5 Ecommerce Trends That Will Be Game Changers in 2016

Ecommerce sales continue to grow, generating over $300 billion in the U.S. alone this year. Yet ecommerce still remains a small percent of overall retail sales at approx. 10%. So what can multichannel and ecommerce retailers do to increase their online sales?

In today’s hyper-competitive market, it all comes down to how customers experience your brand online. Those brands that can anticipate and meet – or exceed – customer expectations, actively engaging shoppers online and via mobile, will be the big winners in 2016. Those online retailers that adhere to the traditional brand-centric ecommerce model will lose – both customers and revenue.

So how can you help your brand stay competitive? Here are five ecommerce trends that can improve conversion rates.

Contextual shopping will replace personalization

While personalization, being addressed by name and having a site remember your preferences (if you are a member or registered) is nice, you’re going to see context becoming the new personalization in 2016. With a context-based website experience, you don’t have to be registered or logged into a site in order to be given relevant information or content to help you through the online decision journey. That’s because thanks to new customer-centric technology, brands can map the customer journey and anticipate their needs, providing shoppers with the information they need when they need it, taking the friction and hassle out of the online shopping experience.

Brands will proactively engage shoppers instead of waiting to be contacted

Shopping online is typically a pretty flat, impersonal experience. Unlike when you walk into a physical store, there is no one there to greet you when you enter an online store, no one to signal to when you have a question (about a size, a style, or a color), and no one to help you when you encounter a problem (like a coupon code not working). Indeed, most shoppers typically only interact with a live person after a sale, because something has gone wrong.  As a result, online conversion rates are much lower than in-store conversion rates, 1% to 3% versus 20% to 30%.

In 2016, ecommerce stores, instead of waiting for customers to contact them, will actively engage consumers on product pages and throughout the customer journey. In fact, we’re already seeing brands, like Shinola, improve their online conversion rates and engage more customers by offering live chat and relevant information right on product pages and providing immediate help when shoppers encounter a problem.

Mobile commerce will continue to grow, thanks to improved mobile engagement

Gartner predicts that “by 2017, U.S. customers’ mobile engagement behavior will drive mobile commerce revenue in the U.S. to 50% of U.S. digital commerce revenue.” And if a brand isn’t able to reach and interact with their customers via smartphone or tablet, they’re probably not reaching 50% of them. So being able to help customers get done what they’re trying to get done via their mobile device is paramount to success.

A case in point is American Eagle, a brand whose target audience is 15 to 25 year olds, a highly mobile group. Until recently, the company didn’t offer live chat via mobile. However, as soon as they added it, they discovered that more than half of the chats were related to sales. Furthermore, mobile shoppers were asking the same kinds of questions they would ask a salesperson in a store. For example, ‘Do these two things go together?’ or ‘What’s the fit like?’ And you’re going to see mobile become even more important as a sales channel in the coming years.

Retailers will staff their online stores the same way they staff their physical stores

In 2016, we will see more brands creating virtual sales forces. Separate from customer service representatives, who typically aid, or respond to, customers after the sale has been completed, these virtual salespeople will be trained to help and sell to customers before the sale, the same way salespeople in the retailer’s physical store are trained to help customers with their in-store purchasing decisions and at checkout.

Traditional analytics will be replaced by real-time, actionable analytics

With traditional ecommerce analytics, it can take days or weeks to spot a trend or problem on your site. However, with real-time actionable analytics, you can see in real time what your customers are doing – where or when they are exiting or encountering problems – and offer assistance before they leave your site.

For example, with traditional analytics, you may know that a certain percentage of people are abandoning their shopping carts before checkout. With real-time, actionable ecommerce analytics tied to customer engagement, you can see that people bounce when they have a problem with a coupon code. Maybe they mis-typed it or maybe it just expired and they didn’t realize it. And now, instead of losing that sale, you can immediately provide the shopper a foolproof coupon code, saving the sale.

Tara Sporrer is vice president of marketing and sales at Moxie.