10 eCommerce Marketing Trends Worth Knowing in 2019
The high street grim reaper was in full force in 2018 adding several high profile retailers to its growing list of casualties.
Toys R Us, Maplin and Poundworld all ceased trading in the UK. Many more clung on by aggressively closing stores in a bid to tackle falling profits.
This is far from a new trend. We know that consumers are turning away from the high street and spending more online. You and I have been doing it ourselves for years. The choice is greater. It’s more convenient. And it’s usually much cheaper.
As an eCommerce marketer, you’ve ridden the wave of online retail growth. You might have even built your brand from scratch online.
But things might be about to change. 2018 saw online retail slow to single-digit growth for the first time ever.
Even the biggest eCommerce brands felt the pinch. Asos made frontpage news when it’s stock tumbled by 40% after issuing profit warnings in November.
This is a wake up for eCommerce businesses to refocus their efforts in 2019
In this guide, we explore 10 key eCommerce marketing trends that are worth knowing.
We’ve cut through the noise and looked beyond the hype to focus on the trends that will make a difference to your results.
1. Greater investment in AI
Artificial Intelligence is no stranger when it comes to trend predictions. It seems every year marketers are being told to prepare for AI to shake things up.
But beyond the enterprise solutions, there have been very few AI uses cases that are accessible to the average marketer.
So why is AI on the list for 2019?
Because retailers have already started to make it a priority.
A retail study by Zebra found that 68% of respondents plan to invest in AI and machine learning by 2021.
But this isn’t a case of the tail wagging the dog. We’re starting to see a wave of AI use cases that solve real and relatable problems for the average marketer.
Readily available AI technology can:
2. Connecting offline and online experiences
The continued decline of the high street paired with the slowed growth of online is a real threat to retailers.
While the there is no quick fix for the high street struggles, the writing is definitely not on the wall for online shopping.
But rather than doubling down on eCommerce, offline and online experiences need to work better together.
Customers don’t think in channels — they shop when, how and where they want to.
Allow online shoppers to check the live inventory of nearby stores. Make it possible to return online purchases in-store.
For eCommerce marketers, in-store transactional data from ePOS systems will be a valuable dataset for online targeting. These include:
- Preventing retargeting campaigns from promoting products that customers’ browse online but then buy in-store
- Delivering cross-sell email campaigns based on items bought in-store.
- Using a single customer view to connect an individual’s online and offline shopping behaviour.
3. Shifting ad budgets towards Instagram
Instagram hit one billion users in 2018 and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The addition of Stories helped turn around declining usage trends and has been a nail in the coffin of one-time competitor Snap.
It’s also the network of choice for young consumers, with only 9% of teens choosing Facebook as their preferred social media platform
For brands, Instagram offers a lot more flexibility to deliver visually engaging content and advertising. It helps that consumers’ Instagram feeds are more much curated around interests and are less noisy than Facebook.
Instagram also presents a lower entry threshold for smaller brands who find themselves unable to compete on Google Shopping due to high customer acquisition costs.
We expect Instagram to take a greater share of budgets, especially as the network continues to enhance its offering with new shopping features and advertising solutions.
4. Brands aspiring to be useful
Brand purpose has become the branding concept du jour in recent years. And for good reason. Purpose lets you deliver marketing beyond what you sell. It can help transform consumer perceptions and differentiate in crowded markets.
But brands aren’t only defined by their purpose. And let’s not kid ourselves – brand purpose is unlikely to influence most of what we buy.
If brands want recognition for more than selling goods and services, then being useful is a great place to start.
Take Amazon’s advertising strategy for Echo. Amazon doesn’t position the technology as flashy or aspirational. The message is about making our busy and chaotic everyday existence that little bit easier.
For eCommerce brands, being useful can be a powerful differentiator. Such as offering customers the option to have their unwanted items collected by a courier. Or delivering timely replenishment emails so they don’t go without their favourite products. Or investing in live chat to give customers a quick way to get answers to questions.
Being useful isn’t easy. It starts with having a deep understanding of the customer’s motivations and problems.
5. Automation as a competitive advantage
You cannot sleep on marketing automation anymore. We could go on about the benefits of marketing automation, but you’ve heard most of them before.
Time and time again, automated emails outperform regular email marketing campaigns across all metrics. Delivering the right message to the right person at the time works.
By automating more of your customer journey, you’re giving yourself a huge competitive advantage.
Why? Because it’s tied to your unique data.
Your competitors can bid on the same keywords as you. They can target the same audiences with social ads. They might even have the same people in their marketing database as you. But they aren’t going to know when those shared customers are browsing your website and what products they’re looking at.
Marketing automation gives businesses the ability to react to the earliest signs of intent and trigger emails that are relevant to the individual.
Beyond targeting, automation does the heavy lifting for resource-strapped and time-poor marketing teams. By automating more communications, marketers are gifting themselves time to get creative and be better marketers.
We predict a greater adoption of marketing automation in SMBs and mid-market eCommerce businesses.
6. List growth and data collection as a priority
For marketers, 2018 will be remembered as the year of the GDPR.
