For a business that was impossible until the internet, ecommerce is one of the most rapidly changing industries – even from the beginning of ecommerce! No longer do you need an entire team to get your website designed, coded, and online. Now, anyone with an internet connection can start their online store. Due to this saturation in the market, shops are evolving their techniques to interest and keep customers.

If you want to stay competitive in 2016, here are the trends you should know:

Keep it Personal

In 2016, a personalized shopping experience is not longer a treat; it is expected. To continue meeting the needs of customers, web store owners have to maximize the use of customer data. I recommend:

  • sending your customers offers with products or services based on their previous purchases or searches,
  • creating a reward program tailored at specific customers or purchases,
  • connecting with your audience over social media, and responding to their questions or comments,
  • sending personalized emails.

Faster and More Flexible Delivery

With the launch of Amazon Prime in the UK, and same-day delivery services being offered in the US, retailers are understanding that “I want this and I want it now” is the common mindset behind purchases online. 2016 will bring more ecommerce shops offering faster dispatches of orders, with the larger ones setting up infrastructure similar to Amazon. Consider offering same-day shipments if your shop is set up for it, or testing the option out for a limited time to see how your customers respond.

Mobile Optimization

As I have said before, 2015 was the first year search queries on mobiles surpassed those on desktops. 2016 is poised to be the year smartphone revenue overtakes desktop, so you must make sure your site is mobile friendly! If you have the resources, create an app for even greater ease.

Create a Content-Rich Experience

If your shop is competing in a crowded market, you may find yourself trying to differentiate from other retailers. A great way to do this is to invest more in the user experience. It is no longer good enough to say you sell something; customers want detailed descriptions, context relevant specifics, social proof (i.e., photos of satisfied customers with said item, previous customer reviews, metrics on how many others have bought this experience or are currently looking at it), videos, and other super-rich experiences.

Social Media Channels for Customer Service

As I have written previously, 42 percent of customers expect a company to answer within 60 minutes to their complaints on social media. As a web store owner, you should be available online, as customers expect faster answers. For an example, take the response time on Twitter: the average time for a brand to respond on Twitter shortened from 8 hours 37 minutes in 2014, to 5 hours and 27 minutes in 2015.

Pop-ups and Interruption Merchandising

A universally reviled advertising method in the 1990s, the pop-up window is making a comeback. Typically, it opens as a customer enters your site, and offers to sign them up for the newsletter or promotional email list. If you choose this option, a great addition is an incentive (a discount, or crediting their account) for signing up for the newsletter.

Online Loyalty Programs

Loyalty programs will be more popular thanks to new ways of being able to reward customers. As people pay with mobile coupons or eWallets more often, it becomes easier to gift points online, and for them to keep track of what bonuses they receive from different companies. Data from a loyalty program can come in handy when you are personalizing emails, sales, and special offers.

2016 is also likely to see the rise of online coalition programs, or partnerships between different businesses for special offers. Some examples of this I have already seen range from entire trips to a haul of items. Participating in a coalition with dissimilar online shops is a great idea for finding new audiences.

Social commerce

Social media will continue to be the biggest influence on ecommerce, and brands that have higher engagement on social media will benefit. As almost 80 percent of millennials use social media, they are expected to be the ones driving sales via these channels.

Note: having social media accounts is not enough for your business. You need ‘buy buttons’ enabled, and engage with online customers. Engaging with social media influencers like popular bloggers or video bloggers is another fantastic promotional idea.

I hope you pick and choose through these trends to find the ones that work for you. Do not be afraid to start implementing them now: it is never a bad thing to be ahead of the curve, and your sales can only increase with improvements for your customer!