By Paul MorrisI like to muse on the future of digital and thought I’d tackle the humungous topic of Ecommerce. Due to time/ space constraints I will have to give you a whistle stop tour of the major topics bouncing around in my head. Enjoy the ride….
GENERAL ECOMMERCE THEMES
The future of Ecommerce is looking rosy as digital sales will continue to buck the downward offline sales trends. More people are coming online, are increasingly comfortable transacting online and are using online to save them money as the economic outlook continues to throttle disposable income.
Increasing broadband speeds will result in our shopping experience becoming richer e.g. videos as seen on ASOS will become more common
Augmented reality will move from the novelty to the main stream. E.g. the ability to virtually try on clothes (already seen in Xbox 360 kinect demos).
Personalisation will become more widespread and accurate e.g. what you have previously seen and related/ recommended products.
Multilingual websites that are well optimised and served by multiple acquisition channels (seo, display, ppc, ecrm, affiliate, etc) will become increasingly important as brands continue to seek out new markets.
Quality and personalisation will guide Google’s development. This will lead to more personalised/ relevant results based on your own surfing habits and those of your friends (using signals such as Google +1 & Twitter).
Google’s search optimisation process is broadly the same on desktop as it is on mobile however this will change and become platform specific. E.g. site speed will affect where you rank more on mobile and universal search on a mobile will increasingly serve more location and platform/ operating system specific results (think maps, phone numbers, mobile optimised sites and apps).
At present many Search professionals buy links to inflate a sites natural search rankings. Going forward Google will take even more note of social media links (brand noise, facebook, linked in, twitter, Google+1, etc) to move from the overreliance on this ‘easily’ gamed algorithm parameter. Link bait initiatives such as infographics will therefore become even more important that in turn further blurs the lines between SEO and Social Media.
Universal Search will continue to be important from an optimisation perspective (product feed, maps, images, news, video, etc) with particularly emphasis on maps (local personalisation growing importance) and products (Google is at the start of a big products/ Froogle push).
Social Media still needs to become more accountable and going forward more companies will utilise multi click attribution modelling to ascertain the value Social Media has on the purchase funnel. This is tied in with the purchase funnel becoming even more complex as more factors influence our buying behaviour hence a last click wins model will soon no longer cut the mustard.
Eco systems of people collaborating online (e.g. group buys like those seen with Naked Wines where customers commit to buy before the wine is produced) will become more common.
Being a recognised and trusted brand will become even more important as brands become platforms in their own right e.g. blogging, photo sharing, social networking, message boards, video sharing, etc. Linked with this will be how you utilise Social Media and reputation in other marketing channels e.g. Star ratings in your PPC ads.
The Yin to the above Yang will see Facebook and Google+ opening up further and people continuing to spend time and money within the walled gardens of these platforms.
Great online service will become even more important as it impacts search rankings, social media and conversion rates. Great customer service, communication and social media that ‘delivers happiness’, as with Zappos, will have to become the norm.
If privacy settings open up then PPC targeting will become even more accurate as social intent data from platforms such as Google+ aids PPC targeting and feeds e.g. real time stock, share, weather, price information and currency rates start to improve PPC ad targeting. Feeds will also continue to play a role in developing other channels e.g. Ebay and shopping sites + apps.
The way we search will change as voice and image search becomes more prevalent (think of SIRI on the new Iphone 4S helping develop voice search and Google’s improved image search functionality). Google Goggles (visual search) is yet another way search could develop as Google steps in to the augmented reality arena.
Affiliate marketing will start to move in to M-Commerce and will finally adopt a multi click attribution model (similar to the Ebay partner network) rather than relying on a last click wins methodology.
OFFLINE / ONLINE INTEGRATION
Companies will become much better at integration online and offline activity e.g. marshalling channels and getting them to work together more effectively, apply learning’s and targeting from offline to online and vice versa, offline persona targeting becoming a more common targeting technique online rather than simply thinking about keywords, etc.
OPTIMISATION & TESTING
UI/ UX (user experience), A/B and Multi variate testing is still not being utilised by the majority of companies however as marketing budgets continue to be squeezed (and PPC costs continue to rise) companies will have to squeeze every last ounce of effectiveness out of their marketing budget. This will in turn lead more companies to using products such as Google website optimiser, Maxymiser.com, Crazy egg, Click Tale, customer surveys and live chat.
The humble banner will continue to evolve with help from advanced behavioural/ contextual/ retargeting techniques that will make banners ‘cost in’ from a direct response level as well as from a softer branding metrics perspective. DSP’s (demand side platforms – exchange bidding based on audience segments in real time) will be one of the main driving forces here as the cost effective direct response platform of choice (clearly alongside the Google Display Network).
M-Commerce will continue to grow and channels such as mobile PPC will be bigger than ‘desktop’ PPC by the end of the decade. This then leads to marketing techniques such as ‘click to call’ becoming more important as more people not only transact on mobile but also call to find out more.
The way you optimise SEO, the user experience, PPC, etc will become much more platform specific due to the different usability and consumer mindset when the consumer is on that platform. As an example most companies will soon have a site dedicated to desktop, .mobi (possibly built with HTML5) and app’s (mobile and tablet specific across RIM, Android, Windows7 and Apple) to maximise the experience/ sales on each platform.
Mobile platform targeting will become even more accurate (more personal in terms of where you are, what you have previously looked at, the search terms you are entering in, what your friends have previously viewed/ rated that are relevant to your search, the relevance of the various universal search components, etc) and more mobile services will spring up to help when shopping in the real world e.g. mobile comparison shopping, vouchers and affiliates.
NFC chips will finally make their way in to the mainstream e.g. integration in to the Iphone5 and as result mobile payments will really take off and change the way we transact. If some of this purchase information were then ever made available to companies it would further evolve the way we target consumers.