E-commerce trends for 2014, presented at the World Congress in Chicago

The Internet Retailer conference that took place in Chicago last week had its tenth anniversary this year. If there’s one thing we’re starting to see in e-commerce in the United States, it’s that the industry is becoming more and more mature. The game has gone from being one of high growth rates and startups to an arena of big companies. A year that didn’t particularly shine for innovation in solutions for the industry, still reinforced several trends that are already in place but are yet to be implemented by most companies. Let’s look at some of the main ones:

Omnicanality remains the watchword. A unique customer experience across all channels (web, mobile, physical store, call center, etc.). A good example of omnichannel is the banks that, regardless of the channel, always know who the customer is. To be complete, this type of experience requires a considerable effort of integration between all the systems and processes of the company and as such the main e-commerce platforms already present very interesting solutions. 

Mobile is not new either. If it is an area that has been growing, we are at a stage where it is no longer an alternative channel to become the main channel. Several companies report already having 30-40% of sales through smart phones. And if you think this happens in the United States because the market is more advanced, don’t be fooled. In less developed countries the cell phone is the first device with truly personal internet access (many families do not have a computer, or only have one per family but all members have their cell phone).  But in order to shop through mobile sites and apps, you need to be able to pay on your phone, even with all its limitations (including the terrible touchscreen keyboards we still have to use). Several payment solutions, such as Google Wallet, are starting to be developed.  Another buzzword is responsive design. With so many types of phones, tablets, watches, etc. allowing access to the internet, there is a need to have websites that automatically adapt to each one. Proximity technologies such as Apple’s iBeacon, which identifies the position of the device very accurately, are also beginning to be integrated into the user experience (e.g., in a store when you pass the phone in front of a product you can access the entire description about it).

Usability and user experience is another big focus with design increasingly seen as a science. A/B and multivariable testing, eye tracking and lots of usability testing are generating a design focused on the consumer and conversion to sale. Particularly important is mobile usability and the improvements being implemented in the checkout processes of most mobile apps and sites. Websites designed by programmers, or just pretty but not selling, are thankfully starting to be a thing of the past.

Content (a topic we will return to in the next article) and especially videos, are one of the big bets of companies. The attempt to replicate the experience of “feeling the item in your hand” when you go to the store is attempted through the use of videos, photos, and product description. With several companies betting on professional quality videos that, in addition to showing the product, explain its use. Sales improvements of 40-80% between customers who see the video and those who do not begin to justify the investment in this type of medium.

Social networks. If a few years ago we had Facebook and Twitter, now we have fifty social networks, each with a different value proposition. The problem is that consumers’ time is finite, and it is becoming more difficult to have a significant impact. The focus is increasingly on specialized brand/product content according to what customers are looking for at any given time. Generalist “enjoy life” campaigns from tool brands make less and less sense.

The game has clearly changed, and most companies have finally understood. It’s no longer the experimentation phase but a professionalization phase where everything is measured and continuously optimized. Ecommerce is finally no longer the future for many companies, but the present.

David Bernardo
David Bernardo
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