Every industry deserves a boost from disruption, and e-commerce is no exception. Online sales soared in 2016, flirting with $400 billion. More than 13 percent of retail consumption happened through virtual transactions, and the curve is trending upward.
Retailers have already taken notice and upped their games, but breaking ahead of the pack requires a deeper understanding of the hottest industry trends and how to capitalize on them. Here are five trends companies should recognize and embrace moving forward:
1. Mobile is golden.
Last October, mobile window shopping finally outperformed desktop surfing by nearly 3 percent, validating the growing notion in the e-commerce industry that consumers demand superior mobile browsing and buying experiences.
To appeal to audiences navigating on all devices, there's only one foolproof way to be successful. Identify the browsers and devices that generate 80 percent of your revenue and build for those first. The “sugar on top” can be built out in future releases once you’ve launched your minimum viable product.
2. It’s a small world, after all.
Walt Disney was correct: The world today seems tinier, allowing even historically poor Asian markets to enjoy urbanization and a blossoming middle class. Globalization has leveled the playing field, allowing businesses to expand horizontally, a much easier climb than vertical integration.
If you can sell 10 widgets to a room of 100 potential customers, it’s simpler to go to another room of 100 eager individuals than to convince and convert the 90 who declined your offer. Emerging tools can do the heavy lifting to remove past issues with this growth model such as language barriers and logistics.
3. Convenience sells.
Huge companies and startups alike are doing the subscription dance for good reason. Consumers love convenience and efficiency. People can receive everything from curated clothes delivered to their doors to pet food sent before Fido’s pantry becomes bare.
Subscriptions equate to profitability and scalability, so identify the products and services you can sell to the same person more than once a year. Then, figure out a subscription-based model. There are many tools nowadays to help you facilitate, manage and analyze your subscription data.
4. Personal experiences are hot.
Don’t let virtualization fool you: Humans crave personal attention, so find creative ways to speak directly to your customers. Great customer service, content or even an individualized video thanking them for making a purchase renders “authenticity.”
People buy into brands that reinforce what they already believe about themselves, so do everything you can to create transparent, genuine customer connections. A minute-long follow-up phone call might make the difference when fostering loyalty against your competitors.
5. Artificial intelligence is on the rise.
Pioneer it or fear it, artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay, despite the Elon Musk-Mark Zuckerberg battle in which the tech behemoths debated AI’s efficacy. If you’ve ever used Netflix, you’ve probably seen a list of movie recommendations based on your viewing history — that’s AI’s customization in action.
The tech sector is building smarter predictive tools that businesses can use to leverage customer information in order to improve their experiences, from offering product recommendations to providing real-time directions. Successful integration of AI can have a dramatic positive effect on your bottom line.
Size no longer matters in the retail marketplace. The ability to serve your customers exactly what they want — when they want it — does. Your corporate goal shouldn’t be to emulate what has already been done, but to piggyback your growth on evolving trends. Always be aware of what your competitors are doing, but more importantly, use current trends to push your company’s vision for the world and become the next disruptor in your industry.
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