Digital shoppers in the United States are clicking and tapping their way to more than $374 billion in online sales in 2020, with no signs of turning back. By 2024, ecommerce sales of physical goods are expected to top $476 billion.
While this growth is great news for ecommerce stores, it also means businesses must work harder than ever to set themselves apart in a crowded digital environment.
Consider what happens in one minute on the internet. Savvy consumers are clicking on Facebook ads, following influencers on Instagram, accessing discount codes on mobile apps, and more. They're comparison shopping on marketplaces, reading promotional emails, and spending almost $1 billion online.
How does a business capture a customer's attention in this digitally-driven world? Let's sort through the most important ecommerce marketing trends that are gaining attention and lifting sales for businesses, so you can see which strategies are worth trying for yourself.
Ecommerce marketing trends worth considering for 2020 and beyond
The internet affords marketers a number of effective means of connecting with their existing and potential customers. High-quality content that's interesting, informative, and personalized can help customers make purchasing decisions and build loyalty. A presence on multiple channels, including digital messaging, social media, and video platforms, can open new ways of communication between brands and customers. Companies can also use machine learning, retargeting ads, and influencer marketing to identify and more widely target a company's audience segment. Let's go through each trend individually, along with examples of each, to help you decide wich ones will help attract the most relevant traffic to your ecommerce site.
1. Quality content is still the most important
Consumers spend about one-third of their day engaging with digital content on multiple devices. This means businesses must deliver top-notch content to stand out and attract a consumer’s attention. Here are some examples of quality content that can help drive relevant traffic to your ecommerce website:
Let's say a customer is looking for product information on your website. An image and basic product description gives them some details, but what if you've got a case study about how the product made a difference for a client or a video that brings the product to life? Helping a customer visualize what a product can do for them brings them one step closer to purchasing.
You can also create a content strategy that matches a customer to the right product. Check out this interactive quiz that skincare company Bliss uses to recommend appropriate products. It's useful and engaging, and it entices customers to stay on the site to explore a little longer.
Webinars and whitepapers
Informational content, like a webinar, e-book, or white paper, can position your business as a go-to for trusted information. To send traffic to your site, try posting this type of educational content on your website and linking to it from social media or a marketing email.
Blog posts and videos
Solo Stove offers valuable content to its outdoor-loving customers using a blog and YouTube channel. The content includes tips on building smoke-free fires and ideas for DIY backyard projects.
2. More customers are shopping through social media
An estimated 3.6 billion people worldwide use social networking platforms, with Americans spending about two hours per day on social media. This means businesses that can find their target market on these platforms have a unique opportunity to boost their visibility and drive sales.
The most popular social media networks are Facebook and YouTube, attracting 63% and 61% of internet users. Still, it's essential for businesses to consider where their target audience is before implementing a social strategy. Each platform can provide demographic information of its users, including age, gender, education, and income.
About 37% of U.S. internet users between the ages of 18 and 34 have made a purchase using social media. More than one in four U.S. online consumers between the ages of 25 and 34 have tapped on “shop now” options on Facebook to make purchases.
Businesses that make their digital media shoppable enable customers to complete purchases with a tap, removing the friction of asking customers to switch to a website to buy an item. This trend is likely to grow in popularity as social media platforms provide businesses with the ability to sell through their app. Facebook and Instagram, for example, recently set up in-app shops that companies can stock, allowing customers to complete a transaction without leaving the app.
Many ecommerce platforms can also be integrated with social media as part of an omnichannel strategy, giving businesses the advantage of managing product inventory, shipping, fulfillment, and customer service centrally.
3. Personalization is a new standard
Amazon and Netflix have created a high standard of expectations when it comes to tailored recommendations. Not only do more than two-thirds of customers think brands must personalize their content, but 42% are annoyed when presented with information that's irrelevant.
Personalization is about delivering an experience customized to your audience. In order to do this, businesses must understand their customers by tracking general and individual data. You can monitor where site traffic is originating and provide currency and language options. Take a look at how LARQ recognizes the needs of its global audience by giving customers the option to view web content in English, French, Spanish, and German.
Some ecommerce platforms provide the ability to determine if a visitor is new or returning so you can welcome them with an appropriate greeting. You can also track browsing and purchasing history and personalize communications based on behaviors.
Here are ways to personalize a customer's experience:
- Use their name in the subject line and body of emails.
- Provide product recommendations directly on the website with follow-up email marketing.
- Send a message to customers that haven't engaged with your business recently to offer a discount.
- Send a birthday promotional offer.
- Acknowledge loyal customers with a surprise reward after a certain number of purchases.
- Try personalized video marketing.
4. Influencer collaborations are a must
Whether they have a blog, create content on YouTube, or post on Instagram, influencers cultivate a large following by staying on top of trends and talking about relevant topics. An influencer who has developed an online relationship with your target demographic can use their reach to promote your business.
A food brand, for example, can partner with influencers in the lifestyle and parenting verticals to introduce their product to a broader audience. The influencers could post recipes, videos, blog posts, and social posts to increase brand awareness.
If you're considering this strategy, look for influencers on platforms where your customers shop and consider your goals. While mega-influencers (like celebrities) offer exposure and enormous reach, micro-influencers, or nano-influencers, typically have more direct engagement with their followers. In a study done by Statista, more than 45% of micro-influencer followers tried a recommended product, and 26.9% made a purchase after seeing a post.
An influencer campaign can include:
- A review or endorsement of your product.
- A discount code that can be used by their followers.
- Contests or giveaways.
