The first week of a new year is unlike any other week of the year. If you’re like me, you’ve got what feels like a million thoughts and emotions running through your head.
You could be excited. You could be tired (still). Maybe you’re thinking about goals. Maybe you’re thinking about how you want to challenge yourself this year (that includes writing the new date correctly).
And maybe you’re looking at the big picture. This was definitely a big-picture week for me — including when I sat down to write this post. I started by thinking about this question: “What’s the one thing e-commerce will be known for in 2016?”
I predict that e-commerce sales will account for 12 percent of total retail sale by Holiday 2016.
Several trends jumped to mind immediately — mobile (yep, there it is, I said it), social media advertising, stronger integration between online and in-store experiences — trends that have been shaping the industry over the past couple years and are carrying a lot of momentum as we enter 2016.
But one thing? That’s tough. E-commerce sales are on a double-digit growth track. While they are still less than 10 percent of total retail sales (which gives them tremendous upside opportunity for 2016 and beyond), I see the growth of e-commerce hitting the beginning of a hockey-stick trajectory this year. I predict that e-commerce sales will account for 12 percent of total retail sale by Holiday 2016.
There’s innovation up and down the industry — and many opportunities as a result. I came up with seven big E-commerce opportunities, to be exact. 2016 is going to be a good year for retailers, advertising channels, and consumers — and here’s why.
1. Shopping Will Become More Seamless Across Online, Mobile, and In-store Experiences.
2016 will be a year of continued integration between online, mobile, and in-store shopping experiences. For instance, it’s conceivable that consumers will soon be able to open the Uber app, search for a movie, buy the ticket, and queue up an Uber driver to arrive at their door to take them to the theater at the time they select — all in one transaction.
Beacons will play a big role in the shopping experience convergence. Retailers including Apple, Macy’s, and Target have experimented with beacons, and others will add the technology to engage with customers in a more targeted way. It’s possible that retailers this year will add beacon systems that pick up where consumers left off in their online experience, guiding them to the aisles that have the items they were viewing.
2. Small Retailers Will Dominate the Content Commerce Space.
Many consumers want to deeply understand the products that help them fuel their passions — whether it’s motorcycle gear, cooking equipment, or kayaks. Content-driven e-commerce is becoming a popular way to address that need through informative videos and storytelling around products.
But a lot of opportunity remains. Some of the largest e-commerce retailers have put little or no effort into delivering meaningful content-driven commerce. Instead, they’re competing on low prices and fast shipping. That’s paving the way for small and niche retailers to dominate the content commerce space in 2016 — improving customer engagement and loyalty using a method that many large retailers aren’t.
3. E-commerce Retailers Will Figure Out How to Convert Mobile Traffic.
It’s been “the year of mobile” for the past several years — and at the fundamental level, that won’t change in 2016. What will change is that e-commerce retailers will figure out how to convert that mobile traffic.
By the time Holiday arrived last year, we were seeing marked improvements in mobile conversion among our retail customers alone. That momentum will carry into 2016, when retailers across the board capture the mobile opportunity.
4. Social Networks Will Dramatically Increase Their Product Advertising Capabilities.
Google, Bing, and comparison shopping engines have shaped the direct return advertising arena for e-commerce retailers over the past 10 years. Now, most of the major social media players are part of the equation — and their voices are getting louder.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and soon Snapchat will increase their investments in product advertising formats. We’ll see social networks grow and refine their product advertising options, including improving targeting capabilities and developing new ads formats.
5. Pinterest’s E-commerce Capabilities Could Explode.
Pinterest is an unleveraged e-commerce goldmine. It’s a product-focused environment — organically. It’s similar to Google, with its mostly organic search environment. PLAs are a natural addition to Google SERPs, just as buyable pins are a natural addition to Pinterest.
The Google PLA model could be a rocket ship for Pinterest stakeholders — including retailers who want another direct revenue driver, and consumers who want to find products beyond what Google surfaces and what Pinterest’s organic search results provide. Pinterest has immense potential to become a major e-commerce channel in 2016, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see significant innovation in Pinterest’s e-commerce capabilities this year.
6. The Last Mile Could Shift Into the Hands of Small and Mid-Sized Retailers.
Large retailers have climbed the industry food chain in part because they have more extensive and sophisticated supply chains to handle the final leg of shipping, and get products from the warehouse to the consumer.
But companies including Shyp and Google Express (and even Uber) are starting to shake things up. Smaller retailers that partner with dedicated, fast delivery service providers could compete more aggressively against larger counterparts. That would contribute to a leveling of the e-commerce playing field.
7. Product Listing Ads Will Expand Across Everything Google.
Google is innovating quickly around its PLAs. We’ll see a rapid uptake of beta features once they become generally available, such as expandable product ads and product attribute cards. There’s sure to be new features introduced this year, too, such as different views of products and additional product info.
PLAs will also be commonly found beyond the SERP this year — in YouTube, Gmail, and other Google properties. That’ll create new challenges for retailers in determining how to allocate spend and optimize their ads across the Google universe.
So, to answer the original question, “What’s the one thing e-commerce will be known for in 2016?” I think it’s going to be known as the year of creating the win-win-win — enjoyable and streamlined shopping experiences for consumers; high-ROI product advertising approaches for retailers; and advertising models that deliver significant revenue to ad channels themselves.