How Will Consumers Drive Ecommerce Change in 2016?

Since the beginning of ecommerce, retailers have controlled how consumers shop and buy online – until now. Mobile devices have become deeply integrated into the online shopping experience.

Consumers expect seamless multi-device, cross-channel interaction with their favorite brands. They no longer need to be “savvy shoppers” to find a better deal. A lower price may be just a few clicks or taps away. Attention spans are shorter, patience for mistakes is wearing thin and your sales may hang in the balance.

While the retailer-consumer dynamic has experienced a power shift, it doesn’t mean doom and gloom for retailers. If anything, this turning of the tables has driven innovation and pushed technology forward at a remarkable pace. This is a battle retailers must fight to stay relevant, engage shoppers and avoid losing sales to competitors able to meet consumers’ channel-connecting, device-transitioning demands. It’s actually a thrilling, refreshing moment in the evolution of e-commerce.

As we move through 2015 and look forward to 2016, successful retailers will not fear this leveling of the ecommerce landscape. Rather, they will embrace these consumer expectations and find ways to connect with their customers regardless of where they want to shop or which devices they are using.

If you’re a retailer looking to navigate these tricky waters, you can’t rely solely on past-purchase information and traditional behavioral data, such as opens, clicks and site visits, as predictors for future trends. To find success in this new retail landscape, you must go deeper to truly understand what consumers want.

Many consumers are utilizing shopping carts to store items to view later on a different device or in a brick-and-mortar store. To truly meet consumer expectations for scenarios such as this one, retailers must coordinate the site experience between devices and remove any barriers that divide store and online channels. While this is not an easy goal, it is possible to achieve and should be a priority for ecommerce marketers in 2015. Those who fail to find a solution to this issue risk losing countless sales because of cart abandonment, already a glaring problem.

Emerging technologies are also helping retailers to bridge these device and channel gaps. Mobile devices are becoming even more mobile. Wearables and VR devices could bring even more immersive experiences to the ecommerce landscape. Location-based technologies and beacons will help shoppers self-navigate and self-select a unique and relevant path to purchase.

Savvy retailers are also finding creative ways to extend brand voice and core values into the multi-channel, multi-device landscape. Simply having a mobile presence may not be enough to remain competitive. Retailers with an eye on what’s next are looking beyond function in search of the experiential elements that make consumers want to buy from their brand. Many have started to connect these dots.

For example, Target’s Cartwheel tool can be accessed via traditional computers, mobile browsers and an app to give shoppers a way to pre-shop sales and save valuable coupons for an in-store shopping trip. Barcodes can be scanned within the app to find additional savings opportunities. This meshing of savings, cross-device utility and seamless device transitions engages the consumer, makes the process easy and reminds them why they want to shop at Target.

It’s a tricky period for retailers, but it’s also one filled with opportunities for those who take the time to explore these shifting consumer expectations and trends, and mine their behavioral and purchase data. Those companies that do their homework will find ways to deliver a seamless and engaging experience for shoppers today while also discovering which technologies should be considered in the future as consumers continue to find new ways to shop.

Jim Davidson, head of research for Bronto Software

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