign up for your mailing list.

Statistics from Conversific show that 30% of the Top 1000 US eCommerce sites use pop-ups to convert visitors. If the industry’s biggest successes use this innovative method, you’d be a fool not to make getting on this bandwagon a New Year’s Resolution.

#2: Selling through social media

Selling doesn’t just happen on your store’s website anymore – not with multi-vendor opportunities on the rise. The ability to buy from convenient online locations is incredibly attractive to customers, allowing them to order a variety of products from numerous stores in one simple place.

Amazon, Ebay and ASOS are among the favorites with online shoppers who appreciate the convenience and the fact they can cut down on shipping charges, but 2015 saw a shift in the social media world, as popular platforms decided to get in on the action.

Pinterest, for example launched their Buyable Pins project earlier this year, allowing users to buy directly from pins they liked, saving them extensive online research and switching between sites. Small Biz Trends reported that as of October 2015, there were more than 60 million “shop-able” pins on Pinterest.

Considering the fact that 74% of consumers are guided by social media to make purchase decisions, retailers will be scrambling to facilitate customers through these social platforms during 2016.

#3: Fully utilizing mobile

2015 was the year of the mobile, with marketers, sales teams and online retailers realizing just how much power the medium had when it came to reaching consumers.

While direct mobile sales are increasing each quarter, savvy e-tailers know that mobile is about the long game right now. Reports show consumers are spending 15+ hours a week researching on their smartphone, but only half of those who shop via mobile will actually place an order on their phone, preferring a desktop or even tablet.

As cross-device activity is difficult to monitor, many sellers have been guilty of neglecting mobile, concentrating on hard conversion stats rather than considering the power mobile has to convert a consumer down the line. The current reality is that many people will use lunchbreaks or commutes to research products on their phones, preferring to make the actual purchase at home on a computer.

If your site is not yet mobile responsive or it has poor functionality, 2016 is when you need to get into shape or risk losing a serious chunk of revenue. Be sure to connect desktop and mobile experiences, facilitating an easy go-between for consumers (e.g. simple mobile registration to save a wish list) and concentrate on improving security features on your mobile site to reassure customers their details are safe.

#4: Lazy loading

One of our favorite emerging web design practices of 2015 was ‘lazy loading’ – something that’s expected to seriously take off during 2016.

The beauty of lazy loading is that it only loads UI elements on the screen when a visitor reaches them while scrolling. This means the consumer doesn’t need to wait for the entire page to load before seeing something.

Slow page load times are notoriously off-putting to visitors and are something that eCommerce sites often struggle to combat, with large products pages and images causing loading delays. Lazy loading speeds the process up, so visitors are more likely to stick around long enough for your clever conversion techniques to have an effect.

Here at Shoppimon, this is one of our pet peeves and something we work hard to overcome for our clients. 47% of visitors expect web pages to load in two seconds or less, which is why we monitor their sites in real-time, identifying performance issues such as unresponsive pages and delays in loading times.

#5: Localized and ‘beacon’ technology

At the start of 2015, BI Intelligence predicted that beacon technology will directly influence over $4 billion in US retail sales during the year. With that number expected to increase tenfold in 2016. With stores like Macy’s and Target successfully implementing the practice, this is sure to explode among retailers in the next year.

Linking in nicely with mobile, beacon or ‘localized’ technology lets a retailer detect where the consumer is, and send relevant push notifications. A few common notifications include discounts or useful product reminders. In ‘brick and mortar’ stores, notifications can be sent to customers via Bluetooth. And retailers can  analyze customer patterns in a similar way to marketers assessing a site’s sales funnel.

There is also a lot of scope for online retailers to utilize this technology. For example, an electronics retailer could send a coupon to a past online customer who is near one of their stores or, even better, a competitor’s shop.

#6: Real-time analytics

Using traditional analytics tools, it can take days or even weeks to spot an issue on an eCommerce site that affects consumer behavior and conversions. Thankfully, online retailers caught on to the importance of real-time analytics during 2015. And you can expect this trend to surge over the next 12 months.

This form of analysis means you can spot consumer trends on your site in real-time. It allows you to either offer help before they leave, or fix the problem before you start losing serious revenue. For example, a sudden increase in cart abandonment rates could alert you to a problem with your checkout page. Maybe a section isn’t allowing them to register details or maybe they’re using a discount code you sent them, but typed incorrectly in the email.

It also allows you to monitor the effect of new campaigns, giving you the opportunity to tweak and adjust anything that isn’t working on-the-go.

#7: Phasing out free shipping

During the second half of 2015, several shipping companies, including FedEx and UPS, announced changes to their pricing structure. Following years of heavy discounts to bolster the eCommerce industry, these companies are now looking to improve margins.

Online retailers with ‘brick and mortar’ stores will likely pump extra effort into convincing consumers to use ‘Ship to Store’ options, making use of their existing supply chains. While companies operating solely online will need to develop a more cost-effective supply system.

This may sound like bad news to any retailers who have heavily depended on a free shipping offer to incentivize customers. But passing increases in shipping costs onto consumers is likely to become a wide-spread practice in 2016, leveling the playing field.

#8: Online sales staff

The last of our 2016 eCommerce trends is by no means least! One of the best trends to emerge in 2015 was an increased focus on customer service. Research found that online consumers are increasingly intolerant of poor service, with 56% saying they would never use a company again after a bad customer service experience.

While we’re bound to see continued improvement throughout 2016, the really trend will be an increase in brands providing virtual sales teams.

Unlike customer service teams who typically help customers after a sale or those who have a specific problem, virtual sales teams will act like in-store sales reps. They are trained to assist, sell to and upsell customers during their visit to an eStore.

This will see significant rollout among larger eCommerce brands who can afford a substantial investment, but smaller retailers who implement this offering will be at a significant advantage over competitors.

Gone are the days of making a simple eCommerce site and implementing a few basic marketing strategies in order to get by. 2016 is all about truly understanding consumer behavior, wants, needs and patterns. And those retailers who get ahead of the game will be in a strong position by the time December arrives.

What are the 2016 eCommerce Trends you have your eye on? Be sure to add them in the comments below!

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Author

Leah Na’aman