What is the biggest e-commerce trend you see happening in 2016?
The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Customer Service Via Text
A number of start-ups such as Magic are conditioning consumers that any request can be fulfilled via text conversation. Now start-ups such as Mosio are getting e-commerce retailers to unlock the ease of customer service via text.
2. Personalized Shopping Experiences
With more people shopping online for convenience, they are missing the personalized experience that physical stores offered. This means e-commerce retailers have to work on getting more technology solutions that shape what they show different visitors to their online stores. Big data, along with learning software, can help achieve this personalization.
Startups like Warby Parker, Bonobos and Tuft and Needle have been doing it the last couple of years, and now even Amazon is planning on opening stores. For these companies, e-commerce revenue may still be the revenue center, but having a physical location can be a great marketing channel for customers to have an immersive brand experience, as well as a point for pick-up and customer service.
4. Purchases Within Other Apps
WeChat, Messenger, Alexa, Twitter, etc. are all adding ways for you to buy products from them directly. Whether it’s custom user interfaces or natural language processing, you’ll never have to leave the app you are in to buy something. It’s no coincidence that Amazon spent millions on a Super Bowl advertisement for Alexa and that Facebook hired the former CEO of Paypal to run Messenger.
5. Customer Referrals
With ad blocking technology becoming mainstream in 2016, the ability to inject your brand into social streams will separate the winners from the losers. One way to do this is via customer referrals. Successful companies are already investing in a comprehensive customer referral strategy. These referrals cut through the noise and should offset the loss of activity due to ad blockers.
I see a trend happening that allows e-commerce companies to move towards eCash. This is moving from credit cards to more of an electronic cash. Companies are moving to mediums like Venmo, Square, and other types of electronic cash to purchase products. Over the coming year, you will start seeing a large number of companies moving to this model.
7. AI Integration
A lot of luxury e-commerce retailers have started experimenting with AI in order to better service their customers’ needs in a more intuitive way. The aim is that while many customers visit the very same website, their experience of that site should be wholly different based on their demographics and stats.
8. Mobile Live Chat
The live chat representative can act as a personal shopper or a customer service representative. Since searching and navigating an e-commerce site on your phone can be a chore, the live chat rep could sort of show you the way to the products you’re looking for.
9. Subscription Boxes
Even if it’s not about time savings, who doesn’t like a surprise in the mail every week? I know I do, and so do the customers of so many popular subscription box services popping up everywhere. Need clothes, think Trunk Club. Dog food, BarkBox. Razors, Shave Club. The list goes on and on. This is not new by any stretch, but it’s going to blow up even more in 2016.
10. Mobile App Integration
You may have already noticed the Buy Now buttons in your Pinterest mobile app account. For many apps, there is a huge push to integrate social platforms with e-commerce. I believe this trend will continue to grow and potentially become the largest shift in 2016.
11. Digital Wallets and Cryptocurrency
More people will start paying for their purchases with cryptocurrency like bitcoin and using digital wallets rather than carrying around their credit or debit cards. Loyalty and gift cards will also be stored in these digital wallets. More e-commerce companies will need to determine how they can incorporate these preferences or encourage more customers to use these payment methods.
12. Increased Importance of On-Site Search
Many e-commerce companies overlook the value that their own on-site search can play in the customer experience. Platforms such as Nextopia and Swiftype provide a ton of advanced search functionality out-of-the-box, such as real-time search, search filtering, weighted results and search analytics. These features greatly improve the customer’s experience as they search for products and content.
13. Amazon FBA
As the popularity of starting or buying an e-commerce business increases each year, many business owners are looking for ways to simplify their operations and expand by leveraging larger platforms. By using fulfilment-by-Amazon (FBA) e-commerce owners can spend more time growing their business and less time worrying about packing and shipping products themselves. Simplicity always wins over time.