Keeping pace with the rapidly evolving eCommerce market is no easy task, but unfortunately it is something that all retailers must do in order to stay relevant, overcome the increasing competition, retain existing customers and attract new buyers. With that in mind, not to mention the fact that 2017 is now just around the corner, we have compiled the four biggest trends that we believe are not only shaping the industry, but will dominate in the coming year.
Here are the top eCommerce trends that you should prepare your business for in 2017:
Same Day Delivery
Convenience in today’s eCommerce market is imperative. In fact, so much so that an increasing number of consumers are opting for convenience over price, with as many as 61% of consumers prepared to pay extra for same-day delivery.
In reality, the days of having to wait 3-5 working days for your purchase to be delivered are well and truly over, and at a minimum there is an expectation for brands to be able to offer next-day delivery options, ideally with convenient cut-off times.
At some point in the near future, however, even next-day will be seen as too long, which is why you need to start preparing for the fact that customers will increasingly expect same-day delivery from your brand. While only 15% of retailers are currently offering this – 6% of which being IRUK Top 500 Retailers – this number is expected to increase significantly in the next year or so, even amongst smaller brands.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that consumers may even expect same-day delivery in as little as 2 hours, with the likes of Amazon already offering this to customers in certain areas, when buying certain products.
How can small businesses offer same-day delivery, or specifically 2-hour delivery?
The problem with same-day delivery, for almost all of us, is that we don’t have anywhere near the same resources and logistics networks as the likes of Amazon, Argos and Next do. The even bigger problem is that your customers just don’t care – at least they won’t as same-day delivery begins gaining even more traction.
So what exactly does this mean? How can you as a small business compete with these brands and start offering extremely fast shipping options?
Fortunately, there are options for offering same-day delivery, regardless of the size of your business. While it is logistically impossible for a business to deliver a product from a warehouse in the south of England and deliver it in two hours to a customer in Newcastle, businesses are however able to distribute stock to fulfilment centres (otherwise referred to as hubs) around the country.
To get an idea of just how realistic this option is, we have taken 20 of our large-volume customers and have pinpointed their own customer’s locations, based on their postal area. This allowed us to create a heat map, as shown below. Please note that we have removed the anomalies, to allow us to get a better sense of where the majority of sales are made.
What’s extremely interesting is that 71% of customers are from 16 postal areas in England and Wales, counting London as a single postal area. We then analysed the data to work out how many hubs you would need to send your inventory to, in order to be able to offer two-hour delivery to customers, based on each fulfilment centre being within a 30-mile radius of a customer. The answer is that to reach 61% of customers, you will need 28 delivery hubs.
But what about the remaining 39% of customers?
In the graph below, you will see how many hubs you would need, to reach a percentage of your customer base across England and Wales.
This data has shown us that in order to reach 40% of customers, you would need 20 hubs, and to reach 90% of your customer base, you would need as many as 474 hubs.
With regards to your own business, the important thing to remember is that these figures are based on our own customer’s data, and you would need to crunch your own data to understand exactly what would work for you. This will allow you to find your own ‘sweet spot’, so that you can reach as many customers as you can, by using as few fulfilment hubs as possible.
It’s also crucial that you keep in mind that it probably isn’t viable to offer all of your customers with same-day delivery, however by using an approach like we have outlined above, you can start thinking about how your business can offer this to a significant percentage of your customer base in the near future.
While mobile wallets have had a slow yet gradual adoption in 2016, this is expected to continue growing in 2017, to become the preferred method of payment in-store. In fact, the likes of Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay and even PayPal are revolutionising the payments landscape, creating a faster and more personalised shopping experience for in-store consumers.
Mobile wallets specifically work by storing a customer’s credit card information within an app, and enabling these users to simply wave their mobile or wearable technology device at the checkout in order to make a purchase. There is, however, no denying that security concerns and lack of knowledge are two of the main reasons for the slow adoption, but as consumers are becoming more educated, it is becoming something that you should certainly be aware of, especially if you operate a brick-and-mortar store.
But what are the benefits of mobile wallets for retailers? Perhaps the biggest advantage of enabling this technology is that you can create more relevant offers targeted specifically at the individual consumer. Retailers such as Waitrose are doing just that, with their “Pick Your Own Offers” loyalty scheme, which encourages My Waitrose cardholders to choose ten of their top items, which will be discounted by 20% each time they are purchased, whether that be in-store or online.
In fact, this goes beyond mobile payments, and provides an example of how brands are using extremely personalised campaigns to reward loyalty and encourage repeat custom.
Thanks to the emergence of Siri, Cortana, Alexa and other voice activated personal assistants, voice search is on the rise, and is significantly changing the way that millions of consumers are searching for and interacting with brands.
By 2020, it is expected that voice will drive 200 billon monthly searches – just let that sink in for a moment – with customers opting to communicate with search engines through voice commands, as opposed to the more traditional text searches.
Text-to-speech technologies will only continue to improve in the coming year, with voice search representing a complete shift in the way consumers are obtaining information. Ultimately, if your business isn’t preparing for this shift, you will miss out on a huge opportunity.
So what exactly does the rise in voice search mean for your business?
The bottom line is, you will need to start optimising your website for voice search, and we would suggest that you start by doing the following:
1. Anticipate the questions that are being asked (and how they are being asked)
Search queries in general now adopt a much more conversational tone, and this will become more prominent as consumers actually ask the questions, rather than type them. We would therefore recommend that you create a list of topics, questions and queries that your audience will be looking for answers or solutions to, which directly relate to your business. From here, you should consider creating a detailed FAQ page and/or blog post that focuses on addressing these topics.
Go one step further and think about the variations of language that could be used, and always keep in mind the use of natural language, as this will play a huge part in your success going forward.
2. Optimise your website for local SEO
Voice search will be particularly beneficial to brick-and-mortar stores, as queries will be around three times as much as other searches. For this reason, if you have a physical store presence, you should make sure your profiles and contact information is kept up-to-date, not to mention detailed and accurate.
You should also look at optimising your website using search terms that potential customers will be using, so for instance if you run a flower shop, you might want to use the terms “local”, “best” or even “cheapest” flowers in Brighton.
2016 saw the breakthrough of chatbots, and this trend is expected to grow phenomenally in 2017 and is something that you as a retailer should be aware of.
What exactly is a chatbot?
In short, a chatbot – commonly referred to as ‘messenger bots’ – is a piece of software that imitates a human, through a messenger service. In reality, this type of tool has been around for a while, however they are now being designed and used with the user experience in mind, to avoid being spammy and instead be genuinely useful.
While they are still very much an emerging technology, their capabilities are growing rapidly and it will soon become a core part of the customer journey when shopping online.
To give you an example, they will be able to provide customer service, help potential buyers to make a purchase decision by providing them with valuable information, handle objections, notify customers when “out of stock” products will be available, obtain customer feedback and handle other questions, among other things.
As an industry, we will likely see a rise in the number of companies being able to offer solutions for eCommerce businesses to build these chatbots.
Overall, the industry as a whole is making huge waves, largely as a result of advancements in technology. Customer expectations are also increasing faster than ever before, so it really is in your best interests as an eCommerce business to stay ahead of these changes. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these trends and find out what you’re expecting from 2017. Simply leave us a comment below!
To learn more about what we expect to see in the eCommerce industry, in not only 2017 but as far ahead as 2020, make sure you watch our CEO’s keynote talk from Linn Academy 2016.