Ecommerce is speeding up, and no one is safe if they’re not fully committed to meeting the evolving market head on. 2013 will see big winners and losers as more shopping goes digital.
Here are some of the key trends for the coming year.
Nothing comes close in importance to being able to tailor the buying experience for each and every one of the shoppers who comes to you, whether it’s online, on mobile devices, kiosks, in-store or via television.
The starting point for personalisation is the unified user account. This means offering a single login for the user across all devices, with instant syncing of user data across all different sales interfaces, or preferably using a single client-facing commercial engine across all platforms.
Product listings, product searches, recommendations, emailers and community engagement should all be tailored to the individual user. This should be done on recently viewed products, identified interests, and increasingly by using game mechanics to automatically identify and guide users’ buying preferences.
The economics, scale and distribution of Cloud setups mean that companies must embrace cloud services in 2013. Even though there are still occasional headline stories on cloud provider down-time, cloud services are maturing rapidly, and in real-world scenarios downtime is becoming increasingly rare.
On the other hand the cloud costs keep on coming down, and the service levels are rising dramatically each year. It means the cost / performance / scale / reliability equation has now firmly swung in favour of cloud setups rather than in-house infrastructure for ecommerce.
Being able to deliver a rapid response, at scale, globally, is best delivered via cloud platforms. Solutions such as Scalr mean that it is now possible to automatically scale up and down your infrastructure. This means that you only pay for what you use, and can run much fewer servers as a baseline, even within the same day as demand scales up and down. It also means that you can address peak demand with the best response times.
Using Content Delivery Networks means that your media and static files are delivered locally, globally, with much faster response times. Using cloud-based storage networks with offsite backup networks means you dramatically lower the possibility of any data loss.
All in all, the benefits of of running your infrastructure on the cloud are now unavoidable.
The key trend for 2013 is the shift to mobile. Many research groups, blogs and commentators are estimating that 50% of digital sales will be done on mobile devices by December 2013. It may not be universal across all industries that the level will be that high, but it is likely to affect a significant number of sectors.
This means that companies need to shift to ‘Mobile First’ thinking, where the mobile experience is prioritised above all others.
The best way to address the growing Phone / Tablet market will be to develop responsive web interfaces. Most users will not download apps simply to purchase from every store they wish to buy from. Instead, purchases from the majority of online stores will be via the mobile / tablet browser. This is not to say that developing mobile store apps won’t be important, for most companies the priority should be the mobile web.
Responsive Page Design means that the web page automatically adapts to the device being used. Not only that, it adapts depending on if the device is being held in landscape or portrait orientation, providing the best selling interface throughout.
Responsive Design requires a different way of thinking to traditional web design, so needs to be approached in a fresh manner by organisations.
Traditional retailers need to firmly shift their focus towards digital. Customers should be able to have a seamless buying experience wherever they are. Mobile sites, apps and in-store terminals should make it possible for users to buy anywhere, pick up anywhere, check stock levels anywhere and have goods delivered where they need them.
High Street stores can be great assets, but they’re too often run independently of the digital retail side. This means that increasingly customers are ignoring the benefits of having a store nearby and simply ordering online, often from a competitor.
Digital, used right, gives companies the unprecedented ability to get to know their customers, and to service them effectively. When that doesn’t happen, it lowers the overall quality of service customers now expect. The bar has been raised and companies must raise their game to meet expectations.
Too often commercial activities are run as a series of fiefdoms within companies, especially larger retailers. This issue is especially acute for traditional retailers, and distributors. The reality is that frequently what makes a retailer or distributor successful through their traditional channels is the opposite of what is required through digital channels.
Speed, timing and uniqueness are more important for digital commerce than traditional retail. Equally important is to have integrated campaigns. This means single seamless campaigns across retail points of presence, web and mobile, social and affiliate stores.
It means that when you’re running a promotion staff in-store and online are aware of it. It means maximising exposure and the benefit of the campaigns, and it means having a consistent tone of voice throughout.
For this all to work, it is important to have the correct management and workflows in place. It is essential that the fast elements (digital) work with the slower elements (retail stores), and that incentives are aligned throughout the organisation so that it is in everyone’s interest to make the campaigns work.
Where it comes to personalisation, then Affino excels and the experience is contiuously improving. The integrated nature of Affino, the way it can act as a hub for social, commercial and media content, and all the personalisation and recommendation capabilities mean that Affino really stands out when it comes to personalistion.
It’s been four years since we moved Affino Serivices on to the cloud and it is now highly optimised to maximize the benefits of cloud architectures. The big platform upgrades we did with the move to Affino 7 mean that this year we will be able to embrace cloud services further for auto-scaling, more powerful searches, video transcoding and much more.
Responsive Design is the area which needs the most work in Affino, and is where we will putting in most of the effort over 2013. We have big plans (which are already underway) in this area so stay tuned.
There’s also work to be done on Affino for using it in retail stores, given Affino’s digital store background, however Affino’s ability to deliver a great iPad / Tablet experience, and the trend for stores to integrate iPads into their in-store customer experience means that this gap is a lot smaller than it used to be.
Affino’s ability to deliver campain driven ecommerce, and also excel at SEO, PPC and Social Commerce means that Affino can deliver on integrated campaigns in a way that few platforms can match. The ever improving Affino Webservice API means that it offers extensive real-time integration can be one on everything from content, products, event and media through to unified logins and user accounts.
If you want to know more about how best to react to the Top Ecommerce Trends, and are looking for a platform to achieve your goals, then contact us using any of the many options availble.