How Ecommerce Businesses Can Beat the Competition in 2015

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Will 2015 be the year mobile commerce really takes off? Will customers expect same-day shipping? Ecommerce experts discuss what lies ahead for online businesses in 2015.

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In 2015, global B2C ecommerce sales are expected to be over $1.7 trillion, with mobile commerce accounting for nearly $300 billion in sales. And as online business owners know, the ecommerce space has become increasingly competitive, with e-tailers constantly having to come up with new ways to attract consumers, many of whom shop via a mobile device (smartphone or tablet).

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So what can online businesses do to help ensure they stay competitive in 2015? Following are seven ecommerce trends to pay attention to.

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1. Content will become more interactive. “Consumer expectations have increased to the point where more rich, interactive and immersive visual experiences are expected,” says Russ Somers, vice president of Marketing, Invodo, which provides visual commerce solutions for retailers and brands. “Images that spin and rotate, interactive videos that have clickable elements that allow consumers to learn more about products and purchase them, and guided online walkthroughs of consumer electronics devices are a few examples of what will replace boring, standalone images in 2015 and beyond.”

2. Mobile commerce will continue to gain marketshare. “According to Goldman Sachs, worldwide mobile commerce sales will account for nearly half of total Web sales by 2018,” says Patrick Salyer, CEO, Gigya, which provides a customer identity management platform. “That’s in large part due to payment providers, such as PayPal, Amazon, Google [and Apple], making it easy for consumers to log in and securely make purchases from their smartphone, simplifying the mobile checkout process,” often by allowing shoppers to use their social login, he explains.

Indeed, already “many retailers are finding that a majority of their customers are interacting with their brand through smartphones and tablets,” says Jeff Barnett, COO, Demandware, a cloud ecommerce provider. “So there’s a clear need – and opportunity – to deliver a distinct [mobile] shopping experience specific to customers.”

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To attract the increasingly mobile consumer, “ecommerce sites should leverage responsive design to provide the best user experience across devices, regardless of operating system or screen size,” says Matt Winn, senior marketing communications manager, Volusion, an ecommerce platform. “Doing so will ensure a seamless shopping experience, lead to increased site conversions and provide retailers with a more modern branding component.”

3. Micro-targeting and personalization will help drive sales. “Driven by the need to personalize the customer experience, e-retailers are customizing their sites for the individual visitor,” says Madhumita Dasgupta, global SAP delivery head for Retail, CPG, Travel, Transportation and Hospitality, Tata Consultancy Services.

“E-tailers will become more sophisticated with targeting and personalization techniques on their websites and via mobile,” says Anees Merchant, senior vice president, Digital, Blueocean Market Intelligence. “These targeted and personalized campaigns will enhance share of wallet per customer and enable retailers to better engage with customers.”

4. Customers will expect faster shipping. “Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping has revolutionized customers’ online shopping experience,” says Andrew Van Noy, CEO of Warp 9, an ecommerce solutions provider for midsized businesses. “Now Amazon and other retailers, such as Walmart and Google, are upping the ante and experimenting with same day shipping,” putting pressure on other major retailers to follow suit. As a result, “retailers who [only offer] 3-to-5-day shipping will be left behind.”

5. Selling internationally will continue to become easier. “There is a tremendous opportunity for business owners to tap into the global ecommerce economy in 2015,” says Steve Power, president, Bigcommerce, an ecommerce provider. “Most ecommerce shopping carts now include options for selling to customers outside the United States,” he points out. “And thanks to third-party fulfillment services, which simplify the process of shipping products across borders, even smaller ecommerce businesses can now reach customers around the world, tapping into the multibillion-dollar global ecommerce market.”

6. The online B2B market will heat up. “The B2B market offers huge opportunities for the ecommerce world,” says Todd Miller, vice president at growth equity firm Sterling Partners. “Much of the focus in this arena has been on retailers selling directly to consumers, but more B2B companies are collaborating and ordering product from each other, so the possibilities for a distribution network and online transactions in this specific market are endless.”

“You will see far more B2B in 2015,” agrees Van Noy. “Wholesalers and distributors are beginning to realize that their customers all shop online, and expect the same type of buying experience from their vendors,” he says. “B2B ecommerce makes it easier for wholesalers, manufacturers and distributors to connect to their customers on the go through mobile channels [and] simplifies the re-ordering and customer support processes, freeing up valuable sales reps to focus on bigger deals.”

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7. Retargeting will become an essential part of marketing. “Retargeting and sending post-cart abandonment emails offering discounts will become must-have weapons in an ecommerce brands' marketing arsenal in 2015,” says Mohita Nagpal, marketing specialist, vwo.com, which provides A/B testing software.

“According to our research, more than 55 percent of online shoppers are open to the idea of purchasing a product they abandoned in their cart if it is offered again at a discounted price,” she explains. And many ecommerce platforms include or offer retargeting tools to help owners with shopping cart abandonment, making the process easy.

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