It’s that time again when we all concern ourselves with the future, and predictions are aplenty. But predictions are not the same as trends. Trends we actually see coming. We can identify and study them. Then we see them building up, until one day we found ourselves looking back at when we first saw them. Or first missed them.
2018 is the year we saw the end of Toys R Us, and Sears, a 132 year staple of American capitalism success. Some would say “they missed the trends”.
Growth rate for eCommerce is expected to jump past the 20%, bringing eCommerce past the point where majority adoption is all but guaranteed.
It’s easy to get lost looking at the glitter of what’s new and gimmicky –I’m looking at you, Augmented Reality– and, with so many opportunities within the reach of small and business, I’d like to focus on what those businesses can actually implement this year to remain ahead of the curve. For that reason, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of eCommerce trends for 2019, but rather, a good list for the AllyOne audience.
Behold, the AllyOne eCommerce Trends to watch for Small and Medium Businesses in 2019
The “Mainstreaming” of eCommerce for SMBs
Small and Medium Businesses are starting to realize that eCommerce –by which I mean enterprise-level stores, features, and tools– is more accessible than they though. Software-as-a-Service eCommerce is quickly evolving into very user-friendly platforms. The result is easy to use, super-powered tools for SMBs.
It is now easier than ever to reach the mobile buyer, to go after abandoned carts, process payments (and subscriptions, and offer financing). The days of complex, expensive development projects are also ending, with specialized provider offering anything from live shipping rates and complex rules, to product personalization and customization options.
The smarter business owners will start to capitalize on the technology available to them, and rely less on “being discovered” in marketplaces, instead controlling what they offer through their own online stores.
Chat and Chatbots
Chatbots are improving the eCommerce consumer experience, and is expected to get better. Chatbots reduce friction from the average customer journey, which is why 48 percent of consumers would rather connect with a company via live chat than any other mean of contact (Hubspot).
But chatbots are not perfect. One has to consider the many basic scenarios a chatbot will encounter interacting with your customers, and anticipate a way out of the automated and into a conversation with an actual person. Following some basic best practices can go a long way.
Voice commerce sales reached $1.8 billion in the US in 2017 and are predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022 (SearchEngineLand). 22% of people owning devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home that have purchased something through voice search. With those numbers, one would have to be a fool not to optimize content for voice search.
Prepare content that answers questions (how, where, how many, what, etc.), is in list form (so it’s ready to be read aloud in voice results), and use everyday language that sounds like the way people talk. Voice search optimization. Like most SEO, is easier to talk about than implement. It requires a lot of work, linguistics/copywriters, and common sense. Some winners may become so by accident, having already used natural language to describe their products for a long time.
It is now easier than ever to reach consumers where they’re at: Social Media, Email, Smartphones, your website, your store. But it is also expected that you will be available in just about any channel.
On the selling end, the key to making omni-channel work for SMBs is having a single point of contact for all your data: inventory (per location), orders, shipping, clients. Integrating to sell on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest is now native in the largest eCommerce SaaS, as it paying with Apple Pay and Google Pay (Google Wallet + AndroidPay).
On the customer-service side, this means not missing out on answering questions coming at your from social media, email, chat, and other channels.
Being omnipresent in your customer’s journey by way of being Omni-channel is a lot of work to set up. But the good news is that the technology is now very affordable, and once set up, requires very little maintenance, other than fine-tuning one’s processes.
If it’s not already obvious, mobile eCommerce is taking over. Mobile commerce is expected to make up 45% of all eCommerce revenue by 2020, and consumers are already mobile: 56% have used there mobile device to research products at home.
This does not mean you should go get an app. Technology is quickly evolving to where Progressive Web Apps will produce very fast-loading, compelling mobile experiences, similar to what can be achieved with a native app.
The takeaway: “Mobile-friendly” website is no longer enough, it’s time to think in terms of “mobile first”, where the experience caters to the mobile user, and accommodates the desktop user.
The Tax-Free Party is Over
In 2018, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State of South Dakota in “South Dakota vs. Wayfair”, allowing the state to compel Wayfair to collect sales tax on sales to customers in South Dakota. Since then, more than half of states in the US have enacted an online sales tax or will do so in 2019.
Increasingly, eCommerce sellers will need to collect sales tax for a lot more states than they previously have been required to collect for. Tax rates vary wildly across the different states and jurisdictions, with variable eligibility and applicability criteria. They will also depend on what is being sold (products AND services) and possibly the jurisdiction where consumers reside.
Fortunately, 3rd-party SaaS are providing tax calculation, filing and payment services to help eCommerce store owners comply. Amazon already collects sales tax in every state on the products it sells directly. This is very good, since Amazon has basically trained consumers to be ok with paying sales taxes on their online sales, and should no longer be an issue with the buyer.
Direct-to-Consumer Keeps Growing
The consumer market is splitting into increasingly narrower fractions. If you’re a manufacturer or have a really good product people love (CPG, apparel, furniture, whatever), the road to selling directly to consumers is now shorter and more accessible than ever before.
To sell directly tot he consumer, all you need to do is find the right platform to create a digital experience your consumers can rave about.
Planning for growth with an existing product line? You will be well served by splitting your offer and marketing to match these niches. This is now feasible for SMBs using headless eCommerce.
SaaS eCommerce platforms offer small and medium business owners the enterprise-level quality, speed, security, features, and stability previously outside their reach. SaaS eCommerce companies continue improve their products and add new features, keeping SMB at the cutting edge of merchandising, sales, and marketing.
- Reduced up-front costs and time required for deployment.
- SaaS is better for collaboration – Your distributed, even global team can work from anywhere.
- Updates and upgrades are quick and seamlessly rolled out by your vendor.
- As your business growths, your software and capacity scales with you.
- Security, including PCI compliance, is handled by your SaaS
- Support is often unlimited, and available 24/7
Bridge the Offline–Online Gap
If there’s anything we can learn from Amazon is what they are doing with physical stores (Amazon 4-star, Amazon Pop-up, Amazon Go). It changes the public’s expectations of what an online store or brand is, as well as what the retail shopping experience will be like.
One of the most exciting eCommerce trends for SMBs in 2019 comes from the affordability and ability for brick and mortars to bridge the gap between online sales and in-store (offline) experiences.
Previously available to only the big players, a mom-and pop can now integrate their Point-of-Sale directly with their store. Among other things, this kind of integration helps keep an accurate inventory. With a mobile POS, one can participate in Pop-up shops with customers paying with their favorite method through the online store. The ease of modern eCommerce allows quickly moving product online that would otherwise just sit on a shelf. And Brick and Mortars everywhere can offer for costumers to order online and pick up in-store.
Here to help
Yes, AllyOne in an eCommerce Consultancy, and we’re here to help implement any of these trends, or simply consult and help you make the right choice for your business. Sign-up to get updates, and learn more about how to grow your business online.