5. Conversational commerce for customer service
Americans are spending more time on messaging apps, notching 24 minutes per day in 2020, up from 20 minutes the year before. Driven by the popularity of platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, businesses are now turning to digital messaging to connect with customers.
Known as conversational commerce, this strategy takes advantage of the immediacy of digital messaging to provide customer service that's personal and highly responsive.
Conversational commerce often takes the form of automated chatbots that act as a customer's virtual assistant, answering questions and facilitating purchasing decisions. Some platforms also enable customers to complete transactions directly in-app.
Brands that successfully implement a conversational commerce strategy can build customer loyalty and increase their customer retention rate, as nearly one-third of buyers use chat to determine if businesses are trustworthy and credible.
6. Videos, videos, videos
One of the most popular online activities for mobile and internet users is watching videos for music, entertainment, information, and DIY tips. About 85% of internet users in the United States consume video on a weekly basis. YouTube is the leading online platform with a reach of 90% in the United States, followed by Facebook with 60%.
Video content is a dynamic way for businesses to engage customers and help with decision making. Furniture brand Burrow uses videos to show how easy it is to put their furniture together, using it in tandem with a product image and description.
Videos can also be used to invite customers behind-the-scenes and make a brand feel approachable and personable.
7. Growth of AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence has many applications, but from a marketing standpoint, it involves analyzing data about consumer behavior to make informed business decisions. As more data is gathered, algorithms become more accurate.
AI can use data about a specific segment of customers to predict group behavior. This information can help a brand target similar customers, set price points that are most likely to convert, and determine marketing campaigns to audiences that are most likely to respond.
Fashion brand Natori used an AI marketing platform to evaluate creative assets for a product launch.
The system made accurate predictions about customer response to the proposed campaigns and helped generate new customers and a 500% return on ad spend.
AI can also be used to analyze individual customer behavior to deliver relevant product recommendations and personalized search results. By ensuring customers see the most pertinent products, you can improve their shopping experience and the likelihood of converting.
Artificial intelligence is expected to have wide adoption worldwide in the coming years.
8. Cross-channel marketing is a must
Businesses increase their chance of connecting with customers by being present on a variety of channels. Multi-channel marketing doesn't mean you must be on every channel, but focusing on the platforms your audience frequents maximizes your visibility and creates opportunities to connect.
Personal water purifier brand LARQ interacts with customers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and their own blog. LARQ also takes advantage of the fact that 59% of consumers research and comparison shop on a marketplace when making a purchase, hosting its store on Amazon to entice customers into their sales funnel instead of a competitor's.
According to an Adobe survey, customers look for information on several channels when researching a purchase:
- Brand website: 48%.
- In store: 40%.
- Reviews: 38%.
- Social networking sites: 22%.
- Video channels: 19%.
Businesses should consider this when marketing. A company that launches a new product can implement a multi-channel strategy by using an email campaign, online ads, product demos on YouTube, and partnership with an influencer. Once a customer has noticed the product and clicked through to the brand website, they might find tips on a blog post, video testimonials, and an online chat to answer questions.
9. Smart retargeting ads are effective
Retargeting is an ad strategy designed to engage consumers who have interacted with your website. Using cookies, you can show ads to these customers when they visit social media platforms, like Facebook, search engines, and other sites. Retargeting keeps your brand at the forefront of consumers' minds and encourages them to return to your ecommerce shop.
Retargeting can be a highly effective strategy. More than one-quarter of customers return to a site after seeing a retargeting ad. Website visitors that are retargeted are 70% more likely to convert than regular website visitors.
Smart retargeting is based on customer behavior, making content relevant to the consumer in order to improve the chances of converting. You can customize your retargeting based on the pages customers viewed and the actions they took. Here are examples of how ads can be targeted:
- A customer that viewed a product but didn't add it to the cart can be served an ad for that exact item.
- A customer that added an item to a cart but didn't complete checkout can be served an ad for a discount or free shipping.
- A customer that viewed a particular product category can be served an ad for items in that niche.
- A customer that purchased a product can be served an ad for a relevant product.
You can also retarget based on how long a customer was on your site, focusing on those who spent time browsing your site and excluding those who left after a few seconds.
When should you follow a new ecommerce marketing trend?
Now that you know the key trends that are generating attention among marketers, it's time to decide which ones suit your company. Here's what to consider before you dive in.
Will the trend appeal to your target audience?
Adopting a new marketing strategy can only be successful if it suits the demographic you're trying to reach. Equip yourself with as much information about your target audience as you can. Where do they spend their time online? What is most important to them? Choose a marketing trend that makes sense for your customers.
Is it a smart business move to adopt the trend?
Consider the trend within the bigger picture of your business's goals and objectives. How much does it cost to try this strategy? Do you need to implement new software and alter your workflow? What type of return do you expect? Are you going to fall behind your competitors if you don't adopt the trend? Do your research and consider if the trend makes sense for your business.
Choose the right ecommerce trends for your business
As consumers shift more of their attention and dollars online, businesses must consider marketing strategies to respond to their preferences and stay relevant. To recap, here are the top 9 trends worth considering:
- Quality content
- Social media shopping
- Influencer collaborations
- Conversational commerce
- AI/machine learning
- Cross-channel marketing
Marketing trends are always changing with technology, so keep an open mind and consider each strategy in the context of your company's goals and customer needs.
About the author
Leigh-Anne Truitt is a part of the SEO team at BigCommerce where she researches and discovers strategies to increase organic traffic. Prior to joining the ecommerce industry, Leigh-Anne perfected her marketing skills at The University of Texas at Austin and CanIRank.