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A couple of weeks ago, I attended the eMarketer’s webinar “Key Trends in e-commerce” and thought I would share with you the developments and insights that caught my attention.

It’s worth noting that most of the trends covered in this webinar are based off US-centric data. However, with the US being one of the leading countries in all things e-commerce-related, it’s safe to say those changes will soon be happening on our Aussie doorstep – if they are not already in some shape or form.

Below are the three trends that grabbed me:

#1. The adoption of beacons and visual search by retailers to bridge the online and offline worlds.

#2. Mobile sales may be small in volume and dollar value (at country level and worldwide). Yet mobile browsing is a key driver of sales across channels.

#3. Etailers are working hard to bring a human touch online and offline.

Happy reading! And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts on new and emerging e-commerce trends to watch over the next few months.

#1. The adoption of beacons and visual search by retailers to bridge the online and offline worlds.

Beacons make it possible to deliver personalised mobile communications at the right time and at the right place to the right person. And amongst the many use cases, beacon-triggered mobile messaging may be used as a way of driving sales off and online (think: e-coupons etc). For those of you who are keen to find out more about how they work, their benefits and other key considerations, you can check out my post on the key need-to-knows of beacon marketing.

Compared to beacons, I would argue visual search is still in its infancy, with a much lower take-up amongst marketers worldwide at this point in time. Its future is nonetheless equally promising. Luxury fashion retailer Neiman Marcus is amongst the very few who have started using the technology as a way of generating more sales, with the recent launch of the Snap.Find.Shop feature on its shopping app.

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#2. Mobile sales may be small in volume and dollar value (at country level and worldwide). Yet mobile browsing is a key driver of sales across channels.

Research has shown that tablets and smartphones are often the preferred devices for searching and browsing product information, exploring options, with the actual buying typically taking place on a desktop or in-store. Sales made through mobile devices remain comparatively small as a result.

However, for this very reason and as eMarketer points out, one should not underestimate the influence of mobile browsing. Our mobile consumption habits and ultimately their very impact on sales make it critical for marketers to have a mobile presence, commerce-enabled or not.

Sadly, there are still too many Australian brands out there (large and small) whose web presence is not mobile-optimised and/or who have no mobile apps either – making the discovery of their products and services through mobile difficult, if not impossible. These brands are missing out and no doubt losing sales to competitors who think mobile first.

#3. Etailers are working hard to bring a human touch online and offline.

Online, this human touch may take the form of an online personal assistant or a video chat with a stylist to help with your online shopping as it happens.

Offline, pop-up shops are one of the ways established online retailers such as Amazon or Zappos are experimenting with a physical store environment. This allows them to connect with a category of customers whom they would otherwise not reach i.e. those consumers who prefer the warmth of real-life interactions with sales assistants made of flesh to virtual ones, as well as those who like to experience and touch products before buying them.

For more on these and other key trends, you can view a recording of eMarketer’s webinar “Key Trends in e-commerce” here. Alternatively, for the time-poor amongst us, here is (spoiler alert!) their wrap-up slide:

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Finally – there is one other trend worth considering, not covered in the webinar as such, yet one to watch in my view.

This trend is best exemplified by Burberry or Hointer.com as they both seek to bring the convenience of the online shopping experience in-store, each to a different extent however.

Burberry’s London flagship store was the first of its kind when it launched in 2012, and remains one of the best examples of store of the future to this day. Simply, no expense is spared to recreate a fully-immersive online shopping experience in-store, through a blend of interactive multi-media content and state-of-the-art store design.

A lot more recent, the Hointer.com shopping experience goes the extra mile in my opinion, achieving a closer “virtual store in a physical world” experience. It uniquely uses mobile technology as the key enabler of its in-store shopping experience end to end, transforming the role of sales assistants as we know it in the process.

Now, some of you may argue that Hointer.com is taking it a step too far, that it’s way too cold and mechanic and that it will never catch on. Well, it may be the way you think now as it is a never-seen-before experience after all, bound to take us out of our comfort zone initially. But who’s to say that it won’t be one day the only way to shop in-store? I guess time will tell.

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I am a big fan of Target as a marketer and of Missoni as a fashionista, and so when the two came together this month to launch their Missoni for Target collection Down Under, I just had to shop it! And also reflect upon my own personal customer journey from start to finish – that’s just the marketing geek in me :)

A lot of thought visibly went into the design of the campaign, and although it wasn’t plain sailing through and through, most of the journey was pleasant enough – and the collection items all great fashion staples!

Amongst the defining moments of the much-publicized launch were a 24-hour site crash and a full-on social medial crisis (as seen in the screenshots below. Notice the escalating tone as hours go by…) – both of which we can learn a lot from. But fear not, there were some good times too!

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To find out more about all the fun you’ve missed, things they got right and things that could have gone better from a consumer perspective, check out my detailed account here on LinkedIn.

If you too were part of this Aussie fashion moment, I’d love to hear how it went for you and what you would have liked to see.

I have just come across 2 recent studies on how social commerce is trending and impacting on sales in the US & Europe (the most insightful of which I am sharing with you here).

2 of their key findings which stuck out for me are:

#1 – 90% of the conversations about brands are still happening offline vs a meagre 10% online (source: InTV how to harness the power of conversations).

In other words, offline WOM still prevails by far and this behaviour is unlikely to change anytime soon with face-to-face chats with spouses, relatives and friends remaining the #1 influencers on purchase decisions, not the social banter.

And –

#2 – Social media very seldomly directly leads to an online sale (ref. low conversion rates/direct referrals).

This is not to say however that social media hasn’t got a role to play – it may well trigger a conversation in the offline world with your loved and trusted ones, ultimately leading to a sale. So still worth investing into in order to influence/guide those offline conversations.

The problem for advertisers then becomes how to measure the true impact/ROI of social conversations on their sales – if at all possible. Any ideas, anyone?

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