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5 e-commerce trends that you need to keep an eye on this year

What will shape the future of e-commerce websites in 2019? Here’s an in-depth look from our friends at the drop shipping site, Spocket, at five trends that will be on the forefront of e-commerce and what it means for businesses and their customers.

It’s safe to say that 2018 was an eventful year for e-commerce.

E-commerce represented 10 percent of all retail in the United States, and the numbers of small-to-medium e-commerce businesses skyrocketed. Shopify alone surpassed the $1 billion revenue mark faster than any other SaaS company in 2018, a 56 percent increase from 2017.

And that’s not all.

In 2018, we saw the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implemented, content marketing goals take off and more businesses began to experiment with artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. The list goes on and on.

All in all, I think we can all agree that it was quite the year.

You’re going to have to stay on top of the game this year to remain competitive in this hot market, and there are five trends that will help make 2019 your best year yet.

No. 1 – Privacy takes center-stage

We can all agree that data breaches are an all-too-common and serious concern.

Customers trust businesses to protect personal data, and when there’s a breach, their data is put at a serious risk of being exploited.

Note: The following is not legal advice. Please consult a lawyer to address your specific website and business as it pertains to GDPR.

Enter the EU’s GDPR, which now holds all companies who do business with residents from the EU to strict standards with regards to data and privacy protection.

Since it took effect in May 2018, the GDPR demands customer data privacy be a priority for businesses across the world.

For example, the GDPR

  • makes it compulsory for companies to report data breaches to both consumers and to relevant supervisory activities within 72 hours
  • requires all personal information of consumers to be protected. Personal information can include a name, photo, email address, bank details, medical information and IP addresses (to name a few)
  • requires brands collect affirmative consent that is freely given, specific, informed, unambiguous and voluntary, keep evidence of this consent and make it easy for people to withdraw their consent

I mean, how bad can this be?

Ignoring the GDPR is not an option; the GDPR treats data breaches with a severe hand. Noncompliance may lead to fines and penalties as high as 4 percent of global annual revenue from the prior year.

Recently, complaints about GDPR violations were lodged against Google by consumer groups in seven countries due to the usage of location data.

When the gavel came down, Google became the first major tech company to be penalized under the GDPR. Google was fined a hefty 50 million euros ($56,367,243).

That’s pretty bad, and it goes well beyond big names like Google.

How does this affect you, as an e-commerce store owner?
If someone from the EU visits your website, the GDPR most likely applies to you regardless of whether your business is based in Atlanta, Georgia, Mumbai, India or Paris, France.

Though you probably collect customer data through Google Analytics or a product like Lucky Orange, what can you do?

To get started:

  1. Consult a lawyer for the best information to keep your e-commerce store in compliance with GDPR
  2. Evaluate your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to ensure it includes how customer data is used
  3. Make sure you obtain permission from your customers before you process their data
  4. Check with all of your third-party software and integrations to make sure they too are GDPR compliant

You can read the full list of GDPR requirements here.

It’s important to note that the GDPR does not disqualify websites from using third-party apps and data processors such as Shopify or Lucky Orange.

For example, let’s say you use Lucky Orange’s session recordings or dynamic heatmaps to understand what prevented visitors from converting. With GDPR, can you still use these features?

The answer is a resounding yes.

Lucky Orange is fully GDPR compliant, and out of the box, it provides privacy-first features such as anonymized keystroke data and text-scrambling technologies.

Lucky Orange also released a data privacy management tool to let your customers see what data were collected, manage that data and opt-out of future tracking.

When customer data is protected and used correctly, everyone wins – customers and businesses.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Consult a lawyer for GDPR advice specific to your website and audience
  • Make sure your privacy policy is up-to-date
  • Document data collection and usage in your company
  • Ensure the third-party apps you use are GDPR-compliant by checking their policies and asking them for verification
  • Obtain consent before processing consumer data
  • Report data breaches to respective supervisory boards immediately
  • Make it easy for consumers to understand how their data are used and how to opt out of data collection.

No. 2 – Consumers want brands to take a stand

Your customers’ buying behaviors are shifting.

While baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to base their purchasing decisions more on quantity and value, millennials are taking it one step further. Sixty percent of them want their purchases to make them feel good about themselves.

Millennials want their products to meet more than a budget. They want their purchases to meet a logistical and emotional need, too.

