10 Predictions on Future of eCommerce beyond 2016

Where the Heck Are We Going in 2017 and Beyond?

10 Predictions on Future of eCommerce beyond 2016

I love data. But I love dreaming more. So I’m going to put some of my dreams and predictions down on paper of where I feel our industry is heading, so I can look back in a few years and see how much of a genius I was (or idiot … likely the latter).

For these predictions, I’m using a combo of anecdotal trends and my good old gut feeling. Enjoy (a good laugh)!

1. Email marketing will be dead (to me) in < 5 years.

Why? Too much growing competition in my inbox as both a consumer and marketer. Don’t get me wrong — I love email right now — but as a marketer, if revenue from my email channel is accounting for 20% or more, I need to get ahead of filling that void with new customer touch points.

Phones — or whatever the phone’s descendants are — are what I’m predicting as the primary (only?) access point. Personally, I much prefer group texting over group emails. Slack has almost single handedly replaced our internal company email. LinkedIn InMails are great for business communication. Facebook, is well, Facebook. And I can work in all of these channels from from my phone and relevant apps.

(Oh, and I see progressive web apps killing native apps. And Google will acquire Slack.)

Plus, logging into multiple email accounts (my work and my non-work) just feels very inefficient to me. We need to keep meeting consumers where they are … which today, is apps, but who knows what it will be tomorrow. Just likely not email.

2. Someone/thing will take over the part of my brain that plans purchases (probably Google. Or Amazon. Or both.).

Why? It’s convenient, efficient, and saves me time.

My email (for now!) and my phone contain receipts, confirmations, order updates, reminders, and much more about my purchasing actions and tendencies.

Say I just went to talk to a mortgage company about a closing date (I did). Well, my personal bot (think a more advanced Alexa) will know this, remember it, and offer up useful recommendations — and he/she will likely do so out loud:

“Hey Brad, when you move, you’re probably going to want to use The Best Damn Moving Company as they are the highest rated. Based on your purchase behavior in the last two years of buying items that are on average 35% more than the average comparable price, I believe you’d appreciate quality versus the most cost-affordable.”

Fine. Book ’em.

3. Email and password security will be obsolete.

Why? You can’t trust it. And see # 1.

By now we’re all numb to when some company we’ve bought something from in the past 20 years has their account information stolen. Or how about those Facebook posts from friends saying “please ignore any requests from me — my account got hacked.”

I don’t lose any sleep over security hacks anymore. I’ve come to expect them … and that’s bad.

The only way you’re getting access to my email (if I’m still using it) is through my eye, finger, or 3-factor authentication.

Whoever solves for the replacement to traditional security measures will be very, very rich.

4. Apple Pay and its competition will explode.

Why? It’s convenient and efficient, for me, the consumer.

(Are you seeing a trend in efficiency?)

I don’t want to have to whip out my credit card and type in all of my details again and again. Nor do I really want to carry around my credit cards at all — more opportunity for me to lose them or for them to be stolen. Apple Pay keeps it all in one (secure) spot.

5. High-touch customer service will be reborn — and the unicorn.

Why? If you can’t win against Amazon on price or shipping/return convenience (who can?), then you must win at providing your customers with high-touch service. Be better than other brands in making customers feel special and heard. Remember what they like and what’s important to them. Technologies of tomorrow (and already today) make this possible and trackable.

But it won’t be easy. Giving a high level of engagement and support can prove increasingly difficult as your customers multiply. Which is what will make the customer experience and brand convenience truly set a company apart.

Some great tips for rocking customer service can be found here.

6. Customer acquisition scientists and data scientists will make a lot of money.

How will you get your brand and products in front of users shopping through the new IoT and Omni platforms? It’s something we’re all still learning how to do.

Bots are exploding, as is conversational commerce. Understanding how these automated assistants work and the language processing that gets you to the front of the pack will put YOU ahead of the pack. Things like long-tail SEO are still important, but you need to think about your value offer in a non-written, more conversational (not just: “bloggy”) way. How will you remain visible in the land of voice?