In the lead up to May 25th, brands flooded inboxes with re-permission campaigns in an attempt to retain their marketing lists. And when the dust had settled, many marketers found themselves faced with much smaller lists.
As a result, many businesses spent the second half of 2018 scrambling to grow their lists. We see this continuing through to 2019.
We anticipate marketers using targeted and innovative email capture tactics on their websites and social channels.
It won’t just be about recovering what they lost. Brands will see GDPR as a reminder of the value of the data they hold.
Email is how we identify ourselves online. For businesses, it’s the glue that connects every bit of data to a single individual.
Brands will see data as a competitive advantage and key to delivering relevant messages and experiences. They will look for new ways to collect rich information about their customers such as surveys, preference centres and website behavioural data.
7. Email as a customer acquisition channel
Research continues to show that email is the best channel for driving engagement. Yet it’s still mainly used for communications once someone becomes a customer.
Brands pour huge sums of money into paid advertising every month while neglecting the power of email for customer acquisition.
eCommerce strategies and budgets focus on getting potential customers over the line as quickly as possible. But on average, 96% of visitors will leave without buying anything. To combat low conversion rates, marketers chuck more money into remarketing advertising which further drives up customer acquisition costs.
In 2019, we’ll see more brands breaking free from Google’s vice-like grip. By focusing on email data capture for first-time visitors, brands will give themselves an opportunity to reach more potential customers who don’t instantly buy.
Nurture campaigns will be vital for moving prospects towards first purchases. While browse abandonment emails will provide a cost-effective alternative to retargeting advertising.
Additionally, large parts of marketing databases are made up of people who have never made a purchase. We anticipate brands devising strategies to target those long-standing subscribers who are yet to buy, rather than hitting them with the same generic emails over and over.
8. Personalisation gets creative
Our research last year revealed that the basic approach to personalisation doesn’t cut it anymore.
A staggering 92% of consumers say they’re unlikely to engage with marketing that addresses them by name.
And 93% of people are unlikely to engage with emails that mention their birthday.
The message is clear. Personalisation needs to add value, not just lean of familiarity. This is why we’ve been flying the flag for intelligent personalisation.
Beyond being intelligent with personalisation, brands also need to get creative.
In 2019, we’ll see more brands realise that it’s not just what you personalise that’s important, but how you personalise.
Netflix has been pushing hard on the ‘how’ by personalising artwork to individuals based on previous viewing habits.
For eCommerce brands, purchase history and demographics will be key to delivering personalised dynamic content across digital experiences.
The example below shows how real-time data profiling could trigger different creative for the same promotion on a travel website.
We predict eCommerce brands will start to run their own creative personalisation programs that tap into the emotions that influence buying behaviour.
9. Selling beyond the website
There was a time people doubted whether eCommerce would catch on because consumers wouldn’t trust buying things on the internet. Last year, global eCommerce sales hit $2.8 trillion.
Then there were doubts about what types of products people would buy on their mobile. During Christmas 2018, almost 40% of all eCommerce purchases were made on smartphones.
What starts as concerns, soon gives way to explosive growth as consumer trust grows in new ways of buying online.
In 2019, we predict eCommerce will go native as consumers gain trust in buying beyond the website.
Facebook Shop and Instagram’s shoppable posts offer brands the ability to sell within their social networks.
Affiliate marketing is expanding beyond referral links with solutions that sell directly on affiliate and partner websites.
AMP for Email will give marketers the ability to deliver dynamic content in emails like never before. AMP already offers the ability to accept user inputs, display interactive elements and fetch fresh data. The inbox is fast becoming an extension of the website that shortens conversion journeys and enhances the customer experience.
10. Greater focus on what already works
Most trends guides would include a reference to shiny new technology at this point.
VR. AR. Voice. Blockchain.
You’ve been sold the idea that these will dramatically transform the customer experience for years now. But the fact is, these technologies are unnecessary distractions for nearly every marketer.
Voice has been heralded as the future of eCommerce. There has been no shortage of bold predictions — voice shopping is projected to grow to $40 billion by 2022 — a 20-fold increase.
Yet research by HigherVisibility revealed that voice search usage declined in 2018.
Leaked internal documents from Amazon revealed that just 2% of the people who own Alexa-powered devices have made purchases. What’s more, only 10% of that minority went on to make a second voice-based purchase.
Yes, marketers have a tougher job than ever. But the good news is that a lot of what will be integral to their success is already available to them or already in place.
Investments like personalisation and automation will build on existing strategies, save time, improve results and show instant value.
So there you have it. 10 trends to shape your strategy and inspire you in 2019.
When putting this list together it was important for us to cut through the noise and look beyond the hype.
We wanted to present the key areas that can make a real difference. The good news is that these areas build what marketers are already doing well. They ask marketers to make better use of the technology they’ve already invested in.
Success relies on taking greater control of your own data and using your unique understanding of your customers to deliver relevant and impactful marketing.
After all, nobody knows your customers quite as you do.
Ready to smash the heck out of 2019?
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