One excellent example of this is fair trade products.

Focus on fair trade products

Fair trade products put environmental sustainability and workers into the spotlight. These products are made with sustainable, eco-friendly materials by workers who are provided fair working conditions.

When customers look for fair trade products, they want to know:

  • Is the product made from substances that damage the environment?
  • Is this company fair trade certified?
  • Was the product tested on animals?
  • Does the company provide a fair wage and good working conditions for its workers?

Not all companies may decide to focus on fair trade products and policies, but those that do can use it to their advantage by leveraging their fair trade and sustainability-focused stance as a value proposition.

For example, Veja, a sustainable shoe company, focuses on shoes made with materials that are organic, fair trade and sustainable.

When a customer visits the Veja website, the company’s focus is about more than selling shoes. It’s about Veja’s transparency and sustainability, too:

Veja puts an emphasis on fair trade and vegan products

Veja’s customers who are concerned about the ethics of fair trade can read about the company’s commitment to vegan-friendly shoes and global trade.

How can an e-commerce business get started?
A good place to start is to reach out to Fair Trade USA. Their team will work with you to determine what types of products you want to sell and get you in touch with brands that would be the best fit for your needs.

To test the waters with your audience, ask a poll question such as, “would you be interested in fair trade certified products?” can help you understand if you have enough customers interested to justify including these products in your inventory.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • If you’re ready to sell fair trade products, get in touch with Fair Trade USA
  • Use polls to understand if your customers are interested in fair trade products or what fair trade products they would be interested in purchasing
  • Clearly communicate with customers that your products have been acquired through ethical means and are fair trade products
  • Use your website to highlight your fair trade and sustainability policies

Wading into social activism 

Just like other aspects of our lives, the future of e-commerce also will be heavily influenced by political and social issues. More than 60 percent consumers want brands to weigh in on social and political issues.

One example of brand social activism was Nike’s 2018 campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers football quarterback who took a knee during  the American national anthem in protest of what he believed was unfair treatment of African-American and minorities in 2016.

Nike's campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick
Source: Nike

Though Nike’s stock initially fell 3.17 percent on the day the Kaepernick campaign was announced, within the first few days of the campaign, Nike’s sales surged by 31 percent. By the end of the quarter, Nike’s stocks were up 7 percent.

For those e-retailers interested in social activism, get ready to play the long game.

As Christine Moorman with the CMO Network advises to those marketers, “Jump in authentically when you can be a heavyweight and stay put to make a difference.”

While taking a risk on a social or political issue could seriously backfire (Pepsi’s ad featuring Kendall Jenner, anyone?), make sure it’s an authentic issue that appeals to your audience.

For example, if your audience is primarily parents, environmental issues may not be high on their priority list.

According to Sprout Social research, when people agree with a brand’s position on social and political issues, the majority (52 percent) show greater brand loyalty and 44 percent are likely to purchase more. Around one-third of those customers would publicly praise the company, too.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Be authentic when you enter social activism
  • Look at the long-term plan, not just the short-term; social activism is a commitment, not a gimmick
  • Build awareness of your brand activism on your social media accounts and website

No. 3 – Retailers dive into data to refine approaches, automate tasks

Every successful business owner can appreciate the power of data to transform a business.

Understanding data on your customers – their purchasing behaviors, their product preferences and what they like and don’t like about your business – opens a new world of possibilities for you increase your connections with customers.

Businesses can start by embracing that data.

Embrace the data

In many ways, analytics data is like preventative medical care.

Let’s say it’s time for my annual physical. My doctor compares my weight, blood pressure and symptoms to past physicals. Additional screenings and test, such as blood work, can help provide my doctor with the information needed to provide better treatment to prevent bigger health issues in the future.

The same goes for your website.

If you’re trying to analyze a website, even before it’s “sick,” you need to have the right information at hand to address current concerns, such as navigation issues or broken links, and avoid bigger problems in the future.

Just like my doctor has screening and tests, your website has conversion optimization.

Conversion rate optimization goes beyond traditional analytics data, like Google Analytics. While Google Analytics does a great job at telling the beginning and end of a visitor’s journey, the middle gets a little murky.

Instead of just relying on Google Analytics, businesses use heatmaps, session recordings, form analytics, conversion funnels, live chat, surveys and polls to really understand how their website is used.

