E-commerce trends for outgrowing the rest in 2018

Sky scrapers rising above the clouds depicting outgrowing your competitors when using these e-commerce trends in 2018

While the e-commerce market in South Africa is still relatively new and small compared to other first world countries, this means it still has massive potential to grow. In fact, experts expect the annual revenue growth rate in South Africa over the next 5 years to be 14,2%. Taking advantage of the e-commerce trends in 2018 will help keep your business’s growth in line with this.

In this post, we look at some e-commerce trends you can use strategically to improve your product and/or service, ultimately boosting your sales figures. We’ve divided them into two categories: those already in play and growing, and new trends to look out for in 2018 and beyond.

E-commerce trends already in play moving into 2018

These trends have been around for a while now and are becoming increasingly important.

Responsiveness is non-negotiable

With over 16 million smartphone users in South Africa, a number which is expected to grow dramatically over the next 5 years, using them to buy online is becoming the norm. If the experience is frustrating, you’ll lose customers right up front. Rather make sure your website is responsive, so they enjoy interacting with it and want to come back.

Tip: At Comalytics, our B2B and B2C websites automatically configure for various device sizes, making your site responsive with no effort on your part.

Tool: Use the free What Is My Screen Resolution tool to test the responsiveness of your site.

Fulfil the need for speed

With our lives getting busier and fuller every day, consumers are looking for speed in everything they do. Wasting time waiting is a luxury we can no longer afford. It’s critical that your e-commerce website is fast and your service team needs to be available at the drop of a hat. Goods should be delivered as soon as possible, and if your fulfilment partner delivers after normal business hours, even better.

Tips:

  • Site speed: Optimising your site performance is an ongoing task as site speed is influenced by many different factors, including internet speed, image sizes, coding and styling. To make things easy for you, our Comalytics B2C software has a built-in profiler, which digs deep into the engine room of your site to troubleshoot performance issues. To even further improve the architecture and performance of our software, and hence site speed, our software is scheduled for an upgrade in 2018 to the latest .net version.
  • Speed of delivery: We integrate with more than 60 couriers to ensure your products reach your customers quickly and safely – wherever they are.

Tool: Use GTMetrix to test the speed of your site for free.

Customer engagement and retention are key

It’s far cheaper to sell more to existing customers than to attract new ones, especially now that online advertising is becoming more expensive. With all the competition for your customers’ attention out there, it makes sense to keep bringing them back to you as organically as possible. The key here is continuing to engage, providing them with ongoing value before, during and after their purchase. This could take the form of a newsletter, blogs, follow-up emails, tips, how-to-guides, etc.

Tips:

  • Design: The design of your e-commerce site is key to drawing in visitors and converting them to customers. We can build your site from scratch or customise one of our many contemporary templates for you. View two of our popular templates here and here. Depending on your goals, we can also add specific plug-ins to enhance customer experience on your site.
  • Product display: We use Sirv to display your products in their best possible light on your site. Also remember that video works really well here.
  • Functionality: Engage your customers with clever use of functionality such as discounts, reward points, gift cards and tiered prices (for volume discounts or wholesale offers to businesses). These come standard with our software.
  • Live chat: Talk to your customers in real-time via one of several chat integrations, such as Zendesk chat.
  • Customer reminders: This plug-in allows you to send friendly automatic email reminders to your customers based on pre-defined criteria, such as their last purchase, the date of their birthday, an abandoned cart, the number of days since they last visited and many more.
  • Related products and cross selling: Engage your customers further by displaying products related to those they have selected, or which are usually purchased by others who have bought that same product.

Develop real relationships with e-commerce customers

The trend towards technology may have sped up our lives, but we’re still human and we all like to feel we’re connecting with a real person, not a robot. Authentic personal relationships also create trust, which translates into influence and eventually into increasing your bottom line. Invest in showing customers that you care, want to get to know them and want to help solve their problems. Great customer service, asking for feedback on your products and services, and connecting personally wherever you can makes a huge difference.

Tips:

  • Customer reviews: Our Comalytics software includes a review option as standard. We also integrate with Yotpo, which helps you manage pro-active follow-up emails requesting reviews.
  • Customer polling: Comalytics software includes polling functionality for gathering visitor or customer opinions.

Show them you know who they are – personalise

Following on from the trend above, do whatever you can to create a personalised experience for your customers. For example, use their name in all communication or send them a message (or even offer a discount) on special occasions like their birthday. More importantly, your e-commerce site should be able to analyse their viewing and buying patterns so when they visit, you can show them more of what they want to see.

