This year will be a defining one for ecommerce, in terms of mobile domination. Sources predict that 2016 will mark the consolidation of the mobile era, with half of all consumers using their mobile devices to make transations.
The numbers are already impressive: U.S. mobile commerce sales last year totaled $104.05 billion, up 38.7 percent from $75.03 billion in 2014, according to Internet Retailer magazine. And mobile's lead is opening up new ways to reach and influence customers -- including paid Vine and Instagram sponsorships, interactive content and creative videos.
On the flip side, some industry analysts worry that we may have reached “peak content,” with consumer bandwidth reaching maximum capacity. This makes a smart content-and-search-optimization strategy all the more critical for companies to pursue in 2016.
Indeed, the ecommerce explosion is global: Michael Hewson from CMC Markets, which provides UK market analysis, has said that despite slower-than-expected holiday retail sales, UK-based retailers that embraced online shopping are actually beating performance expectations. “Inditex, Ted Baker, Next and Associated British Foods owner Primark have all outperformed since 2011,” reports CMC Markets.
Mobile ecommerce is actually growing faster internationally than it is in the United States. In Asia, the combined sales of 14 major Asian retailers ranked in the 2016 Mobile 500 grew year over year by 249.3 percent, according to the 2016 Mobile 500 project. European merchants grew their year-on-year mobile sales by 70.7 percent.
And while U.S.-based mobile sales may not have exploded the same way they have overseas, American businesses should get ready. "Mobile ecommerce is going to be huge in 2016, and businesses need to be ready with a competitive search strategy," says MacDecals owner Bryan Loconto.
So, what’s next for ecommerce in 2016? Here are three of the biggest trends in play this year:
1. Mobile dominance is permanent.
One out of every three online purchases are now made via mobile devices, as mobile continues its takover of the ecommerce pie, reports Internet Retailer. This rise of mobile presents new challenges for ecommerce retailers, including optimizing content for mobile viewing and mobile search.
The growth of voice search is changing the mobile-search world, too. Strengthening content on geographically based applications such as Google My Business, Yelp and Facebook can increase the likelihood that Siri’s suggestions include your business. And while mobile won't kill desktop ecommerce altogether, optimizing for mobile search is critical to staying ahead of the competition.
2. Videos are key for descriptive product sharing.
By the end of 2016, video content may account for nearly two-thirds of all Internet traffic. While most of this content consumption will take place within a streaming service ecosystem like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, that doesn’t mean retailers are off the hook.
The Internet has long been home to popular viral ads that got their start on network television. Now, retailers are getting more creative with their video offerings, by creating short web series and spoofs on pop culture. From Hootsuite’s “Game of Social Thrones” to Oscar Mayer’s “Wake Up and Smell the Bacon” app, viral video content is key for building brand enthusiasm, differentiating products and exciting consumers about a new service or offering.
3. Concerns over content saturation persist.
Content marketing as a key strategy for building brand loyalty and strengthening consumer relationships has exploded in tandem with our growing consumption of digital content. The average American adult now spends 5.6 hours per day engaged with digital media, more than double the 2.7 hours spent on average in 2008.
And the largest growth sector in digital engagement is on mobile; adults spend nearly three hours per day on mobile devices, according to venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, as reported by Practical eCommerce.
With only 24 hours in a day, have we perhaps reached peak content consumption? Expect ecommerce retailers to face new pressures in 2016 for creating content that connects with consumers and cuts through the digital clutter.
The bottom line
This is the year for consolidation and creativity. Online retailers need to first cover their bases, asking such questions as, is my website mobile-friendly? Is my site content optimized for all aspects of mobile search, including voice command search with Siri? Is my checkout process streamlined for mobile use?
Then, once retailers have those ducks in a row, it’s time to get creative and think outside the box.
What opportunities exist for hijacking some pop culture phenomenon as Hootsuite did with its perfectly crafted Game of Thrones parody? What about harnessing current events or holidays, as Pandora, the jewelry company, did with its "Unique Connection" video for Mother's Day?
With the competition gearing up to stand out more fiercely than ever, and with traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers continuing to lose ground, a competitive and creative ecommerce strategy is essential for your business in 2016.