Ecommerce is changing. Mobile conversions continue to be on the rise—mobile saw sales increase by 55 percent in 2018, and Forrester predicts that by 2022, smartphones will account for $175.4bn USD in retail sales. Customer expectations are growing at the same time: 38 percent of shoppers now expect high street businesses to offer same-day delivery.
Other ecommerce trends are very much in line with the web design trends that are pushing the industry forward this year. Progressive web apps, for example, use advanced technologies to bring the speed and features of a mobile app to a mobile website, even allowing for shopping platforms to be accessible offline, points out fashion and beauty ecommerce specialist Mari Corella.
“The key benefit to retailers is that they no longer have to choose between investing in their mobile sites or their apps,” she explains. “Some retailers may even drop their mobile apps entirely in favor of a PWA.”
What other trends should you pay attention to in order to boost your clients’ sales this year? We asked UX designers, agency owners, and ecommerce experts for their predictions.
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1. Increased conversations with customers
User experience designer and consultant Sarah Doody believes that this year we will see an increase in thoughtfully integrated opportunities to have conversations with people.
“The experience that someone has is like a giant ecosystem,” she explains. “It’s what they experience before they purchase your product, after they purchase your product, and everywhere in between. The path to conversion is not about clicks but about conversation.
The path to conversion is not about clicks but about conversation.
Sarah advises that, at the top of the funnel, we should be thinking about where it makes sense to start a conversation with prospective customers, so we can then tailor the rest of the experience to them. For existing customers, meanwhile, it’s about giving them a timely opportunity to engage with us on a conversational level, so we can gather crucial microfeedback to enhance their future experience.
“With ecommerce becoming more sure of itself and more standardized in an architectural sense, our focus will shift to the service itself,” she says. “We will be more focused on how we take care of our clientele. Customer service feedback can make or break brands, and there is a growing effort to make this experience smoother for all parties. It will not be entirely surprising if we end up turning to automation in a bid to make it more human.”
“A good sales person would never do that,” he advises. “A good sales person understands the importance of building a connection with someone first. To get them excited about the product or service and the promise of how it will make their lives better in some way. I would want to see selling online become more human, more intimate. To focus on the long term relationship over a quick sell. To focus on building the brand rather than making a quick buck. I hope we will get better at telling inspiring brand stories in 2019.”
2. Chatbot AI
Chatbots are relatively new to the market, but Gareth Dunlop, CEO and founder of user experience consultancy Fathom, points to a prediction by Gartner, forecasting that 25 percent of customer support and services will be integrated with virtual assistants by 2020.
“Customers want prompt and accurate answers to their questions,” adds Kelly Vaughn, founder of The Taproom Agency, “and in busy times, ecommerce merchants are not always able to keep up with the rate of messages coming in. Thankfully, chatbots are getting smarter, and I expect to see this trend to continue upward.”
Kelly explains that machine learning allows these tools to get a better understanding of which questions are being asked most frequently. They can parse customer data to personalize the support experience to the specific customer.
“Advice is probably obvious here—if you’re not using a chatbot on your online store, give one a test run!”
You might also like: UI of the Future: Conversational Interfaces and The Basic Principles of Conversational User Interfaces.
3. Explosion of AR
“With tools like 'Shopify AR powered by 3D Warehouse' and a growing number of 3D modelling experts, it's become extremely easy to integrate AR into ecommerce stores,” he explains. “For consumers, this means a much richer buying experience, allowing them to 'test out' homeware products within their homes and 'try on' clothes and accessories. For merchants, this means higher conversion rates and fewer returns. We're expecting several of our clients to be experimenting with this over the next 12 months.”
Ben Froedge, head of content and marketing at Shopify Plus Partners Underwaterpistol, adds that AR is filling the most difficult gap to bridge when comparing the shopping experience between brick-and-mortar and online.
AR is filling the most difficult gap to bridge when comparing the shopping experience between brick-and-mortar and online.
“Being able to physically see what you’re planning to purchase from the comfort of your own home is going to be a gamer changer,” he enthuses. “In 2018 tech giants like Samsung and Apple made it possible to implement AR on a large scale. Now the ecommerce world is combining hardware with applications like 3D Warehouse to make AR-guided shopping a reality for online customers.It won’t be long before augmented reality becomes a part of everyday life.”
As consumers around the world spend more time watching video content, we will see it expand boundaries in ecommerce as well.
“Video presents the product more personally, while engaging the customer,” explains Jihyeon Kim, UX designer at Space Squirrel. “Go further than promotional videos on the main page, and prominently show well-produced features on the product page, along with influencer content and related products, and you will drive more conversions.”
5. Voice search
Just over 20 percent of search queries are made via voice now, and experts are predicting 50 percent of search to be done via voice by 2020.
