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How Can Ecommerce Owners Use the Latest Trends to Their Benefit? 5 Entrepreneurs Advise. What mechanics do you have in place to engage visitors early? Think strategically about capturing their attention before they're gone for good.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Customer expectations are changing fast. More than ever, they're looking for shopping experiences targeted directly at them.

As Erik Bullen, CEO at MageMail explained to me, "The megatrend is about hyper-personalization and the ability to buy 'anywhere, anytime' by applying modern technologies" -- he mentioned machine learning, natural language processing, artificial intelligence and augmented reality as examples.

Related: Top 5 Evolving eCommerce Trends In Coming Years

He also talked about the trend toward applying to customer outreach "new developments in arts and sciences, including design, behavioral economics and data sciences."

Much has been said about personalization in ecommerce, which more than ever before is shifting toward tailoring the experience to individual customers. This point has been emphasized by thought leaders from across the industry. Here are the latest ecommerce trends and best practices you should be aware of.

Engage customers early.

Driving customers to your website is not the hard part. The challenge, rather, is engaging those visitors early, before they leave your site never to come back.

As Anthony Coombs, co-founder of Splendies told me: "You have an extremely short window of time to engage the customer into a purchase." He added that sending an email immediately after customers leave the site gives the best chance for conversion.

This makes a lot of sense. If a visitor comes to your site, spends some time browsing your products and then leaves without purchasing, he or she may still be interested in your offerings, but may be thinking, "maybe later" or "not right now." However, if a friendly email is waiting in this person's inbox -- and maybe even a discount code -- he or she will have another touchpoint reminder of the product, making putting off the purchase less likely.

What mechanics do you have in place to engage visitors early? Think strategically about how you can capture their attention before they're gone for good.

Accept multiple payment methods.

Increasingly, customers are coming to expect the ability to pay for their ecommerce purchases using their preferred methods. Additionally, they like to be able to customize shipping options and be alerted when they should be stocking up on expiring products.

As Lewis Sellers, founder and managing director of Pinpoint Designs, pointed out: "Customer expectations are becoming much higher." As a result, "We're seeing payment methods such as Apple Pay become more popular on ecommerce sites, along with much more tailored automated workflows," he said. These let customers know when they should be stocking up on products, with expiration dates and options to ship to their nearest store, or ship from one store to another, Sellers explained.

So, whether the payment method is Google Wallet, PayPal, Square or Bitcoin, it's never been more important for ecommerce sites to accept the methods customers prefer. In addition, personalized shipping options allow them to receive their packages when and where they want them.

Are you accepting multiple payment types? Are you giving your customers the chance to purchase how they want to purchase from you? Can they personalize how they receive shipments?

Offer a tailored shopping experience.

Segmenting your prospects and customers allows you to reach out to them in a more personalized fashion. This can also help you create a unique shopping experience for every person that visits your website.

Brent Peterson, chief evangelist of Wagento Creative, shared the importance of segmented and personalized content in reaching clients directly. This gives them a highly personalized experience, he said, adding: "With the advancements of AI, your website can learn patterns and habits that will make the shopping experience truly tailored."

It stands to reason then that not all your prospects and customers are coming to your site for the same reason. Even if your product is a niche offering, you've probably already discovered that you're serving several different types of customers. Segmenting these customers into groups is just the beginning; this could even be considered the status quo. Today, there is an increasing need to tailor your approach to individuals,not just more broadly defined groups.

Implement smart search.

Smart search makes it easier for your visitors to find what they're looking for on your site. Many content-management systems have built-in solutions for search, but most of them are simply insufficient when it comes to helping ustomers navigate your website and find exactly what they're looking for.

Miles Tinsley, business development at Klevu, explained: "A smarter search solution is becoming increasingly popular for ecommerce merchants." He emphasized the importance of natural language processing, which makes it possible for onsite search to recognize synonyms, slang terms and regional language variants.

Related: Future Of E-Commerce: Five Trends To Watch Out For In 2017

Are you using smart search to help your customers home in on what they're looking for? Doing so could help you boost conversions and drive more sales.

Embrace AI, AR and VR.

Is some part of you cynical about the emergence of AI, AR and VR? Are you skeptical about their application in ecommerce? As it turns out, ecommerce business owners stand to benefit a great deal from these technologies, and should be prepared to embrace them moving forward.

As Sunyyan Junaid, marketing strategist at Magenticians, told me, "AI, AR and VR are going to disrupt every industry in the coming years, but ecommerce is going to benefit the most from these fast-evolving technologies. As an entrepreneur, your focus should be on adapting these technologies into viable business processes that enhance the user experience of ecommerce stores."

AI, AR and VR will help you personalize and enhance your shopping experience in unprecedented ways, giving you the opportunity to boost engagement with your visitors through hyper-personalization.

Final thoughts

We all like to be treated as individuals with unique thoughts, opinions and interests. As an ecommerce entrepreneur, catering to these impulses could help you drive more revenue and increase conversions. With the help of the latest technologies, it's becoming easier and easier to create personalized experiences your customers won't soon forget.

Related: The 5 Most Innovative Trends in Ecommerce to Watch for in 2016

These are exciting times, and there are more opportunities becoming available every single day. It has often been said that we should keep up with the latest developments in tech, but this statement has never been truer. Take the time to learn about the latest trends and best practices in ecommerce, and begin incorporating them into your business where applicable.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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