Get ahead of the curve with e-commerce trends for 2019
If you want to stand out from the crowd in 2019, you’ll need to be on top of the latest e-commerce trends. With the number of stores online increasing every year, growing your market share depends on meeting the up-to-the minute needs of your customer.
Beware of blindly following trends though. Some of those below are already considered mainstream in South Africa. Others, the local market might not quite be ready for. Keep an eye on what’s out there – and make sure anything you implement genuinely enhances both your business and your customer experience.
E-commerce shifts that are no longer just trends
These trends have been around so long, they’ve become mainstream. Your business can’t afford to do without them.
1. Buying takes place across devices → Automate responsiveness
The number of customers who regularly buy using smart phones is rising exponentially. If they can’t easily interact with your site using their device of choice, they’ll simply go elsewhere.
Tip: At Comalytics, our B2B and B2C websites automatically configure for various device sizes, making your site responsive with no effort on your part.
2. Immediacy is everything → Up your site speed
A couple of seconds is all users are prepared to wait for a site to load these days. Longer than that, and they’ll click away. That’s lost revenue for you right there, both directly from customers and from the penalties you’ll get from Google for being too slow to load. Read more about how poor page speed can influence your e-commerce sales here.
- 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 B2C software was upgraded in 2018 to the latest .net version.
3. Social media builds relationships → Engage one on one
Ongoing engagement with customers is key. Whether you use social media to share helpful information, get feedback or answer questions, it builds connection and real relationships. This keeps your business top of mind and translates into higher conversion rates. Read more about how social media can help you grow.
4. Being an authority in your niche builds trust → Help to buy, don’t sell
Showing potential customers you know what you’re talking about helps to build confidence in your brand and in your product, effectively boosting your engagement and conversion rates. One of the best ways to do this is to create high quality content that aligns with your marketing strategy, and educates and engages your customers. Written or video blogs also improve your organic search rankings, especially if they’re mobile friendly.
- 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
5. Buyers want to hear from their peers → Encourage social proof
Happy previous customers are your best brand ambassadors. Encourage them to share their stories via reviews and to rate the products they’ve bought. This helps potential new customers to feel safer purchasing from you. Plus, as a form of unique content, reviews also boost your search engine rankings.
- 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.
6. Better customer experience → Implement live chat
When we first started shopping online, virtual assistance was almost unheard of. Nowadays when customers need help, they expect to be instantly supported on-site. Offering live chat with an agent helps customers to make better decisions, which keeps them coming back and also creates good ambassadors for your brand.
Live chat: Talk to your customers in real-time via one of several chat integrations, such as Zendesk chat.
7. Buyers move across channels → Implement omni-channel solutions
Omni-channel shopping is already massive and will only grow going forward. Make sure the process is seamless. That includes branding, design and navigation, as well as customer, product and order data. The same should apply to your communication channels, regardless of how the customer prefers to stay in touch with you.
- 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 10 ERP systems (with more in the pipeline), including SAP and Microsoft Dynamics Navision.
- Consider a Product Information 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 Information Manager software is available for use on both B2C or B2B sites.
- 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.
8. The B2C experience is heavily influencing B2B → Implement B2C features in B2B
With so many B2B buyers shopping online at B2C stores in their personal lives, they now expect the same kinds of features from B2B e-commerce sites. That includes great visuals, enhanced searches and all the information they could wish for at their fingertips.
9. Video is king in e-commerce → Load up video content
Video works best to present a product from multiple angles, including visual, features and benefits, voice-overs and general tips and tricks. Placing a video in your hero carousel is especially effective at engaging visitors to your site and turning them into potential customers.
Cresting the wave of e-commerce trends in 2019
These are the trends to watch. Many are designed to deliver a better customer experience, often through personalisation. Implement your choice of these strategies as and when you feel your audience and your business are ready for them.
Personalisation really is the theme of many of the new technologies for e-commerce. It includes ideas such as:
- Analysing past behaviour and making purchasing recommendations
- Providing differentiated pricing per customer based on price sensitivity (this has been available in B2B for some time, but is now also starting to become a need for B2C)
- Marketing to customers based on their interests and past purchases
- Giving personal attention and assistance while customers are shopping
- Giving a shopper the ability to ‘try’ a product on their own virtual face or body or in their living room
As time becomes a scarce commodity, buyers will value a brand that appeals directly to their needs and helps them quickly find what they want.
- Recommended products: At a minimum, show your customers recommended products tailored to the specific roles you have pre-defined for them. Personalisation goes much further, but this is a good start.
