Consumers will engage with products and brands in new ways online in the year ahead.

In today’s competitive online shopping landscape, it’s hard to stop for a minute to wonder how popular this form of retail has become. Well, here’ a spoiler—very popular. In the U.S. alone, e-commerce sales are expected to reach $500 billion by 2018. With this in mind, it will be interested to see how 2017 will contribute to the industry’s growth.

While this year will likely continue to see online marketers turning to digital advertising to reach out to their consumer base, the following surprising e-commerce trends are set to change the way consumers actually engage with products and companies in 2017.

1. The rise of online learning (video as a commodity)

The days of waking up early to attend a lecture seem almost obsolete, especially with the wave of online learning programs and courses available within just a few clicks. From Udemy to Coursera, the sheer magnitude of choices available for self-enrichment study is quite impressive. From the instructor’s point of view, these are opportune moments to capitalize on this market, as video has indeed become a commodity
For instance, Kajabi encourages and enables adopters to become their own self-marketers by adding features to help promote the instructor, including landing pages and built-in email marketing tools to be able to reach out directly to customers. This helps the platform engage with an array of video-based educators, from fitness experts to unique chefs.

2. Growing relationship between chat bots and customer service

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Customers are increasingly hungry for information and are often eager for immediate answers. This is no exception, and even more relevant, in the world of e-commerce. The time that elapses between an online transaction inquiry and the customer representative response should be as close to net zero as possible.

Thankfully, 2017 will likely see the emergence of more e-commerce integrated chat bots that will ease the customer service experience and remove the burden of waiting for a response. Live-action customer engagement in the form of an online or audio chat with an e-commerce seller is both empowering for shoppers as well as for merchants, as such immediate communication removes bottlenecks that are far too common in the sales funnel.

3. Leveraging Snapchat marketing: Not all social media channels are created equal

While there are many e-commerce predictions that discuss mobile advertising and the importance of reaching out to social media users to increase brand awareness, Snapchat has steadily elevated its prominence among retailers. For instance, Target and Lancome cleverly took advantage of the channel’s active user base in order to share e-commerce ads across mobile screens.

The ability to easily swipe in order to move ahead in the sales funnel adds both gamification elements as well as turns the online shopping experience into a natural part of our everyday routine when opening and using the popular app.

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4. Selling webinars for the end-user

Webinars are also a trend to look out for in 2017. Such platforms, especially those with white-label branding features, are smart ways for brands to engage with their followers. Beyond the traditional scope of sharing knowledge and information in the form of trainings and educational sessions, marketers can use webinars as tool to drive sales.

For instance, Clickmeeting offers users the ability to utilize webinars to market certain products across a segmented group of leads. This often involves a combination of sending out well-design landing pages, collecting valuable lead information in the registration process, as well as directly conversing and engaging with select prospective customers. This essentially provides a direct way for brands to engage with their client base and to address any concerns they may have.

5. Influencer marketing will continue to be a go-to for merchants

Online merchants are constantly looking for ways to leverage the power of online influencers as part of their e-commerce marketing strategies. So while 2017 won’t be an exception, it will be even more significant. This is especially true given that brands are constantly on the lookout for which social media channels will provide the best exposure for their products.

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Tapping into such influencers has received an additional boost with the emergence of influencer marketing software such as Traackr and HYPR, with clear and focused ways for merchants to explore when pinpointing specific leads.

6. DIY Platforms and distribution systems

The presence of online do-it-yourself (DIY) platforms and distribution systems is another interesting trend to look out for this year. Marketplaces that enable users to directly be part of the shopping experience from a seller’s perspective provide exciting opportunities for users themselves to turn into vendors.

E-commerce merchants and retailers should look for ways to leverage such platforms, especially among the creative class, those freelancers and designers that could directly benefit from such platforms.

7. Increase of same-day delivery services 

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More and more consumers are increasingly becoming impatient. The time it takes to receive a product once the transaction has been completed is critical in terms of customer satisfaction. According to a Forrester report, nearly 30% of consumers would pay an additional fee for a same-day delivery option.

2017 will likely see the addition of these options, especially with the emergence of more localized delivery centers that reduce waiting periods as well as the burden on centralized distribution and shipping centers. Such flexibility will likely contribute to brand loyalty and customer retention, something all e-commerce merchants can get excited about.

Summing up

The emergence of new tools and platforms that bridge the gap between customers, combined with the increasing demand for a positive (and flexible) customer service experience, all mean that these are exciting times to be part of the e-commerce industry.

E-commerce merchants will likely to continue exploring ways to reach out to/retain potential/current customers, while highly influential consumers themselves will have an increasingly stronger influence on how such brands reach out to the masses.

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