Like most ecommerce businesses, the run-up to Christmas is a busy time for Spreadshirt.

Last year our busiest day was in December with 19,200 orders in one day, and we’re expecting something similar this year.

That said, it’s always important to have a moment to reflect on the hot topics of the past year and think about what we can expect from 2016.

I think that in the next 12 months there’ll be a shift from the glamour of mobile optimisation to the nitty gritty of cross-border growth.

If 2015 was a year of optimisation, 2016 will be about big moves in the market.

2015 was definitely the year for optimisation, as retail kept up with the challenge of responding to changing consumer habits.

The shift from mobile browsing to actually buying was evident. Retailers responded by making sure their sites not only looked good on a mobile device, but that payment was easier too.

At Spreadshirt we found this mobile-first approach gave us a new awareness about customer behaviour online.

Our research on the shift to mobile shopping revealed some interesting behaviour from last winter: the British were more likely than the French or Germans to shop via their mobile and 30% of sales from the UK came via a mobile device compared to Germany (25%) or France (17%).

This gave us a great understanding into how our site should work too.

We put our findings into our optimisation process. As a result we moved closer to our aim of to become a billion dollar business.

As 2015 wore on however, the issue of mobile optimisation began to fade. Retailers had either successfully optimised for mobile, or were frantically trying to make it happen.

As the year ended it was no longer a subject for discussion and other topics, for example delivery optimisation, had moved up the agenda.

Recent Metapak research found that UK consumers were increasingly happy to buy from retailers abroad (around 61%) and valued free delivery over speed.

Same day delivery also became a hot topic and a differentiator for some retailers.

We think shipping and delivery will be a key focus in 2016 too.

One of Spreadshirt’s delivery options

The details of delivery and shipping will come back on the radar as ecommerce companies seek partnerships with effective carriers.

That’s because once you have an awesome product, delivery is the next critical thing for cross-border growth; one of the major issues for the coming year in ecommerce.

The global market can only be accessed if you can actually get your t-shirt onto the backs of your consumers in a sensible timeframe.

For us, scaling-up our worldwide delivery meant opening a new production centre in the Czech Republic, close to the main distribution hub in Dresden.

Our experience of good shipping processes shows that it is all about managing for the best and expecting the worse, especially at peak times.

Better to promise a longer delivery time and surprise the customer by a day, than have a frustrated or worried customer.

Even off-peak, good shipping is about testing the alternatives to get the best value for customers in terms of service versus cost, and then managing the customer’s expectation to exceed that value.

Our key shipping considerations are:

  • research relevant custom regulations,
  • check your labels (seriously!),
  • choose the right shipping company for your destination,
  • know who will be handling your product and check your products are packaged correctly.

Unfortunately, delivery errors are often learned the hard way, after customer complaints and lost time and money.

Shipping and cross-border growth will be particularly important as everyone aims to get big or die.

We expect big players to grow their core offerings and launch new niche services. In most ecommerce markets there are too many players, so we predict some mergers and acquisitions activity as the sector consolidates in 2016.

Strategic partnerships will be on the agenda, as organisations seek the magical one plus one equals three opportunity. We see this trend continuing throughout next year and into 2017.

In the UK, planning for cross-border growth may encourage businesses to think about the country’s continued presence in the EU.

Access to a market with a single currency, which is almost as large as the USA, is vital for businesses looking to scale.

Companies which can grow in a single, big market are often more investable and scalable from day one; from there they can position for global growth.

Spreadshirt has been able to grow by developing in a market of around 400m internet users across Europe, and from there, we’ve used our size to launch into the US market.

At the end of 2015 we find ourselves in Canada, Brazil, Australia and now looking at Asia. Without the EU scale this would never have happened.

Maybe cross-border growth doesn’t sound as glamorous as mobile optimisation. It means getting involved in the details of shipping, customs and taxes.

But we think it’s going to be a big issue for 2016. And one which if done right, can have a major effect on the bottom line.

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