For example, a business could look at session recordings to watch how visitors on their website behaved.

Did they use your navigation bar, or do they search for products? Once they added products to the cart, did they leave after seeing the shipping information? Did they encounter problems checking out?

Google Analytics may have shown that most people exited the website from the shipping page, but recordings may have shown that most people clicked on shipping information before leaving the site.

If this were your website, you could surmise that your shipping prices may be too high or information may be lacking. Adding in a shipping calculator and providing free shipping discount codes may be enough to remedy the situation.

It comes down to this: If you want to stay relevant in 2019, start making decisions based on data.

Still unconvinced?

Consider this: the Shopify store MyBaitShop serves the fishing community by offering vintage and new fishing lures. When conversions were struggling, MyBaitShop’s owner Keith Bell turned to Lucky Orange for help.

In particular, Bell used polls to learn what his visitors wanted to buy, session recordings to learn where they were going on the website and heatmaps to find new methods of engagement.

The result? He grew conversion by 450 percent in 103 days.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Make changes to your store and test new variables by observing data and making data-driven changes.
  • Don’t shy away from conversion optimization tools. Instead, use them to learn about audience behaviors and understand what they want from your website.
  • Use polls to discover the inventory your visitors want to buy

Automation in e-commerce

Once you have the right conversion rate optimization tools in place and data is flowing in, you can now determine what tasks you can or should automate through artificial intelligence.

While AI may initially bring images of the movie “The Terminator,” AI bots are especially helpful for e-commerce websites like yours. In many ways, it can take care of some of the more tedious jobs we do manually.

Whether it’s promotional emails or reminders about the products in your cart, there’s a bot behind the screen.

Platforms like Shopify already have apps to automate just about everything in the customer journey. Finding suppliers, offering product recommendations, order processing, scheduling sales, bundling, reviews and retargeting are all jobs that humans have ceded to apps.

For example, let’s talk about abandoned carts. According to 2019 research by Baymard Instuitite, nearly 70 percent of carts are abandoned by visitors.

Instead of manually contacting each and every visitor who abandoned their carts, you could use an app like Recart to do that job for you.

Using Recart, visitors who reach the shopping cart but leave before checking out will be sent a message via Facebook Messenger reminding them to complete their purchase.

Considering it has 4.8 stars and 5,528 reviews on the Shopify app store, it’s safe to say that Recart’s automation can help generate what would have been a lost sale.

As small businesses and solo entrepreneurs rise to capture markets, they’re trying to make online store-building a less time-consuming process. These tiny automations help with just that.

This automated avenue is constantly being explored, yet there are possibilities that are still unexplored — ones we look forward to seeing in 2019.

We expect to see more AI and automation applied to tasks like fraud detection and homing in on target markets.

If you still haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and are fulfilling orders one-by-one, drop shipping apps like Spocket can help.

Using Spocket, entrepreneur Marc Chapon managed to earn about $200,000 in just six months. When those hundreds of orders came in, he didn’t have to manually enter customer data to send to suppliers.

The entire process was automated, and the products were directly shipped from the supplier to the customer, with shipping and logistics handled.

Automation is among one of the most widespread e-commerce trends in 2019 and is most likely not going anywhere.

Helpful tip: Always measure and validate any AI app success with analytics data on a regular basis. This ensures it’s setup correctly and functioning as it should be.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Try to reduce all the bulky, time-consuming work by automating it with tools
  • Examine each step of the conversion funnel for opportunities to automate
  • Automate what you can so you can focus on important aspects of business
  • Use analytics data to validate each app’s success with your website and traffic

No. 4 – Great customer experiences deepen brand loyalty

Customer experience is the fated meeting between your product and the customer: the first glance deepening into a deeper gaze. This affair must be perfectly crafted, and the interaction must leave no room for second-guesses.

From that very first impression to the post-order emails, there are several ways to optimize the customer experience.

Just ask your visitors

Let’s say the tables are turned and you’re the visitor. You’re on the hunt for a new pair of athletic shoes, and you’ve finally found the perfect pair at MyPerfectShoes.com. You add the shoes to the cart and begin to check out, at which point you’re asked to log in.

You go through the sign-up process, but as you hit “submit” to complete the sign-up process, a warning pops up alerting you that you already have an account. You’ll have to log in.