- Marketing automation: Send personalised emails based on your customers’ specific behaviours. This is easy with integrations like ContactPigeon, Mailchimp or ConstantContact.
2. Machine learning and artificial intelligence
Technology is already capable of tracking user behaviour and preferences. As this develops further, it will be possible for e-commerce sites to adapt their design, the ads they present and the products they suggest based on this information. The enhanced customer experience should make visitors feel right at home, hopefully leading to trust and conversions.
3. Purchasing from mobile apps
We’ve already mentioned the need for a responsive site, and this takes it one step further. Many more people are already buying from mobile apps than from mobile websites, and this trend is set to rise along with e-commerce sales.
Tips: At Comalytics we build apps according to your needs and in record time. Speak to us to find out what is possible.
4. Even better (and unique) visuals in e-commerce
We already know that images, and now video, are crucial to make a product real for a customer shopping online. In future, customers will want to know instantly if a product is right for them personally. No-one wants a lengthy explanation of a company’s purpose or mission. Instead, to stand out from the crowd, your product information will need to show specific customers how the product is suited to them.
Consider how Bellroy has done it. The video on their homepage helps visitors to understand exactly what problems they are solving. Then , if you explore their products, notice that they make it clear in their product videos, images and descriptions, how each solution fits the customer’s need. No thinking required – you immediately know if it’s what you’re looking for.
5. Advanced product search
With the right add-ons, e-commerce site searches can already suggest products that match the keyword you type in and order them by popularity. The next step is to order the results based on your personal interests, deduced from previous searches you have done. This is intended to shorten the buying cycle for the visitor. So, for example, if you type in “fridges on sale”, and you’ve previously searched for Bosch products, you’ll see the Bosch fridges on special first.
6. Image search
Visual search technology is improving constantly, especially with companies like Pinterest leading the charge. Soon you’ll be able to upload a photo and find a matching one on an e-commerce site.
7. Voice search
With half of all searches predicted to be voice-based by 2020, this is a rapidly growing trend. As search engines update their algorithms to match this development, e-commerce companies will need to adjust their SEO to keep up with the changes. Companies like Walmart have already implemented voice search in their business.
8. Augmented and virtual reality
Augmented reality (AR) is designed to create as realistic an environment as possible while still being virtual. Allowing users to project or visualise images of themselves, and/or the products they are considering, helps along the buying decision.
Look at these example sites:
- Sephora’s virtual artist lets you try on make-up.
- Ikea’s Place app makes buying furniture extremely easy.
- Tap Painter is an app that helps you figure out which colours to paint your walls.
- Lenskart invites you to try glasses on an image of your own face.
Augment is a tool that can be applied to B2C or B2B e-commerce. Integrate it to your site and allow customers to try your products in life-like situations. Using this tool within your e-commerce business removes the guesswork for visitors shopping online.
Chatbots are the machine equivalent of live chat agents, providing the instant response many customers are looking for. Depending on your business and your needs, they can be programmed to cover many standard questions. Additionally, they are able to ‘learn’. Based on a customer’s behaviour, they can identify what customers need and adjust their responses.
10. Interest-based advertising
Using your browsing history and artificial intelligence, search engines are getting better and better at showing ads tailored to your interests. As this improves further, conversion rates are likely to improve too.
11. Improved payment methods
It’s taken a while for South Africans to get comfortable with paying online for products and services. Now that they are, they are moving increasingly from credit and debit cards, to e-wallets. And as that becomes more established and trusted, the next step in e-commerce will be cryptocurrency.
12. Faster shipping
Flexibility will be the name of the game in e-commerce shipping in 2019. Being able to choose when and how you want your product delivered, and even opting for same-day delivery, is not far off.
13. Research online and purchase offline
Many users search online for the closest store where they can buy the product they want. Then they go to that store and purchase it there. This trend will only strengthen in future. Keeping track of the effect of digital campaigns on this behaviour requires complex monitoring of devices, CRM systems and checkouts, whether online via a payment gateway or at a POS in a store.
14. Amazon SEO
Amazon is the largest product search engine overseas and has developed its own form of SEO. If you’re selling online internationally, you should already be optimising for this. If the company launches e-commerce in South Africa, this will be crucial for local online retailers.
The bottom line…
Your best bet for growing your business lies in making sure you’re on top of current trends, with a clear view of upcoming ones for 2019. Consider carefully what will work for your e-commerce site and for your customers. Each business is different, and making the right choices for yours will lay the groundwork for a successful future.