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An eCommerce year in review – what happened in 2015?

As 2015 draws to a close we round up the biggest eCommerce trends and events that have shaped online retail strategies this year and will continue to do so next year.

2015 is nearly over. Phew.

It’s time to kick up your feet and enjoy the festive season because as soon as the holidays have passed it’s back to panicking over your numbers and trying to stay ahead of the eCommerce curve.

 

That’s something easier said than done. The continually evolving nature of eCommerce makes it a fickle business to be in. A change from Google can throw your latest campaign out the window and a shift in consumer behaviour could leave you with an ineffective approach.

 

All you can do to safeguard yourself is ensure your current practices are aligned with the latest developments and that you remain flexible enough to deal with whatever’s thrown at you.

 

With that in mind, let’s have a look at the major developments that shook the eCommerce world in 2015 to ensure your campaigns are as up to date as possible.

Mobilegeddon

 

Another year and another major Google update.

 

Just like clockwork the theories, hypothesis and speculation on what we could expect were thrown around at every opportunity online. Of course these theories wouldn’t be complete without the usual doomsday heralds explaining how this was the end of digital marketing as we know it.

 

I have to say though, they did give the change an incredibly fun name. Welcome, Mobilegeddon.

 

This year’s Google update focused specifically on the increased use of mobile devices. In short, Google wanted to improve the experience of mobile users by lowering the ranking of sites not optimised for mobile devices.

 

Google rolled out a bunch of tools like the mobile-friendly test and included comprehensive breakdowns in webmaster dashboards to help site owners get their site up to speed.

 

mobile usability statistics

Image Credit

 

All of which was useful, but not as useful as we all thought.

 

Mobilegeddon ultimately turned out to be something of an over exaggeration.

There were, of course, some sites who lost significant ranking after the change but few businesses experienced the earth shattering loss many expected. Mobilegeddon was less a catastrophic event for online businesses, more a subtle evolution in user experience.

Google Mobilegeddon infographic

 

It may not have been as bad as originally thought, but Mobilegeddon does signify a drastic change in direction.

 

Mobile is becoming increasingly important for any digital endeavour. Now that Google is starting to penalise those who overlook their mobile optimisation we could see 2016 being the year of mobile in eCommerce.

Online’s increasing popularity

 

Something all digital marketers will be pleased to hear is the increasing popularity of eCommerce.

 

Black Friday has again seen a huge increase in the number of people shopping online. In fact, more Americans shopped online this year than in brick and mortar stores.

 

But the increase in use isn’t exclusive to the popular online sales periods.

 

The graph below depicts the increase in online shopping behaviour in the UK. This year more than three quarters of Britons completed at least one online purchase. That’s a 2% increase from 2014.

online shopping behaviour in the uk

This increase in usage is of course also leading to a huge increase in the money that is spent in online stores.

 

2015 saw the UK’s online revenue shoot up 16% to £52.3 billion. This is predicted to increase yet again by another 15% for 2016.

online retail in the uk

It seems the world of online shopping is set to become even more popular and profitable.

 

As time goes by more brands are starting to realise the earning potential of online stores. This, of course, is resulting in a more crowded market and more competition.

 

Smart marketers are already taking steps to solidify their position as fan favourites to weather the growing popularity scuffle.

Omnichannel marketing is a necessity

Online sales are increasing, which is great news.

 

However, the manner in which the sales are made is becoming more and more complicated, which isn’t so great.

 

Once upon a time, a customer would see an advertisement before heading to the store to purchase the product. A simple, linear customer journey from exposure to purchase.

 

Nowadays the customer journey is an incredibly confusing winding road.

 

The increase in channels and devices has created so many different ways for customers to interact with brands. Modern consumers now average five devices in their purchase journey.

 

devices used on the purchase journey

These customers are also more demanding than ever before. They expect their customer journey, however, traversed, not to be interrupted. They want to start a purchase on a mobile app, continue on a tablet and check out on a desktop.

 

This leaves you to map what steps they’ve taken and carry their progress between each device.

 

It’s a difficult task, and using omnichannel marketing is your best bet to provide the customer experience your users desire. Unlike cross-channel or multichannel marketing, omnichannel allows customers to experience your brand through every channel, not experience a channel within your brand.

 

Every channel works in concert, feeding into one another. Progress from one is carried over to the next when the user switches channel or device.

 

A good omnichannel campaign also isn’t limited to the digital worlds but also includes your brick and mortar store.

 

Macy’s have introduced a great omnichannel campaign that utilises mobile’s GPS functionality to work seamlessly with local store’s inventory checks.

 

2015 saw many eCommerce hold-outs finally give in

 

The majority of brands have already jumped on the eCommerce bandwagon.

 

The aforementioned stats on usage and profits are enough to convince any savvy business to dip their toe into the world of online sales. However, there’s still a few brands out there who are yet to fully embrace an eCommerce strategy.

 

Only around 40% of luxury brands sell online; perhaps due to the perceived difficulty in creating a luxury shopping experience through a screen.

 

But even these brick and mortar stalwarts are finally starting to see the light.

 

Past eCommerce naysayers Chanel and Fendi have noticed the potential of eCommerce and are slowly rolling out their own online stores. It’s no surprise when you look at how eCommerce has caught up with and even exceeded brick and mortar retailers.

 

Amazon’s recent growth is a prime example. Their market capitalisation now exceeds that of Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers. If it’s an indication of things to come, the smart choice is to take Chanel and Fendi’s lead and get your online store up and running as soon as possible.

Amazon vs Walmart

Image Credit

 

It’s not just about price

 

When we think of customer’s our first thought is that their purchase decisions are made primarily on price.

 

That’s true to an extent, however, it appears that there’s an increasing importance on customer experience.

 

In fact, a recent study into the effect of user experience on brand loyalty reports that a staggering 71% of UK consumers will switch to a different brand due to a poor shopping experience. This is up from 61% in 2014.

 

Judging by the increase in statistics across the board, it’s not unreasonable to assume that more customers will place a higher importance on user experience in 2016 meaning UX design is something you should be putting at the top of your priorities.

 

Summing up

2015 was a great year for eCommerce. We saw huge growth in usage and revenue and everything points to 2016 being an even better year for online store owners.

 

However, that of course only applies to those who are prepared for whatever comes their way.

 

If 2015 has taught us anything, we can expect to see the below in 2016:

– More online shoppers

– An increase in mobile usage

– A greater need for omnichannel campaigns

– The final bastions of brick and mortar only stores crumbling

– A tighter focus on customer experience

But it wouldn’t be eCommerce if there weren’t a few surprises, you can also expect to find some unpredicted developments and opportunities as the year plays out.