This is part 1 in Ripen’s series of predictions for the ecommerce industry in 2015. Click here for part 2.
Around this time every year, ecommerce experts look ahead to the coming months and try to predict what’s in store for our industry. Inevitably, many of them ask themselves, “Is this the year ecommerce finally kills retail?” For the first time I believe those speculators can come to a solid agreement. The answer is no.
The simple binary of “online customer vs. in-store customer” no longer exists (if it ever did). Customers shop with every asset they have. Whether it’s ordering a pizza with an Xbox or using Apple Pay to buy a new shirt after checking it out in-store, retail experiences have become increasingly non-linear. I believe they will continue in that direction in 2015.
And as a result, in our new multi-device world, retailers will need to build consistent, pan-device customer experiences to control brand perception through multiple paths. Here’s how:
ONLINE VS INSTORE
Just as ecommerce is an option for brick-and-mortar stores to follow their consumers online, opening a retail location is a trendy move for ecommerce companies exploring different options for selling. Zappos, Amazon, and Birchbox are among the ecommerce elite that have already opened a physical store.
What role brick-and-mortar stores will play in the future is still up for debate. But catching consumers wherever they shop is important, provided they receive a consistent experience across every location and the investment makes sense for the brand. I predict successful small and midsize ecommerce companies will follow this trend over the next twelve months.
BIG GUYS INVESTING IN 3RD PARTY PROGRAMS
Another development I expect in 2015 is big online players investing in decentralized ecommerce programs. Tech giants like Amazon and Google have already started sharing their Prime and Express services (and reputations) with smaller ecommerce sites to bolster their reach.
PayPal Third Party Email OfferWe’re seeing a similar situation with PayPal, as they extend marketing programs to third-party sites in exchange for selecting it as a payment option. Working mainly with high-volume retailers, PayPal has been offering credit towards select purchases in email campaigns. The move is beneficial to retailers who gain access to PayPal’s massive subscriber base and to PayPal, which facilitates the transactions.
Social platforms will continue to experiment with their own shopping programs and buy buttons, though there hasn’t been a homerun so far. In 2015, these attempts are more likely to give us something to talk about at the water cooler than in a boardroom over a P&L.
SAME DAY DELIVERY
Almost 30% of consumers who choose to shop in-store say slow delivery is the main factor in their decision. Although same-day delivery is already a reality for Amazon in select cities, the ecommerce giant will continue to look for new ways to reach more homes within hours – not days. (In fact, Amazon just announced one-hour Prime delivery in New York.)
We can expect other online retailers (small and big) to follow suit to stay competitive, whether it be with their own internal infrastructure or with a third-party service.
Finally, I predict omnichannel technology will become more abundant and better utilized in the New Year. One way to achieve an online brand experience in physical stores is with new tech that accommodates both sides of the business. Shopify’s new POS system, for example, synchronizes online and offline inventories so you can manage them in one dashboard.
Another advancement I am excited to see in retail stores is beacon transmitters. Forward-thinking stores are not only conscious of showrooming on phones, but are already experimenting with Bluetooth and NFC to alert in-store shoppers to deals and push them towards the final sale. I’m optimistic that savvy mobile-friendly retailers will find some truly innovative ways to use these programs in 2015.
PayPal Beacon and iBeacon are two early frontrunners. Using a low-energy Bluetooth signal to connect, both beacons enable messages to be pushed onto users’ mobile devices. PayPal Beacon can initiate hands-free payments with an app download and a voice confirmation in stores that have set-up the hardware.
iBeacon, on the other hand, transmits different messages to the user based whether they enter, exit, or linger in an area. And each iBeacon can work in three different areas, very close, near, and far away from the user. This means there is more marketing potential in-store for iPhone users. And one in four cell phones in the US are iPhones, so the impact is bound to be huge.
NEW YEAR, NEW TRENDS
2015 is shaping up to be the year of the cleaner, faster, more structured omnichannel shopping experience; it’s time for the tension between online and offline to come to an end. With careful planning and forethought, 2015 will be the year retailers start to envisage – and promote – a single, integrated shopping experience.