Kelly Vaughn emphasizes that it’s a huge opportunity for ecommerce, as customers are making more and more purchases from an Alexa or Google Home device.
To improve voice experiences, Kelly advises to concentrate on long-tail keywords.
“Voice search queries are generally longer than typed search,” she highlights. “This is a good opportunity to optimize your product descriptions as well. As voice devices can read out your product’s descriptions, you’ll want your descriptions to shine in their best light. Be descriptive but succinct.”
You might also like: 12 Web Design Trends That Will Push the Industry Forward in 2019.
6. On-site personalization
According to Accenture, 43 percent of current consumers prefer companies that personalize their experience.
“The merchants that will see the most significant growth in their conversion rates will be those who invest in on-site personalization,” predicts Kurt Elster, a senior ecommerce consultant, Shopify Plus Partner, and host of The Unofficial Shopify Podcast.
“It's time we took all the data we've been collecting on customers and put it to work with dynamic websites personalized for each user. New tools from Klaviyo, RightMessage, and others have made personalization more accessible than ever. Soon we'll start looking to design websites that people can spend as little time on as possible as we face pressure to provide dramatically increased convenience in the face of Amazon's chokehold on web sales.”
Piers Thorogood agrees, and states that personalized product recommendations are now commonplace on ecommerce websites.
“'You might also like’ and 'why not try' sections are a must for almost any store,” he emphasizes. “What's more interesting—and something we're seeing a lot more of—is content personalization: customizing the content visitors see based on their behavior.”
Piers recommends an on-site content personalization tool by Nosto, which allows merchants to easily segment visitors based on what they've clicked on.
“Take a sportswear website, for example: if a user has been browsing the Nike category, then the next time they visit the homepage, it can be totally transformed to show promos on new Nike collections, offers on Nike products, and Nike-sponsored athletes. Powerful stuff.”
You might also like: When Should You Personalize The Ecommerce Experience?
7. Personalized products
Related to on-site personalization are personalized products, and WeMakeWebsites’ Piers Thorogood points out that brands like Spoke, Son of a Tailor, and Third Love are changing the way we buy clothes by bringing a better-fitting, more personalized approach to fashion.
“At the center of all of them is a fit finder,” he explains, “which is where Shopify Partners come in. More and more brands are requesting this tailored approach to shopping. Whilst there are apps in the app store that go some way to providing this functionality, none of them really cut the mustard, so we typically build bespoke experiences for each client. There's an opportunity here for an app developer to swoop in and build a flexible, easily customized fit finder or a product questionnaire app.”
There's an opportunity here for an app developer to swoop in and build a flexible, easily customized fit finder or a product questionnaire app.
8. Micro markets
Jordan Moore, director of design at commercially-focused digital product studio Dawson Andrews, anticipates two related movements within the digital retail industry to start gaining momentum this year. He calls the first one ‘micro marketplaces’: opportunities to buy products outside of a traditional ecommerce platform.
“We've already seen this on Google and Instagram, who are listing products within search and social experiences,” he explains. “However, I believe we'll see product cards appear in more high-value places, and they'll be a lot smarter than the current approach, which doesn't provide any more utility than an ad or a gateway to a full commerce user flow."
Jordan believes that these ‘micro marketplaces’ will be the catalyst in ushering in new web technology.
9. Web payments
The other trend that Jordan thinks will decentralize and fundamentally change the shape of ecommerce as we know it is an emerging web standard in development by the W3C, which drastically simplifies online payment processes.
“We all know users hate filling in forms, particularly on mobile,” Jordan points out, “and it doesn't really make sense for users who buy different products across different ecommerce experiences to give the same information over and over again. Web Payments will allow browser native UIs for checkout with previously saved data such as address information and card details to be accessed with a few taps via the Payment Request API.”
This will allow users to circumnavigate traditional checkout processes. Jordan explains that it’s light on interactions and creates complementary opportunities for creating micro marketplaces that won't pull users away from their previous task to complete a transaction.
“This decentralization will be a huge victory for consumers and merchants alike,” Jordan adds.
10. Flexible payment options
The lack of flexible payment options is a long-standing hurdle for ecommerce retailers, agrees Ben Froedge of Underwaterpistol.
“While the US and UK are pretty comfortable with paying fully upfront with a credit or debit card, much of the world sees this as a problem,” he warns. “In 2019, expect to see a shift toward more flexible payment options coming in to play. By allowing customers to defer payment or pay in ways that don’t need a credit card, retailers remove a huge friction point in purchasing.”
Ben points to Klarna as one of the leaders in flexible payments for ecommerce and quotes its CEO in saying, ‘We thought, what if you don’t need credit cards on file? You could just extend people credit and allow them to pay later on and really separate buying from paying’”.