7. Building a new website? Expect to pay a lot less than what’s been the norm for the last few years.

Why? It’s been too slow and too expensive — and the margins are cutthroat. Plus, SaaS and a plethora of technology startups are making it easier and easier and taking “cuts” out of the full suite of website design and development builds along with subsequent services.

The bubble is going to pop. No one will want to pay what the going rate has been for the past few years, so agencies will have to figure out a way to do things more affordably, with even higher quality (to maintain top-of-the-line brand standards), and within the context of on-demand software.

I also believe this reality hits home as the web shopping standard continues to unify, which makes repeatability in builds easier. Building a “crazy unique” shopping experience likely means lower conversions.

8. Bye bye, keywords.

Ok, maybe not tomorrow, but I’ll say in the next 5 years, keywords will be obsolete. At least in the way many companies are using them. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing, or when you’d build your pages around the keywords you want to rank for. Google is already too sophisticated for that — and it’ll only continue to evolve.

We’re on our way. Google already has complicated algorithms that rank for context, quality and length over amount of times a keyword is mentioned. Hence the recent focus on the importance of long tail in SEO.

But my prediction extends further than that. Especially as we transition to an app- and voice-run world, keywords won’t be a consideration at all. Instead Google will be so good at reading for context, that the focus will be topics, themes and subjects, complemented by tags and judged by relevancy, engagement, and what your personal bot knows about user preferences.

9. Reviews and user-generated content will continue to thrive.

Why? Because I don’t trust the internet. And research is not efficient (at least for me!).

I’ve always been torn how I feel about customer reviews and other forms of user-generated content. I’m not a shopper, but I do like buying stuff. And I’m seeing and feeling the quality in products and longevity continue to slip.

The explosion of flash sale websites years ago introduced the new production philosophy of “mass production for flash sale sites” — creative, eh?

The shelf life of physical products — clothes, toys, electronics, furniture — is not what it used to be. I don’t expect to have a dresser to last me 20 years because I know it will fall apart … unfortunately as I watch my parents using the same furniture they had 30 years ago.

What does all of this have to do with reviews and UGC?!!

Let’s say I’m in the market for a new fishing pole. I love fishing and do a lot of it, but I don’t take the time to research new rods or reels and the pros/cons of each. I’m lazy, I admit it.

I want to ask my personal bot assistant (like Elevar!) what I should consider purchasing based on people who have similar purchasing attributes (what I fish, where I fish, what I like to fish with, and who I like to fish with).

I don’t want just a regurgitation of written reviews by users — I believe that will evolve and written reviews won’t be required as much. Instead, the data will go much deeper and more be personalized … and automated … and aggregated from all applications.

Wait. How can reviews be aggregated across 50 sites that sell the same rod-and-reel combos? Structured data, a.k.a. rich snippets. The continued advancement of web standards (i.e., wrapping data in meta tags) opens up the ability to build these huge aggregators.

Look at all of the reviews on different sites:

structured data reviewsThis will start to trickle into customer meta data as well.

  • What % of orders were returned?
  • What % of customers purchased another reel of a similar style within 6 months (which could mean they weren’t happy with purchase)?
  • What % of purchasers were from customers who live around shore waters with red fish (my type of fish!)?
  • How many pictures have been shared that are broken rods, from a large fish (or SHARK!), in the style that matches my needs?

I’ve rambled on enough about this one, but to put a bow on the reviews and UGC content: We all love sharing pictures, videos, and stories about the fun our lives provide. Our purchase behavior is also inherently our own “review” of products, brands, and websites. For the large majority of us who don’t write reviews in a written format, someone will capitalize on that void (my vote is on Yotpo @alterjoanna).

10. I’m going to be wrong on 8/10 of these predictions — which means I’m right on 2 of them!

Or am I …

Hope everyone has a great end to 2016 — and Happy Holidays!

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Brad Redding

Brad, co-founder of Elevar, has lived in eCommerce for over 12 years. He's helped design, build, and optimize over 100 websites in his career. From new retail startups to well-known brands like Le Creuset, Signature Hardware, Rebecca Minkoff, Char-Broil and more, he specializes in data analytics and conversion optimization to help achieve business goals.

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