As 2018 is well underway, new trends are beginning to emerge within the world of e-commerce. E-commerce continues to grow 23% year-over-year. But that’s not all. According to BigCommerce, in 2018 51% of Americans said that they prefer to shop online and 96% of them with internet access have made an online purchase in their life. So what does 2018 have in store for this ever-expanding industry?

Here is a breakdown of four e-commerce trends we can expect to see this year, some new and some may look familiar. We also asked three e-commerce experts for their opinions on where they think the industry is heading for the coming year, so keep reading until the very end!

ecommerce trends social commerce instagram

1. Social Commerce and M-commerce:

What is it?

Considering the Digital Age we are currently living in, we can probably hazard a guess as to what social commerce is. Put simply, social commerce is the same as e-commerce, but the interactions that would typically happen on an online marketplace occur on social media or social networks instead. Social commerce sites and platforms include the likes of Pinterest and of course, Instagram.

Then what is M-commerce (Mobile-commerce)? You guessed it: it’s the same thing as e-commerce, but transactions happen solely on handheld devices. But if you’re looking for a more lucid definition: it is the purchasing and selling of products and services through the use of portable, wireless devices such as smartphones and tablets.

So it’s a no-brainer then that social commerce and mobile-commerce go hand-in-hand.

Why is this trend happening?

The rise of mobile devices among consumers and the impact of social media on marketing, branding, and advertising are predominantly responsible for this growing e-commerce trend. The convenience aspect of being able to purchase whatever you want, whenever you want, using a device small enough to fit in your pocket is another contributing factor.

Smartphones are more than just telephones: they are watches, cameras, alarms, pedometers, calculators, and so much more. And if our smartphones can do virtually anything we want them to, then why shouldn’t we use them for shopping as well?

Why does this matter?

In 2018 we will expect to see more social shopping websites begin to surface. The line between advertising and content will continue to blur as the word “influencer” becomes almost synonymous with the word “brand”. Social media influencers have already taken on an abundance of sponsorship deals over the course of 2016 and 2017, and we can expect to see even more of this type of content saturating our feeds.

All of this matters because the way consumers are purchasing is changing and evolving, which is important for brands to take note of. They need to adapt their advertising and marketing methods and strategies in order to suit each stage of the buyer journey. And it would appear that mobile commerce is fast becoming the future of online retail.

ecommerce trends visual listening

2. Visual Listening:

What is it?

Visual Listening allows Social Media Monitoring and Data Analytics companies to provide a method of monitoring visual mentions to their customers by integrating a tool based on image recognition technology into their existing platform. As a result, brands can track the number of times an image or video containing their logo or product appears on social media.

It has been gaining momentum over the last couple of years and is now in full force as the Visual Age is well and truly upon us.

Why is this trend happening?

Everyone is sharing, posting, liking, commenting on, and consuming visuals on social media. We are now using images, videos, and GIFs to communicate, which means more visual mentions for a brand. If there’s no way to track visuals as well as text, then what’s the point in having a Social Media Monitoring strategy at all?

Why does this matter?

With more visuals comes more data for brands to analyze. And for e-commerce purposes, Visual Listening allows brands to see what is being said about their products on social media using image recognition technology. 85% of images posted to social media don’t tag or mention the brand in the accompanying text. Visual Listening allows Social Media Monitoring companies to find logos and brands visually mentioned online, solving the issue of previously unobtainable, but vital data.

Furthermore, logo detection can be used for stamping out counterfeits and fraudulent goods on e-commerce sites. If you want to read more about Counterfeit Detection, click here.

ecommerce trends pokemon go

3. More AR and VR:

What is it?

If you don’t know what Augmented Reality is, where on earth have you been? But, to cover all the bases I’ll tell you anyway. Augmented Reality (AR) is, according to Wikipedia, a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, ideally across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. To simplify: if you remember Pokemon Go and the live animation style filters available on Snapchat, then that is Augmented Reality.

Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, is slightly different. This involves a simulation of a particular environment as opposed to being juxtaposed with it. So in other words, the world you are experiencing through VR is imitating some sort of realistic experience (depending on the VR chosen) that also looks and feels real while experiencing it.

Why is this trend happening?

A recent study was carried out by YuMe and Nielsen in which they discovered that VR elicits a 27% higher emotional engagement rate than a 2D environment from viewers. If this is the case, then AR and VR have the ability to offer consumers a unique e-commerce experience to advertising's predecessors.