You grumble to yourself and attempt to log in only to discover you don’t remember your password.

Finally, after resetting your password, you are rerouted back to your cart only to discover that it’s now empty. You went through all of that only to have your cart wiped in the process.

What do you do?

If you’re like most visitors, you left before you checked out.

This is just the sort of situation that provides an excellent example of why customer experience should be on every e-retailer’s mind in 2019.

E-commerce giant Amazon prioritizes their customer’s shop experience over everything. From their no-stress return policies to the excellent customer support, Amazon has mastered the art of customer experience.

Their multichannel 24/7 support makes it easy for people to reach out to them.

 

Considering Amazon’s billion-dollar success, we would venture to say it helped not only customer retention but likely cultivated brand loyalty as well.

One of the best and fastest-growing methods to improve customer experience is also the most simple – ask your customers directly through live chat and polls.

For example, asking questions can produce incredible insight into the minds of customers, such as:

  • What almost stopped you from checking out today? – Discover potential pain points and roadblocks preventing visitors from checking out
  • What products would you like to see us sell? – Learn what your visitors want to buy, as seen earlier through MyBaitShop.com
  • Would you like to receive our monthly newsletters? – Gather emails from your visitors who actively want to receive communications from you

Meanwhile, live chat offers a way to connect and engage with visitors directly, especially those who would otherwise leave before converting.

According to ICMI, more than half of customers prefer to use live chat instead of calling a company for support, and 42 percent of customers prefer to use live chat instead of email.

Live chat not only stops visitors before they leave but can help them immediately with their questions and addresses their needs, even with small staff.

You can use chat to help visitors many ways:

  • Is a visitor struggling with finding the right product? Use live chat to co-browse with the visitor, digitally leading her to the right product pages.
  • Is a visitor not local? Considering offering him an exclusive free-shipping code.
  • Do visitors want to contact you outside of your support hours? Set up pre-approved responses to provide quick answers for common questions.

In 2019, it’s not a question of whether you will make customer expectations a vital part of your business; it’s whether your business can afford not to.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Customer experience is key to your website’s success
  • Polls provide an easy way to engage with customers and receive their feedback
  • Don’t be afraid to try different poll questions to build your email lists or as a lead generation
  • Live chat has the highest satisfaction level of any customer service channel

Personalization works

Your customers expect a good customer experience and are willing to reward those retailers who deliver.

One of the best ways to impress customers is by personalizing their shopping experience. Afterall, you can’t treat all customers as a collective glob with a single personality.

It’s also what customers want.

Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research found that 43 percent of customers are more likely to shop again with companies that always personalize experiences.

In a traditional brick-and-mortar store, a sales associate can provide a personalized experience by observing a customer shopping for new clothes, see her style preference and offer to help her find more outfits that fit her style and budget.

E-commerce stores, however, don’t necessarily have the ability to make that physical connection. Here are some ideas to get started:

No. 1. Think beyond the website

Emails are typically the first digital channel both businesses and customers think of when they hear the word “personalization.” Three out of four marketers currently apply personalization to emails tailoring messages by audience segment and triggering emails based on shopping behaviors.

Tip: If you’re going to use email personalization, go beyond the basics. Pure360 research shows just 8 percent of customers engage with marketing that addresses them by name and 7 percent engage with birthday emails.

Example: You sell dog food. Mary typically buys more dog food for her dog, Leroy, every five or six weeks. A month after her order is placed, send a reminder email to Mary that Leroy’s bowl will be empty soon.

No. 2. Use upselling and cross-selling wisely before and after the purchase

These two terms are incorrectly used interchangeably, but both are unique marketing tactics:

  • Upselling refers to recommending higher priced items in the same style or brand. If you’re looking at the iPhone 6s, upselling recommendations may include the more expensive iPhoneX.
  • Cross-selling, on the other hand, is recommending complementary items for a purchase. If you’re buying a new laptop, cross-selling recommendations may include software, laptop bag, mouse or printer.

Shopify stores can use apps like Smar7 Bundle Upsell and Exto’s Upsell and Cross-sell Products to offer upsell or cross-sell recommendations in a pop-up or on a product’s page. Or, for post-checkout upselling, ReConvert can help optimize order confirmation pages with additional upselling opportunities.

