For more on this topic, you can also check out these Econsultancy resources:

AI and machine learning

James Gurd, owner, Digital Juggler:

From an ecommerce point of view, the increased use of AI and machine learning to automate marketing and merchandising has been a key trend.

There has been greater investment in the technology, so we’ve got a maturing product set for ecommerce teams to take advantage of. For example, search and merch tools that provide predictive learning for product search and sort with smart personalisation.

At the same time, some of the platform vendors have improved the native capability for AI, for example Salesforce’s Einstein which gives merchandising teams an impressive suite of tools to improve trading results.

Katie Smith, retail analysis & insights director, Edited:

The continued expansion of Amazon into groceries, apparel and other consumer goods mean AI will be essential for retailers’ survival. In 2018, new AI applications – including more chatbots, voice activated devices, real-time analytics and systems to detect payment fraud will flood the industry.

Savvy retailers will recognize which apps to use for greater personalization, customer service and inventory management.

The rise of mobile commerce

Graham Charlton, editor in chief, SaleCycle:

The continued growth of mobile commerce has been significant – we’re now seeing the majority of visits to retailers coming through mobile. In some sectors, such as fashion, the split is 65/35 in favour of mobile. However, desktop still outperforms for conversions and sales. Overall, retail traffic is around 60% mobile, but sales around 50%.

Some retailers, especially in the fashion sector, are great on mobile but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

I think Monsoon does a great job on this channel. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, but it’s a very well-designed checkout in a sector where mobile is now all-important. Little touches like defaulting to the right mobile keyboard, shortcuts like credit scans and PayPal options all make it easier to buy on mobile.

Amazon as friend and foe

James Gurd:

From a marketing perspective, the recognition from a lot of ecommerce teams that Amazon is fast becoming the number one product search engine, ahead of Google, is changing how people view Amazon in the marketing mix.

I’ve noticed more marketers looking at Amazon marketplace as a key sales channel, putting more resource into figuring out how to take advantage of it as a platform, and looking at the merchandising techniques to make selling profitable.

In 2017 I had more enquiries regarding marketplace selling than I’ve ever had since launching my consulting business in 2008, from both B2C and B2B brands.

Paul Rouke, founder & CEO, PRWD:

Amazon’s end-to-end customer experience, speed from ordering to delivery, and cross-device flexibility continues to make them the most desirable retailer online. 

They have set the bar incredibly high and many retailers are struggling to meet anywhere near their levels of customer experience that is now shaping consumer expectations and behaviour.

Voice search and personal assistants

James Gurd:

The rise of voice search and personal assistants is changing how people find information, and from a marketing POV, it is having a significant impact on search patterns and the way in which search marketers need to stay relevant to align with natural language searches. 

Customer-centric strategies

Paul Rouke:

More retailers are starting to recognise that the once tactical ‘conversion optimisation’ can actually be the driving force behind their business developing an experimentation mind-set. This leads to retailers recognising the importance of their audience helping to evolve and adapt their products and customer experience.

There have been an increasing number of headlines about major retailers placing customer experience at board level – something they haven’t done before. More retailers are striving to walk the walk about actually become customer-centric brands.

A small percentage of retailers, including multi-channel Schuh, choose not to settle for the assumption that ‘mobile conversion rates will always be lower than desktop’. Brands like this are actively focusing on dragging up mobile conversion rates close to desktop levels.

Experience-driven retail will prevail

Katie Smith:

In a year punctuated by record-breaking number of bankruptcies and store closures, selling products is no longer “good enough.” In 2018, the onus on retailers to educate shoppers on the value they deliver beyond their wares, helping to build an emotional connection and sense of community.

From Story’s thematic retail concept store to Snowe’s magazine, by understanding the brand’s backstory, there’s a greater opportunity to spark conversations, and affiliate shoppers to the retailer.

What are your highlights from ecommerce in 2017? Let us know in the comments.