Tips:

  • Design: Link the banners that display on your site to specific actions your visitor takes, such as registration or adding a product to a cart, for example.
  • Recommended products: Show your customers recommended products tailored to the specific roles you have pre-defined for them.
  • Marketing automation: Send personalised emails or smses, or display pop-ups, based on your customers’ specific behaviours. This is easy with integrations like ContactPigeon or Retargeting, which was named Best Marketing Automation Tool in 2017 by Forbes.

Show them you know what you’re doing

Everything you do should be aimed at building your reputation as a trusted authority in your industry. Create high quality content that aligns with your marketing strategy, educates and engages your customers, and boosts your organic search rankings. Including mobile-friendly videos (especially if they’re live) takes advantage of another e-commerce trend. Video platforms like Slidely and Wistia bring you right into your customers’ presence, massively increasing engagement, click-through rates and sales. Video remains a huge medium for the future.

Tips:

  • Share your knowledge: Build authority by making good use of the functionality and features that come standard with Comalytics software. This includes blogging tools, news feeds, content/topic pages and forums for online discussions

Provide a seamless multi-channel e-commerce experience

According to Google, “About 85% of online shoppers start a purchase on one device and finish on another.” Your branding, design and navigation should carry across appropriately from one platform to another, and communication via email, cell phone and social media should be similarly coherent. When your various channels are also integrated, your customer can channel hop without losing any of their information. Seamless integration and one source of data are the keys in driving a successful Omnichannel strategy. Your customer should access one source of product data, brand look and feel and account history wherever they land or choose to purchase.

Tips:

  • Integrate to your ERP system: Your ERP system should be the sole data source for all your channels. Make sure your provider is an expert in integrating ERP systems with e-commerce stores and other channels. Comalytics integrates to several ERP systems, with SAP coming online soon.
  • Consider a product data manager: With multiple channels on the go, this handy piece of software helps you keep your product specifications, photos, videos, installation manuals and marketing materials up to date and in one place. The central system can then be accessed by your ERP system and all your channels, as well as everyone involved in updating your data (suppliers, ad agencies, technical teams etc). It also includes an authorisation process to approve and finalise data. Our Comalytics Product Data Manager software is available for use on both B2C or B2B sites.
  • Your point of sale (POS) is a key element for omnichannel: For medium-sized businesses looking for an integrated POS solution, we recommend IQ Retail and Quickbooks.
  • Facebook and Google Shopping: At Comalytics, our standard e-commerce packages include a seamless integration that allows you to sell on Facebook and Google.
  • Stream your products to popular channels: Your site is automatically integrated with local channels like PriceCheck, bidorbuy and OLX, as well as a multitude of global ones such as Amazon and Walmart. Feeds are also available on request.

Cutting edge e-commerce trends in 2018

These are trends we believe we’ll start seeing more of in 2018, in different shapes and forms.

Buying from your inbox

Email is already one of the best ways of building your organic traffic and increasing your sales. Imagine how much more powerful that would be if you could make a purchase from your inbox. Rebel is ahead of the curve here with what may just be the next big thing.

Facilitating voice search

It’s predicted that more than half of all millennials will use voice assistance to make a purchase by 2020. To take advantage of this, optimise your Google My Business listings. Include the kind of content a customer might ask for when searching for a product like yours, as well as your business name and contact details. Your local pages should be indexed and have unique URLs.

Messenger Apps and Chatbots

Millennials love to get an instant response at any time of day, and many of them already use apps like Facebook Messenger. Chatbots used via messenger apps not only provide that instant response, but also make personalised communication easy, allowing you to offer suggestions and customised offers to your customers.

Creating engaging brand stories

Your brand story helps to differentiate your e-commerce business from your competitors. Browsing or buying online is not enough anymore, the customer wants an experience they can remember. Weave your brand story into a customer experience across your business, from sales, to communication and packaging, to create something memorable that draws people back. You may need expert help with creating the content for this one.

Introducing augmented reality (AR)

Some companies, like Snapchat and Ikea, are already implementing AR features. These allow users to project images of themselves or their products out into the homes of their social media followers. Another use of this is to highlight important information like sales and discounted products when a mobile in pointed in a specific direction.

The bottom line…

While you’re aligning with these e-commerce trends for 2018, look for ways to provide that “Wow” factor wherever you can. You could use branded packing tape and tissue paper, or include a personalised note or small free gift in your customer’s delivery box. Give them something to remember you by and tell their friends about. Not only will they visit your e-commerce store again, but their friends will too. And isn’t that the best marketing money can(’t) buy? What e-commerce trends do you see becoming the next big thing in 2018? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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