February 5, 2014
"Unstoppable disruptive force" brings to mind some powerful images. Although in this case it refers to a disruption that may improve the way consumers go about their daily lives and in the way merchants go about serving them. It’s also the language Morgan Stanley uses to describe the next phase of eCommerce, which they predict will account for some 9.3 percent of all global retail trade in just two short years, up from 6.5 percent in 2012.
That’s explosive growth on a global scale, made possible by increasingly connected consumers and devices, and also by nimble merchants acting to capitalize on trends and emerging opportunities. Here’s our take on a handful of the macro trends that gained traction in 2013, and that will have an even greater impact on commerce in 2014:
The Omnichannel Challenge
In 2013, savvy merchants ramped up initiatives to present a persistent brand experience across each of their channels. They’re looking to deliver a seamless and engaging shopping experience regardless of whether the consumer is online, at their store or online in the store. In 2014, merchants will focus as well on the analytic systems that make it possible to get a single, integrated view of their customer across multiple channels and devices.
Big Data for Smaller Merchants
The benefits of big data are increasingly available to small and mid-size merchants, who are using customers’ web browsing behaviors, prior purchase histories, shopping patterns and also information from social networks, loyalty programs and other data streams to create highly personalized shopping experiences. And merchants are reporting personalized shopping programs converting at two and three times the rate of conventional "one size fits all" approaches. As a perfect complement to omnichannel marketing, big data will further streamline shopping experiences that may start online and end up in the store.
Internet of Things
Just as connected consumers are fueling a lot of the growth in omnichannel marketing and big data applications, connected devices will power growth of the Internet of Things. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that by 2018, more than 18 billion devices will be communicating with each other and the cloud. The data exhaust from all of these devices and the consumers interacting with them will help merchants create more personalized and more compelling shopping experiences. For instance, envision a merchant given permission to access a customers’ Fitbit or Fuel data, and using that data to recommend new running shoes, work out apparel or diet supplements.
Mobile Commerce is Evolving Beyond Mobile Apps and Responsive Sites
Merchants are complementing apps and mobile websites with tablet-oriented initiatives targeting the affluent users of these devices, and to take advantage of conversion rates that at about two and one-half percent, rival computers. In 2014, merchants will also be paying close attention to see whether a behavior that surfaced this past holiday season repeats—consumers browsing on mobile devices but conducting transactions on computers.
Events and Holidays Around the World Drive Global Sales Reverberation
Black Friday was for many years linked to the observance of Thanksgiving in the US. Yet in 2013, Black Friday-related promotions drove sales in the UK, Latin America and Canada. According to Forrester Singles’ Day in China saw some $5.7 billion in sales. Events elsewhere around the planet were also important, and in 2014 retailers will ignore these opportunities at their peril.
And One More: The World is Truly Flat.
Maybe it goes without saying, but business and especially eCommerce is more global with each passing day. Merchants are relying on eCommerce sites and initiatives to help them open new markets, reach new consumers and extend their brand everywhere. So think globally.
There are others that merit mention and discussion, so please share your ideas about the major trends from 2013 and things to be watched in 2014—we welcome your input and invite you to join the conversation!