by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

5 digital retail trends that will be big in 2017

Dec 21, 2016
E-commerce SoftwareEmerging TechnologyInternet

Experts in retail, ecommerce and marketing look into their crystal balls and predict what will be the big trends in online retail in the coming year.

If Black Friday and Cyber Monday are any indication, 2017 should be a good year for ecommerce. Indeed, in the United States alone, shoppers made an estimated $3.34 billion in online purchases on Black Friday and a whopping $3.39 billion the following Monday, breaking previous records.

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Besides offering hard-to-resist deals, retailers took advantage of a variety of technologies and apps to help drive sales this season. And analysts and online retail watchers predict these five digital retail trends will be (or become) even bigger in the new year.

1. Mobile commerce

Mobile commerce has been steadily growing, but if Black Friday and Cyber Monday mobile sales are any indication – with U.S. shoppers alone purchasing over $2.4 billion worth of goods via a mobile phone or tablet on those two days alone – 2017 is going to be huge.

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“Apple Pay and Android Pay have greatly improved the mobile check-out process, and PayPal does more than $14 billion dollars in mobile payments alone,” says Matt Smith, founder, Later. “Consumers are spending more time on mobile devices and mobile internet traffic is now greater than desktop.” Moreover, “mobile-first social networks like Instagram, and more frequent mobile-based searches on mobile devices, will make it hard for anyone to be a winner in the ecommerce space without a huge focus on mobile.”

The use of mobile wallets is also predicted to grow in 2017.

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“With brands like CVS and Samsung seeing success after implementing CVS Pay and Samsung Pay, more retailers will begin adopting this strategy [mobile wallets] as a way to engage with consumers and build loyalty with their brand,” says Don Hughes, CIO, Kobie Marketing. “Mobile wallets simplify rewards programs and offer opportunities to interact with consumers wherever they go. Retailers can even use these apps to offer time-sensitive and location-based vouchers and deals, which is a great way to surprise and delight customers and incentivize a purchase.”

2. Chatbots

“Chatbots exploded in 2016,” says Daniel Brzezinski, CMO & vice president of Marketing & Product Development, GetResponse. “Everyone from technology companies like Facebook to Microsoft and retail brands like J. Crew and Staples have invested in the space. And it’s clear why. Chatbots signal a more real-time, personalized approach to customer engagement,” he says. “It’s ‘conversational commerce’ that, despite being a simulation, feels more human and authentic than most marketing. Bots offer a convenient, responsive form of interaction customers crave.”

And live chat and chatbots are going to be even bigger in 2017, with consumers being able to conduct transactions via chatbots.

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“Messaging apps have surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users, and in 2017 you can expect more online retailers to leverage chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger Platform to create a better online shopping experience,” says Smith. “Bots will change how customers shop online because, instead of being limited to browsing or searching, they will be able to get personalized recommendations based on their size, order history or preferences. Some sites are [already] sending their order confirmations and shipping information directly through Messenger instead of email.”

3. Social shopping

“Social media already influences consumer behavior, but in 2017 it will become a bigger driver of direct transactions,” predicts Bart Mroz, cofounder & CEO, SUMO Heavy. “Instagram recently rolled out a new feature that enables brands to tag products that are featured in the photos they post (much like the way a user would tag his or her friends). By tapping on those product descriptions, users are able to go to the brand’s website to learn more and make a purchase. In 2017, look for more social media platforms and more brands to bring the shopping and buying experience straight to users’ social feeds.”

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4. Personalized retargeting

“For retailers, the online shopping cart abandonment rate globally is 75 percent, a record-high,” says Brzezinski. “Mobile has made things worse as attention spans tend to be shorter on smaller screens, despite driving a higher share of ecommerce traffic than desktop. As the cart abandonment problem has increased, etailers are adopting a wider set of tools to try to counteract lost transactions.”

While retargeting has been around for a while, 2016 was a big year, with “more marketers sending triggered cart abandonment emails than ever before, [using] more personalized [messages],” which resulted in greater success rates. And he expects this trend to continue in 2017.

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5. Virtual retail

“Virtual reality (VR) is changing the retail landscape by fusing together the offline and online environment for enhanced customer engagement,” says Paul Miller, CMO Americas, Xero. “VR is making it possible for sportswear shoppers to test out gear in environments it would be used in or try on clothing in a virtual dressing room.

“We are already starting to see adoption of VR to help build stronger customer relationships,” he notes. “For example, beauty subscription [company] bellabox turned to VR to let its customers virtually chat with the company’s founder. VR is still in its early stages, but retail [in 2017] will greatly benefit from this increasingly popular technology.”