What is 2017 going to look like for online retail? What are big marketplaces doing that have already shaped the upcoming year? As you plan for the year ahead, these are questions that you must ask to keep up with the latest trends.
When it comes to specific shopping channels and the way individual purchases are carried out, 2017 will be a year of big milestones. There are likely to be several big moves, mostly related to improving customer service and furthering the convenience of online retail in general.
Here are a number of these likely trends – and what you can do so stay ahead of the curve.
Artificial Intelligence Will Provide Top Customer Service
Increasingly, artificial intelligence is going to be the first stop for customer service calls and chats online. But this isn’t something to lament – customers enjoy it, too. Why? Because there’s often less wait time. Answers to their questions are right on hand.
Take advantage of marketplaces and services that offer AI customer service. It will both save you time and satisfy your customers.
Shoppers Will Turn to Mobile… Even More
If your listings are not mobile-friendly, you’re turning off a lot of potential customers. This isn’t exactly new. It’s just that the mobile customer base continues to get bigger and more important.
However, currently, smartphones are being used more often for top-of-funnel activities, such as researching and comparing products. Most final purchases happen in person, on desktop, or other devices.
But next year, smartphone purchases may make up a larger percentages of ecommerce revenues, as functionality of shopping mobile improves and payment processing becomes easier.
The End of Black Friday and Cyber Monday
We’ve already seen this trend in 2016. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are certainly huge shopping holidays, they are increasingly being supplements or replaced with Cyber November or Cyber December deals.
Next year, more retailers may do away with the Black Friday and Cyber Monday altogether, choosing instead to run longer promotions.
Smart Speakers Will Drive Even More Purchases
Amazon is expected to continue growing next year. After its stock prices passed $700 in May, many investment experts predicted that 2017 was the year that Amazon stock would hit $1,000. As of the first weekend in December, stock was around $740, so $1,000 is very possible.
A lot of this year’s growth can be traced back to Amazon Echo. The Echo device (“Alexa”) not only makes it easier for shoppers to play music and check the weather – Alexa also can store a customer’s buying, shipping, and payment preferences. With just a few commands to Alexa, shoppers can learn about hot deals and set up a purchase for same-day delivery. No computer or hand-held device needed.
Because of its popularity, Amazon will release a new 7-inch touchscreen version of the device in 2017 to pre-empt competition from Google Home and Apple in this area.
Walmart Will Challenge Amazon's E-Dominance
Recently, the retail giant has been investing big-time in the technology of its brick-and-mortar stores. At first, this might seem like a separate move from its ecommerce stores. But investing in the efficiency of its brick-and-mortar locations is investing in the advantage it has over any other online marketplace: Walmart can truly cater to a “get-it-now” audience.
Walmart is beginning to use their stores as drop-off and shipping locations. Local stores let Walmart offer same-day delivery in many situations, a huge advancement and advantage in shipping and customer service.
More Premium Shipping and Return Policies
With Walmart’s new drop-off/pick-up model and Amazon Prime, other retailers may step up to meet consumers fast shipping demands.
This could be emerging services that provide ultra-fast or same-day shipping options. The food delivery services Postmates has already said that it would like to expand and enable e-retailers to compete with Amazon Prime’s same-day delivery.
2017 could also see more automated return processing systems to encourage people to take a gamble on products they can’t see and touch before they buy.
These ecommerce breakthroughs highlight two paths of advancement: 1) products that get to shoppers faster and 2) more options for shoppers to discover products. Keep these in mind as you plan for the year ahead and try to identify ways you can improve how and where customers find and buy your products, and how quickly and efficiently you can get products to them.