It’s not enough to ignore this technology anymore, and brands are beginning to realize this. So both AR and VR are cementing themselves as two of the biggest technological advancements in recent years.

Why does this matter?

VR can provide users with an in-store shopping experience, regardless of their location, allowing customers to experience a retail environment in their own home. In addition, AR can bring a new level of customer engagement in-store by bringing the offline world to the online world.

I’ve already mentioned how mobile devices are on the rise, but it is also noteworthy that 80% of shoppers use their mobile in-store. So brands can take advantage of that by incorporating an AR campaign that would encourage customers to engage with their products, both offline and online. So e-commerce can clearly benefit from leveraging these technologies.

ecommerce trends online shopping

4. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Automation:

What is it?

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is the development of computer systems that have the ability to simulate tasks that would normally require human-level intelligence, such as visual perception and voice recognition.

Machine Learning is an application of A.I. that provides systems with the ability to learn themselves. It is an automatic process which allows those systems to improve from experience without the need for programming input from an external source.

Why is this trend happening?

This is probably the most significant trend we will be seeing in e-commerce because it permeates so much of the industry already. Automation as a whole is a trend that has been gaining much momentum in recent years in particular. Many jobs that required human input and manual labor in the past have now been automated due to certain needs, both from the customer and the vendor. For example, it would significantly reduce costs and resources for brands or it would simply improve the efficiency of a specific task.

Going into the future of e-commerce, it makes sense that we should see more and more automated processes dominate the industry. And since e-commerce happens online already, automation is simply a more efficient, sustainable, and cost-effective solution than manual labor as a whole.

Why does this matter?

Automation, and more specifically A.I., can be used for Visual Listening (as mentioned previously) which is important for e-commerce companies if they want to be able to find and eliminate counterfeits on their sites. A.I. and Machine Learning can also be useful when it comes to product recommendations and other optimized e-commerce experiences, such as chatbots and virtual assistants.

Now let’s hear what three top e-commerce experts have to say about their predictions for the future of e-commerce.

Richard Lazazzera:

“With email open rates declining, there are huge opportunities in new communication channels with better engagement for 2018. Facebook Messenger Chatbots are starting to become interesting and will likely become much bigger this year. With close to 80% open rates, they blow email away.”

-Richard Lazazzera, A Better Lemonade Stand and Bootstrapping Ecommerce.

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Nicole Leinbach Reyhle:

“As we look ahead into 2018, I anticipate consumers becoming smarter about where they want to spend their dollars due to convenience, brand loyalty, and online influences such as social media and thus, retailers are having to embrace technology in order to keep up with customer demands. From A.I. powered software to chatbots being more regularly used by customers, to quick shipping times becoming less of an option and instead an expectation among online buyers, e-commerce businesses will need to embrace tech from a variety of angles in order to optimize their selling potential.

Omni-channel will continue to be a driving factor in how customers end up making their purchase decisions, yet it's the details within this omnichannel experience that will push some e-commerce sellers ahead of us. Demonstrating personalized, customer-centric experiences online will be important at every touchpoint that consumers may experience, as will making shipping and return options more convenient than ever before.”

-Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Retail Minded.

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Kunle Campbell:

“There will be a more extensive adoption of the acceptance of cryptocurrency payments by a few big retailers (i.e. retailers with revenues of over $500 million). The top contending 'medium of exchange cryptocurrencies' are Bitcoin, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash and LiteCoin and my favorite is Ripple because of its near 1:1 parity with the US dollar. Stability is a critical factor in making and accepting payments in retail. Retailers that get serious about advertising on Facebook will reap the benefits. It is the most sophisticated advertising platform available to marketers at the moment. Building robust sales funnels in Facebook that connects to marketing automation funnels will be a crucial way to differentiate your brand and secure competitive advantages.

With that being said, I expect to see a lot more transparency from Facebook as a platform as it combats fake news and unethical advertisers. More mid-tier retailers will migrate from self-hosted e-commerce platforms to hosted e-commerce platforms to reduce their over-dependence on in-house or agency-driven technology. Facebook will take more market share from YouTube in the video arena and I am hoping they will begin to reward content creators on both Instagram and Facebook. The moment they do, the tide will change quite rapidly. There are also likely to be a few more significant acquisitions by Walmart to help further increase its share of online retail sales in the U.S.”

-Kunle Campbell, 2X Media