Next up in our series of yearly roundups, we’re looking at the year in ecommerce.

So, what were the biggest trends and talking points?

For more on this topic, check out these training courses from Econsultancy:

Focus on the 'customer experience'

Paul Rouke, founder & CEO, PRWD:

This is extremely healthy, although “being customer-centric” is easier said than done. In 2016, there were only a small number of brands who recognised how crucial it is to speak to their customers (and potential customers) one-to-one.  

Only a minority of brands know exactly what motivates their customers, how their customers behaviour is changing, and what they can do to differentiate themselves from their competition (and delight visitors at the same time). 

Personalisation and data

James Gurd, Owner of Digital Juggler:

The increased used of data to tie-up customer touch points has led to better targeting and personalisation, both in marketing campaigns (e.g. personalised product recommendations) and on websites (e.g. surfacing relevant content and products based on user profiles).

A smarter focus on data has also resulted in better use of automation technology, for example building lifecycle email campaigns around customer path to purchase journeys.

Similarly, techniques like order gap analysis have helped people to understand when different types of customers are most likely to make a purchase or rebuy, and then allow them to schedule campaigns to target people when they’re most likely to be receptive.

Matt Curry, Head of Ecommerce at LoveHoney:

Technologies, and ecommerce's employment of them, have matured.

I think we've seen personalisation used more intelligently this year. It's no longer considered good enough to stick some product recommendations on a page and call it personalisation, or have a set number of segments you're personalising for. 

We've had technology to change experiences on the fly based on user behaviour for some time, but now it's finally being used.

Fast and flexible delivery

Depesh Mandalia, CMO of ToucanBox:

One of the biggest growing trends has pivoted around delivery - providing customers with both flexibility and speed. 

This is important because not everyone is crying out for the fastest delivery, but you can bet that most will want flexibility. What use is next day, or even same day delivery, if you're not around to receive it? Choosing a time range and day is the most empowering. 

Food delivery businesses have mastered this – of course they wouldn’t be able to operate without it - but next year ecommerce can really step ahead in nailing the convenience factor.

Website optimisation

Paul Rouke:

This is a clear sign of progression of the slow (but steadily maturing) digital industry and how more brands are now recognising the importance of adopting a test and learn culture to continually enhance their online experience.

Steve Webster, Head of Ecommerce at Steinhoff UK, has recently said to me in late 2016, “in 2017 we will be undertaking a full ecommerce platform review, and core to our next platform will be its ability to support continuous, strategic experimentation.”

James Gurd:

Perhaps the least heralded trend has been greater focus on technical performance optimisation of websites – getting the infrastructural and underlying engineering right to improve the customer experience, speed up sites and minimise outages. 

I know CX teams who have put much more stringent quality control criteria in place for new developments, so any negative impact on page speed is picked up and resolved before release to live.

I think this was demonstrated by the limited number of ‘Shock as Brand X website crashes’ stories over Black Friday weekend – 2014/2015 saw much higher incidents of major downtime.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 19 December, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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