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Future Of E-Commerce: Five Trends To Watch Out For In 2017 Without doubt, a variety of ongoing developments are feeding into the overall growth of the e-commerce sector.

By Saad Khan

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From hailing a cab to ordering food, from buying pre-owned kids' clothing to procuring services online, we have seen how cheaper connectivity and growing penetration of smartphones can transform businesses and lives.The e-commerce market in the GCC countries is expected to grow to US$20 billion (AED73.4 billion) by 2020 from $5.3 billion in 2015, as online shopping grows in the region, according to a 2016 report by global consultancy AT Kearney.

Without doubt, a variety of ongoing developments are feeding into the overall growth of the e-commerce sector. Businesses are not just focusing on a digital store selling some nice-enough items, but instead they're trying to create new markets, plug the unexplored terrains, create a shopping experience that consumers can enjoy as they browse, provide round-the-clock services and meet the overall customer service expectations at all times- before, during, and after a purchase.

As businesses seek ways to prosper in the transforming ecommerce landscape, it's important to keep a track of all the recent trends in the sector so that you can best compete. Here are five trends that we at Whoopey.com expect the e-commerce industry will experience in the year 2017:

1. Compelling Content

A visually alluring website and an interesting array of products are not just enough to stand out among the crowd in your consumers' memory. You require an armory of compelling content, which is presented in unique ways that not only manages to grab the customer's attention, but that also helps in engaging them and forges an emotional connection with the brand. So, it's not just the product and service descriptions that need creative content, but also social media posts, blogs, press releases, advertisements, and more.

Interesting content is one of the major reasons why people follow brands on social media, as it helps them by being informative, educational, and motivational, which then reflects significantly on sales and brand loyalty. As a marketing strategy, too, it's also one of the most cost-effective, efficient, and impactful solutions to generate ROI. That being said, content should not be restricted to just the written word, in fact, multiple forms must be targeted to suit varying consumer preferences. For example, videos, infographics, tutorials, podcasts, are some of the interesting ways to create a stronger connect with the audience.

Related: How E-Commerce Is Turning Stores Into Just Another Marketing Channel

2. Consumer Fragmentation - Turning Challenge Into Opportunity

Owing to the greater convenience digital media brings, consumers today have access to more buying opportunities than ever before. Our smartphones, which are an integral part of our daily "decisionmaking" lives, provide us instant access to a plethora of retailers where the good and the bad get sifted by a ruthless competition in a matter of just one swipe. So, giants find this fragmentation a Herculean challenge to deal with because niche boutiques are well positioned to gain market share. On the flip side, smaller firms plug this challenge quite easily as there are lower barriers to market entry and growth.

3. Same-Day Delivery- The Evolutionary "Express" Era

As the title suggests, the easiest explanation of this service is: you can place an order for a product or a group of goods and have them delivered within a 24-hour time frame on any day of the week. Why does the concept have the potential to fundamentally revolutionize the industry? For starters, the introduction of same-day delivery will take the online shopping experience of customers to a new level of convenience. Consumers clearly attach value to the meticulous integration of convenience of online retail with the immediacy of bricks-andmortar stores, which same-day delivery concept brings in. Reduced delivery time, improved access to products, higher convenience, and lower prices of online shopping are some of the key factors that can be attributed to the said concept.

Secondly, for online retailers, the option of same-day delivery helps in increasing purchase conversion while limiting cancellations and consumer switch to a largescale and as the fast-tracked model provides little to no time-window for consumers to explore further and have a subsequent change of heart on their purchase.

Finally, the model also offers immense opportunity for business development and job creation across logistics providers- who are the natural partner for same-day delivery on a broad scale due to their existing network strength.

4. Measuring Connected Devices

Most often, consumers don't stick to a single device when buying from you. In fact, they switch between devices, from the web to mobile to apps, before turning into paying customers. Device-driven analytics not only provide e-commerce ventures with a deeper insight into assessing their audiences better, but also assist in leveraging this information to predict subsequent purchases and personalize the consumer shopping experience. So, businesses that want to gain a competitive edge and have a more methodological approach to fresh conversions are now looking at multiple devices to collect data and draw consumer insights.

5. Social Commerce

Social media is now an integral part of almost every consumer's online habits. Statistics abound about its popularity and potential as a means of driving new visitors. Perhaps one of the biggest trends last year was the inclusion of e-commerce in social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. One of the major reasons for inclusion of commerce in social media platforms is strong internet penetration across tier-I, tier-II and tier-III audience, where availability of low-cost smartphones and low rates of data plans have played a pivotal role in expanding the markets.

An old marketing adage says, "Go where your customers are!" For e-commerce ventures, effective social media engagement represents real value. These platforms offer innovative methods to reach first-time and
new generation customers, engage and reward existing customers, and showcase the best your brand has to offer. Without doubt, your social network profiles and the content you share are as important as a business' storefront signage and product displays in today's connected era.

But businesses must realize that leveraging the complete potential of social media requires a more focused approach and a broader understanding of the medium. The concept of commerce using social media tool box, in many ways, take us back to the origins of retail, one where merchants were familiar with their clients, and correspondingly shoppers established deep relationships with the merchants they buy from. This return to small commerce, with the help of social platforms, will continue to play an important role for both- the networks and the retail industry. Staying ahead of the curve, however, will clearly be defined by how e-commerce ventures experiment and innovate to interact and connect with their customers.

The opportunities created by various social media platforms, the rise of analytics studies of devices and multiple payment options, and the challenges of consumer fragmentation are some of the major trends we expect to play out in 2017 and beyond. They represent both big opportunities for those that move fast, and enormous risks for those that fail to address them. For retailers, our message is simple: engage, stay focused and move fast.

Related: Engaging E-commerce: Media Planner MEC On Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

Saad Khan

Founder and CEO, Whoopey.com

Saad Khan is the founder and CEO of Whoopey.com, an online e-commerce portal that offers brands a 360 approach with an end-to-end marketing and distribution solution. Prior to founding Whoopey.com, Khan led the retail and corporate business at Redington Gulf, managing a portfolio of more than $250m. His industry accolades include management of leading brands, such as HP, Dell, Apple, Lenovo, Microsoft, Logitech, i-Life, and Targus. An Indian native residing in the UAE, Khan holds an MBA-International Business & MIS degree from Cardiff Business School, Wales, UK. 
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