“2019 will see smart retailers around the world offering more ways for customers to pay,” Ben concludes.
11. Multi: currency, language, and channel
Ben Froedge also recommends a multi-approach to serving a worldwide customer base.
“Multi-currency options are getting better and better,” he explains. “Shopify supports merchants who want to offer people familiar payment options in the currencies they are used to, instead of being restricted to the retailers’ local currency and getting hit with conversion rate fees.”
Multi-language stores, meanwhile, allow retailers to localize their sites and make their message accessible and relevant to local audiences without clunky options like Google Translate murdering the true meaning.
Multi-channel, finally, lets sellers put their message and their products in front of customers wherever they are. Instead of forcing customers to come to you, it’s now easier to just come to them.
“With the combination of multi-language and -currency, multi-channel will become a breeze,” Ben predicts. “For those planning to expand their business, it’s time to think global by having ‘multi’ at the core of what they do.”
For those planning to expand their business, it’s time to think global by having ‘multi’ at the core of what they do.
Fashion and beauty ecommerce specialist Mari Corella agrees: “Globally, China continues to dominate internet sales and the Middle East is gaining share.”
“Online retailers looking to capture sales outside of their own region can go beyond just offering international shipping capabilities by having sites with localized content, regional payment options, and localized fulfillment partners,” Mari advises.
12. Transient brick and mortar
Ross Beyeler, chief operating officer at full service ecommerce solutions agency Trellis, has found that more retailers embrace 'transient brick-and-mortar' in the form of pop-up shops, trade shows, field reps and unique events. Rethinking 'in-store' therefore has become critical.
“Fixed registers, permanent inventory storage, and retail build-outs are swapped for mobile devices, third-party fulfillment, and pop-up collateral,” he explains.
“Merchants will need to embrace more flexible technology and delivery solutions such as mobile card readers, POS-enabled tablets, on-site/on-demand printing, and flexible leasing on spaces.”
Fathom’s Gareth Dunlop also highlights that 82 percent of mobile users search for local stores to buy any product. He therefore expects research online and purchase offline to grow significantly in 2019.
- The subscription ecommerce market has grown 500 percent in the past five years
- Subscription ecommerce generated over $2.6 billion for large retailers in 2016
- The average subscriber’s income sits between $50,000 and $100,000 per year, which means they have large amounts of disposable income
“It’s getting easier than ever for smaller retailers to offer the same level of convenience as an industry giant,” Ben explains. “With options like ReCharge Payments and Bundle Builder, reduced churn and long customer lifetimes have become an easy-to-achieve reality.”
14. The D2C revolution continues
Direct-to-consumer brands are taking over and WeMakeWebsites’ Piers Thorogood doesn’t see this slowing down in 2019.
“I'd expect to see some massive new D2C brands created over the next year, particularly in verticals that haven't seem much disruption,” he predicts.
“If you want to see the perfect model for this, look no further than Hims. And it's not just start-ups taking this route—the big multi-nationals are all launching D2C brands to try and take a piece of the action.”
15. Faster, leaner ecommerce operations
Dan Conboy, managing director of Shopify Plus Partner agency Statement, states that Shopify and Shopify Plus have paved the way for faster, leaner, rapidly growing ecommerce businesses over recent years, a trend that’s only set to continue in 2019.
“We’re now heading towards the last full year of support for Magento 1,” he explains, “and we’re even seeing more and more brands moving away from more complex and costly solutions, including Magento 2, in favour of leaner, more scalable platforms such as Shopify.”
Fast growing ecommerce brands want greater control, better efficiency, and less reliance on developers, according to Dan.
“Add in the power of tools like Shopify Flow and Launchpad for process automation, and the result is an ecommerce landscape increasingly filled with brands better optimized to grow quickly than ever before.”
16. Environmental impact
Consumers are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of online shopping, particularly around packaging, fashion and beauty ecommerce specialist Mari Corella has found.
Efficient packaging labeled with marketing messages around a company’s efforts on waste reduction and reuse is key to winning over consumer consciousness.
“Consumers are noticing when boxes are too large or an excessive amount of packaging is used,” she warns. “Efficient packaging labeled with marketing messages around a company’s efforts on waste reduction and reuse is key to winning over consumer consciousness.”
You might also like: Sustainable UX: How Designers Can Help Make a Positive Impact on the Environment.
Convenience and UX
All the above trends have one thing in common: they make the shopping experience easier for consumers. Online shoppers have high expectations and little patience. They want an experience that’s customized to their needs, they want to try out the product as much as possible before the purchase, and they want to make ethical decisions. They also want the checkout experience to be as painless as possible, and that includes flexible payment options.
Keep convenience and customer experience in mind at all times, and you’ll gain a competitive edge over your clients’ competition this year.
How are you getting ready for 2019? Let us know in the comments below!