It’s safe to say that eCommerce has dramatically transformed in the last two years. We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride full of shifting online buying behaviors and changing B2B and B2C consumer trends, and it’s time to take a step and ask yourself if your technology is capable of keeping up. According to The State of eCommerce 2021, “Technology was the biggest hurdle to address the eCommerce journey in the past year.” This year, we are seeing that trend continue for both B2B and B2C companies.
At commercebuild, a big part of what we do is to help our customers understand the latest trends and technologies in eCommerce. Our goal is to share what eCommerce trends are making the biggest impact this year and help you navigate what technologies and strategies will work best for your business.
Here are 15 eCommerce trends you need to be aware of today.
1. Maximizing Lifetime Customer Value
Whatever your marketing strategy, the cost of acquiring new customers is on the rise as the competition for those new customers increases. Winning a steady stream of new customers is the lifeblood of eCommerce and almost invariably requires bigger marketing budgets today than ever before. For the business to be viable in the long term, these high initial customer acquisition costs must secure revenue and margin streams well into the future. The margin you earn from a customer over the time they buy from you is that customer’s lifetime value, and maximizing that value is mission-critical.
To do that, you need to pay attention to 3 key things:
- Increasing average transaction value (ATV). The most effective tactics here usually lie in the creation of compelling product bundles and the use of “order bumps.” Simply put, the question is, “what do my customers want to buy together?” It’s the online equivalent of asking, “would you like fries with that?” The challenge is that the answer is often not intuitive, so you really need to base these product bundles and order bump suggestions on actual purchase behavior by using data-driven recommendations that are auto-generated just before the point of purchase.
- Increasing order frequency. No matter what product you sell, it will have a “typical” use-cycle and logical re-order point. The key to increased order frequency lies in timely and auto-generated “reminders” to the customer that they may need to replenish whatever you sell them. Here again, the timing of these reminders should be data-driven.
- Decreasing churn. Lose a customer, and you lose all future revenue they could have generated for you. To prevent this, you obviously want to have strong customer feedback mechanisms in place so you know why they left, but it is also important to attract customers that are the best fit for your product in the first place. Couple this with solid customer support and targeted retention offers, and you will minimize customer churn.
2. Provide a “Frictionless” Buyer Experience
Success in eCommerce requires far more than an efficient “transactional” approach—you must take the buyer on a satisfying journey, providing value and removing all friction at each stage. In broad terms, this buying journey has 4 stages:
- Research. Every eventual purchase begins with a prospect doing online research and identifying their options. You must be easy to find, whether via a search engine, social media, or more traditional means. This is where the buying journey begins, and your website absolutely needs to create a positive first impression.
- Interest. At this stage, you must give the prospect reason to go beyond simple browsing and actively consider you as being on their “shortlist.” Content that is perceived as assisting their buying journey is king here, as opposed to a simple “sales pitch.”
- Conversion. The “tipping point” of the customer journey is when the customer commits to a purchase. At this stage, you are held accountable for keeping the promises you have made and conveying quality through all your back-end processes.
- Retention. The key to achieving repeat purchases that deliver a strong lifetime customer value requires both seamless customer service as well as data-driven marketing capabilities.
One of the ways to achieve this seamless customer buying experience is through ERP-integrated eCommerce software. You can read more about the benefits of ERP and eCommerce integration here.
3. Offer Near-Immediate Fulfillment
It’s not enough to have a great product. Today’s eCommerce customer also expects to receive their purchase faster than ever. Amazon-like delivery times have become the standard against which all eCommerce businesses are now measured. Fail to meet that standard, and your business simply will not grow as fast as you want it to.
Meeting the customer’s expectation of near-immediate fulfillment has several moving parts that all must operate together without friction. You must first need to have sufficient product available to meet demand—whether you run your own fulfillment center or outsource this function. A solid inventory management capability is an absolute prerequisite here. From this inventory, you must rapidly “pick and pack” individual orders. Your shipping and delivery logistics must also run like clockwork. Finally, any returns must be processed quickly to maintain the positive customer ratings that are key to both new customer acquisition as well as customer retention.
All these fulfillment elements must also be cost-effective and supported by a modern, best-in-class ERP system, or your online business simply cannot scale and be economically viable at the same time.
4. Enable Omnichannel Integration
According to a Harvard Business Review Study, 73% of shoppers use multiple channels during their shopping journey. Clearly, today’s customer strongly prefers to engage with a seller in various ways before making a buying decision. Providing a seamless customer experience across both physical and digital channels can not only be a strong differentiator against online-only sellers but can also enable traditional retailers to leverage their existing brick-and-mortar assets and market presence.
Moreover, there is growing evidence of strong omnichannel integration benefits that are counterintuitive. While the conventional wisdom is that impulse buying increases online purchases, the reverse may be closer to the truth—online customer research across multiple channels can often increase in-store sales. Particularly among a younger demographic, “webrooming” appears to be more prevalent than “showrooming.”
