6 ecommerce categories that will take off in 2017

Ecommerce experts predict which retail categories will be hot in the new year.

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Ecommerce continues to make gains among consumers, with more people buying products online than ever before. Indeed, eMarketer recently predicted that worldwide ecommerce sales would total $1.915 trillion in 2016, with $423.34 billion of that coming from North America. And the company forecast double-digit retail ecommerce growth through 2020.

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Here are six ecommerce categories that will fuel that growth:

1. Grocery and fresh foods

In its report, eMarketer cites grocery as one of the main categories fueling ecommerce growth. And it’s not the only one predicting more people will be checking out their groceries and fresh foods online in 2017.

“[This] will be the year that buying fresh foods – produce, meat, deli and dairyonline becomes mainstream consumer behavior,” says Jordan Rost, vice president, consumer insights, Nielsen. “More than any other consumer goods category, fresh foods [will] enjoy the biggest jump in consumers' willingness to buy online in the next six months, as compared to what consumer said they'd purchased in the prior three months.”

One of the main drivers of this trend is millennial consumers, “15 percent of whom said they would buy fresh food online in the next six months,” he says. “Similarly, 17 percent of Hispanics said they would buy fresh food online.” The reason: younger Americans, “having grown up buying everything from clothing to mattresses online, are ready to shift more of their food dollars to digital platforms.”

2. Health and wellness

“Health and wellness will stay top of mind in 2017,” predicts Jorge Castrejon, marketing insights analyst, Profitero. “Analysis by Profitero revealed more than one-third of the best-selling groceries on Amazon are wellness related products – up from 25 percent in 2015 – [with] ‘organic’ and ‘gluten free’ the top two products in this category.

“Generation Z and millennials are willing to pay a premium for sustainably sourced ingredients, so it’s no surprise that wellness-oriented products are [popping up] in online stores,” he says. And he believes “this trend is bound to continue in 2017 as the popularity of healthy products continues to grow.”

It’s not just healthy food consumers are interested in, though. “People are taking mind + body health more seriously these days,” says David Rusenko, cofounder & CEO, Weebly. “From personal training and weight loss… [to] diets… yoga [and] mindfulness, we've seen more and more people turn their passion for wellness into a thriving business.” And as more people embrace health and wellness, “we expect to see more of these types of sites to pop up in 2017.” 

3. Pet products

People love their pets – and continue to spend money (lots of money) on them, an estimated $62.75 billion in 2016 in the United States alone.

“The pet care and pet health space is a category which will continue to [grow] in 2017,” says Vanessa Pino, content & inbound marketing director, 1-800-PetMeds. “We’ve seen over the years how pets are members of the family. [And pet care] products will [become] even more popular,” she predicts. One of the reasons: personalization.

“Personalization has proven [to be a] great success in retail,” she says. And we will see more sellers of pet-related products “marketing [personalization] to owners of four-legged family members,” which will help drive growth in this category.

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4. Artisanal/handcrafted goods

This category, which was a top pick for 2016, should continue to do well in 2017, say ecommerce watchers.

“There's a movement to forgo the large retailers and find artisanal, one of a kind goods,” says Rusenko. “Millennial shoppers are particularly on the hunt for something bespoke, and they are creating their own online shops at a rapid pace. On our platform, we notice that the more unique the story and product, the more successful the sales.”

5. Sporting goods

“Though already massive, we believe the sporting goods vertical is poised for growth in 2017,” says Leo Castro, vice president,product marketing & brand, BigCommerce. “With over $10 billion in spend online in 2015 and 40 percent growth over the past several years, 2017 looks to be even stronger,” he says. “Unlike home furnishings or electronics, where many people still prefer to see and feel merchandise before purchase, consumers are increasingly comfortable buying outdoor equipment and sporting goods online.”

Moreover, “visually appealing storefronts with modern, mobile friendly designs… combined with the steady decline of physical sporting goods stores, will fuel an online surge in this vertical in 2017.”

6. Virtual reality

“I think the hot ecommerce trend in 2017 will be sites that are selling VR headsets and applications,” says Dave Hermansen, CEO, Store Coach. “Already becoming popular, there should be an explosion of interest in virtual reality headgear when Windows 10 releases its next huge update in the early part of 2017, the ‘Creators Update.’ Part of that update is supposed to include VR functionality, and they have already partnered with half a dozen companies who will be making virtual reality headsets with ‘freedom sensors.’”

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