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Published January 10th 2018

Four Ecommerce Trends for 2018: What Should We Expect?

What developments will need to be made to remain competitive this year? What impact will VR have on selling stuff? Here's our summary of the top ecommerce trends of 2018.

The ecommerce trends we see in 2018 might not see a huge departure from what’s been on the horizon for a long time – we’ll likely just see a lot more of the futuristic, long-hyped stuff become realized. Regardless, ecommerce is a huge part of today’s world and its economic impact is becoming more important.

Millennials are killing bricks and mortar stores. They’re literally eating bricks and mortar for breakfast, sat just alongside a bunch of greedy Gen X-ers.

Without pushing the murderous millennial metaphor any further than it already has been, the stats show that 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop on online rather than in-store.

If you can tell a lot about a society by the state of it’s buildings, the growing number of dilapidated malls and boarded up store fronts are no subtle indication of what’s becoming known as the Retail Apocalypse.

For want of a phrase that hasn’t been used countless times over the last few years, ecommerce is having a bigger impact than ever before.

So, what ecommerce trends can we expect in 2018? Here are four predictions.

1. Going where the people are

Not only are people not doing so much shopping in ‘real-life’ stores, they’re also making more and more purchases away from their desktops. The rise of ‘m-commerce’ has been well documented over the last few years, and the importance of ensuring a site is comfortable for mobile users is obvious.

That people are making purchases on their mobile phones is old news, though. The spaces for selling digitally in 2018 will become more diverse. Firstly through the use of voice assistants in the home, secondly, as we’ve already seen, through the use of AR and also (perhaps a little further into the future) embracing the potential that VR brings to online shopping spaces. It’s something we’ve touched on before when discussing how impulse purchases will survive as consumers’ interactions with cash registers becomes more sparse.

Where voice assistants create smooth, screen-free shopping experiences that are incredibly convenient, AR and VR are certainly elements of ecommerce that could help sell higher ticket items and experiences, offering consumers a short but incredibly immediate and, depending on the item, realistic taste of the product.

As consumers begin to take up these new technologies, marketers must be one step ahead to capitalise on the opportunities they offer.

2. Customer service must be on point

Like I said at the beginning, a lot of 2018’s e-commerce trends likely won’t be brand new technological developments – it’ll be about honing what we already know works in ever-smarter ways.

Today, one ill-judged tweet replying to a customer making a complaint could end up causing damage to your brand’s reputation. Brands are very accountable for their actions even at the smallest touch points and social media is unforgiving when they step out of line.

Smart brands will ensure that every interaction with customers is designed to make their lives easier and leaves them feeling better – while mistakes will inevitably be made, employing poorly trained community managers to deal with queries is no excuse for shoddy customer service.

We’ll likely see more automation when it comes to customer service because, well, robots are coming for all of us. Chatbots will hopefully save plenty of humans time and money but machines are not known for their adaptability or empathy. The challenges that come with chatbots being equipped to deal appropriately with humans, and ensuring everyone is treated with respect when talking to a bot, is something that we could be hearing more about going forward.

One way to keep customers happy is to have a visible and responsive social media presence. In our most recent update to the Brandwatch Index that ranks the top brands on social, digital retailers were beating their bricks and mortar competition considerably when it came to their online presence.

3. Buyer journeys will get increasingly seamless

Voice assistants are probably the most exemplary facilitators of a seamless buying experience heading into the new year. Being able to buy something without lifting a finger is just another one of those things that people twenty years ago never saw coming, but for now we can be certain that not all purchases will be made this way in 2018.

Regardless of the platform, brands need to know exactly how their buyer journey looks, finding the points that cause friction or unease and working quickly to alleviate the issues. I’ve spent enough time crumpling my face at slow checkout systems and hard-to-find buttons recently to know that plenty of progress is still to be made.

Discovering what’s getting in the way of customers making purchases is no easy task, but it’s one that will no doubt pay off.

4. Timeliness and sustainability will clash

Here’s my wildcard prediction.

Since one-day delivery (and one hour delivery depending on what you’re buying and where) turned us all into petulant little Veruca Salts, the world’s biggest retailers are working to satiate our “I want it now” attitudes, but there could be trouble here.

Alongside our need for super-fast delivery, companies’ perceived wrongdoings can easily turn into social media storms.

The plights of overworked delivery drivers, let alone the environmental impact of pushing to get our packages as instantaneously as possible may continue to raise eyebrows in 2018.

Whether the downsides of speedy delivery will discourage our need for getting stuff fast is uncertain, but solar powered, super safe delivery drones that will save us from all these problems probably won’t be sweeping across the skies by the end of this year.

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