Not only do omnichannel shoppers often buy more, but they also tend to be more loyal because they perceive a richer customer experience. The ability to interact with a seller across multiple channels and devices is really the glue that binds customer and seller together for an optimal lifetime customer value.
In a post-pandemic world, which is also increasingly driving a return to “buy local” customer preferences, full omnichannel integration could be a winning hand against existential threats from online-only players like Amazon.
5. Create B2B eCommerce Transaction Automation
Processing commercial transactions quickly and accurately has always been a cornerstone of B2B success. In eCommerce, it is even more critical that automation be used to the greatest extent possible. And although B2B purchases are inherently more complex than B2C transactions, business buyers today expect the same efficiencies as they experience with their personal online shopping.
Starting with tailored workflows for repeat customers that align with their own internal approval protocols, automation not only delivers orders to you faster but also reduces costly errors. Perhaps most importantly, automation creates audit trails that reduce the likelihood of fraud and ensures employee compliance with company policies as well as any relevant government regulations.
Invoices, payment approvals, and invoice payments can be generated by pressing a single button, reducing both cost and risk. Claims can be dealt with far more efficiently. Automating transactions cost-efficiently supports the growth every seller seeks.
6. Accept Diverse Payment Methods
These days there are a growing number of ways a customer could want to pay you. Services like Stripe, PayPal, EFT, ACH, and numerous others have all created a following, and your customers increasingly demand to use their choice of payment, not yours. Fail to accommodate them and you risk ending up with lost revenue from abandoned shopping carts.
Cryptocurrencies warrant increased consideration in this equation, even though their impact on eCommerce is not yet crystal clear. Their benefits include better cash flow, potential market expansion by making international transactions simpler, lower transaction fees, and potentially reduced fraud. But there are drawbacks too, such as price volatility (which can be particularly problematic with regards to returns), perceived trust issues, and a proliferation of new cryptocurrencies emerging on an almost daily basis. Bottom line, even though cryptocurrencies are far from mainstream today, they could well become that in the future, and you do not want to lose customers should that happen.
7. Deliver an “Always-Available” Order Status
Once a customer places an order and has an expected delivery date, they want to know the status of their order at any point in time. Meeting this expectation is key to providing an adequate customer experience as well as building trust with the customer. Sending periodic delivery notifications is a baseline and reduces any feelings of risk the customer might associate with you—warranted or not— but these days, it is not enough. To win in eCommerce, you also need to provide a self-serve capability for customers to track their order status whenever they want.
Not only does providing this capability lower costs by reducing inquiries and potential complaints to your customer support team, but it also increases customer loyalty, reduces churn, and simultaneously gives you more control over your fulfillment process.
8. Create Digital Selling Rooms
As important as digital marketing automation is to “nudging” a prospect along their buying journey, sales will still often play a critical role in closing the deal and generating revenue. In fact, Gartner predicts that 80% of B2B sales interactions will occur in digital channels, and digital salesrooms will be the key to capturing this revenue.
These digital selling rooms must deliver curated and tailored sales content for each buyer that greets them with a personalized experience that is driven by marketing insights and then tracks their engagement to prioritize and trigger follow-up in real-time and enable sellers to keep one step ahead of any potential roadblocks to completing the sale.
At a time when employees demand a hybrid work model that results in a dramatic and likely permanent reduction in face-to-face selling, the ability to effectively close business digitally has never been more important to future eCommerce success.
9. Solidify Your Marketing Automation
Above all else, today’s buyer seeks control over their buying experience from beginning to end. They want to do their research online, evaluate alternatives, make a purchase decision, and complete the transaction in their own time and on their own terms. And there is simply no way to meet that expectation without strong marketing automation.
Today, the marketing automation needed is not only with respect to individual tactical elements such as tailored emails, social media ads, popups, text messages, push notifications, retargeting, demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral segmentation, and so on. All these elements must come together in a synchronized strategy to find, win, sell, and retain customers over the long haul. Your eCommerce simply will not survive, let alone thrive, without this capability.
With a plethora of marketing automation options available, every eSeller must assemble the overall platform most suitable for the execution of their overall marketing strategy. It is often the most critical choice made when it comes to driving growth.
10. Explore Hybrid Headless Models
In today’s rapidly changing eCommerce landscape, the ability to support growth across multiple sites, landing pages, and sales channels is paramount. By combining the flexibility of headless architecture with the accessibility of traditional content management systems, hybrid models deliver the ability to drive growth by enabling marketing teams to launch new pages and sites quickly and maintain platform consistency.
This is an especially critical element of an omnichannel approach where the goal is to deliver compelling customer experiences in each channel without the complications and cost of ensuring the front end and the platform knit seamlessly together.
11. Build and Launch Mobile Commerce
Mobile commerce may well prove to be the next major frontier of eCommerce opportunities. In fact, Business Insider predicts it will double by 2025 to $728 billion in the US and represent 44% of all eCommerce sales in that market. Similar growth is also being experienced worldwide.