Tip: If you’re going to dive into upselling and cross-selling, make sure your third-party apps are providing relevant products to customers. Recommendations shouldn’t be just a repeat of what the customer has already placed in their cart or purchased.

Example: If a customer has a winter coat in their cart, product recommendations may be for a fur-lined coat or parka (upselling) or complementary mittens or boots (cross-selling).

No. 3. Create personalized best-seller lists

Customers like to know what other people think of products before they buy. A study in the Association for Psychological Science found that people tend to favor a product with more reviews even if it has the same low rating as an alternative product.

In an article for Shopify, the personalization app Nosto worked with the Shopify store Campus Protein to create best-seller list of its most popular products, which also included product ratings and reviews stats.

The result was a 50 percent click-through rate from the best-seller page to the product pages.

Tip: The options for best-seller lists are limited only by your own creativity. You can create lists based on location, application, reviews, seasons, niches … you name it.

Example:  If a customer visits your e-commerce store from Texas, target just those visitors with a list of products most popular right now in Texas.

Of course, these are just three examples of personalization for e-commerce. Here are other resources you may find helpful:

When personalizing the experience for your customers, make sure that it is engaging.

More than half of customers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalized offers and discounts, product recommendations or personalized shopping experiences. They want a personalized experience, so what’s stopping you from delivering?

This is your chance to make the exchange of personal data for a personalized experience worth it.

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • Go above the basic level of personalized; think beyond first names and birthdays
  • Connect with your audience and find ways to help personalize their experience to make lives easier
  • If you aren’t upselling and cross-selling, you are missing out on opportunities for additional revenue
  • Get creative and think outside of the box for different ways to engage customers with personalization

No. 5 – Augmented reality steps to the real world

Possibly the most exciting thing happening in e-commerce is augmented reality (AR). In the simplest terms, AR means that computer-generated images are super-imposed on the real, physical world.

A 3D image on your phone combined with your physical surrounding is AR.

If you’ve ever played Pokemon GO, you’ve used AR.

Pokemon Go

AR is becoming more popular among customers and e-retailers, and both can’t seem to get enough of it.

In particular, AR helps e-commerce stores address a common barrier when competing with brick-and-mortar stores — the real-life advantage.

While shopping in a traditional store, a buyer looking for a rug can see the size and quality of a rug immediately. Around 31 percent of consumers buy in physical stores for purely that purpose.

Meanwhile, e-commerce has built a reputation among customers for not-so-honest descriptions:

Online products don't always deliver

With AR apps, customers can say “goodbye” to these scenarios.

More than 70 percent consumers expect retailers to offer an augmented reality experience, but AR remains a luxury accessible to a few. This number is forecast to see a massive boost in 2019.

According to Harvard Business Review, spending on AR technology will hit $60 billion in 2020.

The goal of AR isn’t to just increase sales. By provided in-depth details about a product, you might reduce returns because the product was too large or too small.

If you need some inspiration, take the Shopify store Pure Cycles. It sells fixed gear bicycles online and in stores.

Using Shopify AR, Pure Cycles was able to let customers explore every inch, every part and every angle of their products:

You don’t even need to just take my word for it. According to Ecomdash:

  • 63 percent of customers say AR would improve their shopping experience
  • 35 percent say AR would make them shop online more often
  • 22 percent say they’d patronize brick-and-mortar stores less if AR were available on more e-commerce sites

I know, I know. You’re probably wondering how a small e-retailer such as yours can bring AR technology to your customers.

There’s no need to worry; Shopify has created a services marketplace so that you can make 3D models of your products. Seriously – check it out. 

Key takeaways for e-commerce websites

  • AR reduces uncertainty of buying online
  • Nearly two-thirds of customers say AR would improve their shopping experience
  • Your buys are wanting it: AR would be enough to convince 35 percent of customers to shop online more often

Get a head start with Shopify AR—if you realize the potential, your competitors will too

Summing it all up: 2019 is going to be awesome

This year looks promising for breakthroughs and new technologies, and we are sure with the above tools in your toolbox, the market will be yours to conquer.

E-commerce is striding forward quickly with giant digital footsteps, and now it’s your store’s challenge to keep up.

With the right tools in hand, including Spocket and Lucky Orange, 2019 is going to be a great year for you, your e-commerce store and your customers.

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