Consumers already use smartphones for an ever-increasing portion of their online activity, and consequently, their shopping activities are migrating to those devices. This is especially true of younger, tech-savvier demographics. Social media sites are keen to facilitate and promote purchases directly on their platforms to further their own economic interests. Mobile wallets are increasing in popularity and use, enabling players like Google and Amazon to monetize payments. Add it all up, and you have a major commercial wave you cannot afford to miss.
12. Plan (to Avoid) Supply Chain Disruptions
The pandemic has certainly complicated the process of getting goods from the shopping cart on your website to the customer’s doorstep. Now more than ever, it is critical to ensure your entire logistics chain is functioning as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Starting with your suppliers, it is important to maintain solid relationships and communications so you know what goods you can safely sell and deliver in a timely fashion. Then, your fulfillment centers, distribution hubs, and sorting facilities must also function like clockwork and deliver consistent and adequate turnaround times. And finally, the carriers you use for the “last mile” must be 100% reliable.
13. Expanded Social Marketing and Selling
Long before the advent of eCommerce, shopping was a social activity. With social media networks now dominating the digital landscape, these platforms are today key to building the brand awareness and customer following that drive sales. The power of your online word of mouth cannot be underestimated, and social commerce must be integrated with your existing channels to optimally engage with prospects and customers alike.
To maximize the effectiveness of your social commerce efforts, techniques like contextual advertising and programmatic advertising are pivotal. By targeting your ads on websites directly relevant to what you sell, you simultaneously increase conversion rates and decrease costs. Automating the bidding and placement of ads on social media platforms unleashes the power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to maximize conversions and achieve greater inventory control in a time of supply chain uncertainty.
14. Focus on Avoiding eCommerce Fraud and Scams
According to Merchant Savvy, global payment fraud is growing and expected to exceed $40 billion by 2027. Of this, as much as nearly 80% can come from “card not present” transactions that are the backbone of eCommerce. Wherever money changes hands, criminals will seek to steal as much of it as possible, and eCommerce represents fertile grounds for their illicit activities.
Protecting yourself and your customers from this growing threat demands availing yourself of the latest fraud protection mechanisms and services such as address verification systems, industry-specific risk modeling, payment card industry standard adherence. The use of cloud based network proxies like CloudFlare can protect you against unwanted bot traffic and known high risk systems. Enabling additional checks for online payments such as CVV codes and address verification can prevent unwanted chargebacks and loss of goods to fraud as well. It is also important that all your customer support staff members are fully trained to recognize common fraud patterns and behavior and disrupt them, especially in periods of seasonally high transaction volumes.
15. Enable First-Party Tracking
Once the core of digital marketing, the days of third-party tracking cookies are clearly numbered as players like Google and Apple move to significantly restrict and eventually eliminate their use entirely. To ensure consumers have adequate privacy protections in the digital world, regulators are also putting more teeth into how data can be gathered and used. The shift to first-party tracking will have profound implications for eCommerce marketing.
To gain the first-party data needed to drive effective eCommerce marketing campaigns going forward, sellers must first provide concrete value to the prospects and customers providing it. And they will also have to deal with a changing media landscape that enables publishers to develop market power as intermediaries based on existing relationships with their subscribers.
In the end, more customer-centric marketing and improved customer experiences are possible but will only come by adopting a greater direct-to-customer focus.
commercebuild is the missing piece in transforming your ERP data into a truly personalized eCommerce experience. Flexible and frictionless, our turnkey eCommerce solution delivers 24/7 revenue opportunities to you and your customers. Quick to deploy and easy-to-use, we eliminate the need for middleware between the storefront and ERP data to enable seamless online buying and selling.
Our solutions can be live in 30-days and offer complete eCommerce capabilities at a price B2B and B2C businesses can afford.
Drive revenue growth for you, and your customers, while enjoying rapid ROI for both. Go head-to-head with the online retail giants of the world, and win. Experience a solution that integrates with your ERP data and provides automagical cross-sell and upsell opportunities to every customer on your site.
At the height of ecommerce growth, commercebuild offers scalable, reliable, and robust eCommerce solutions for everyone.
If your business is using Sage 300, Sage X3, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, or Netsuite ERPs, commercebuild can build a ERP-driven B2B and B2C eCommerce webstore or Customer Portal
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Adopting these Top 15 eCommerce Trends
Less a trend, and more some friendly advice—your eCommerce business is only as good as the platform you run it on. The online businesses that prospered over the past two years (and will continue to thrive this year) are those with the right eCommerce software and technology in place that allowed them to adapt to the new norms.
We’re obviously a fan of commercebuild’s unique ERP-integrated eCommerce platform because it can support each of these 15 eCommerce trends. But whatever you choose, you need to ensure the software you select is affordable, secure, fast, and customer-focused. The good news is our team has spent over 15 years working with different ERP and eCommerce technology in a wide variety of industries. Our eCommerce experts are here to answer any of your questions about starting an eCommerce store or optimizing your online presence with technology.