Now that Halloween is over, online retailers will be focused on their holiday sales until the end of the year, which means there is not much time for them to adopt any new ecommerce trends. However there are a number of ecommerce trends for 2011, which merchants can consider after the holiday shopping season is over. Consumers are also gaining increased confidence to start spending money again, compared to the last two years when economic conditions were much worse. Over the course of 2010, there have been a number of advancements and improvements within the world of ecommerce, mobile commerce, and social commerce. Although 2011 looks to be the year when merchants will be able to better utilize some of the new technology and tools in the marketplace, which could help them increase their online sales. 2011 could also be an important year in the ecommerce industry, as more and more merchants are realizing the power of an online store, and therefore want to do everything possible to make their business a success. Additionally there is a lot of speculation about what could happen in the ecommerce industry in 2011, as competition is increasing, and companies not in the ecommerce niche are jumping in to diversify their revenue streams.
In order to provide merchants with insight on the trends for 2011, we have come up with a list below that showcases 10 ecommerce trends for 2011 that merchants must know to help them be successful next year.
10 eCommerce Trends for 2011
If you work in the ecommerce industry and are not aware of the co-creation niche, then you must have been heads down for all of 2010. Shopping online has allowed consumers to express how picky they can really be, and co-creation ecommerce sites let them customize what they want every step of the way. ZippyCart first started covering co-creation ecommerce companies back in April, when we wrote about Blank Label and IndoChino. Blank Label focuses on custom dress shirts for men, where the consumer can pick out all of the elements of their shirt, including the fabric, cuff, and pockets. Indochino also targets the male demographic, but their primary focus is on quality custom suits. They also allow consumers to customize various elements of their suits, as well as their dress shirts, so they can create a unique outfit.
Blank Label and Indochinco are just two of the dozens of companies in the space of co-creation, and it is likely that this niche will continue to grow and expand in 2011. Most of the other clothing related co-creation ecommerce sites focus on the female demographic, as they tend to be conscious about their fashion choices. Co-creation fashion ecommerce sites for women include Laudi Vidni for handbags and Shoes of Prey for shoes and heels. There are also a lot of co-creation sites dealing with food and drink like Chocri for chocolate bars, Element Bars for nutrition bars, and Design a Tea for teas.
An increase in smart phone adoption might help allow 2011 to finally be the year when mobile commerce becomes more mainstream. Not only have more consumers picked up smart phones like the iPhone and Blackberry, but they have also picked up tablets like the iPad. The iPad can utilize 3G, which means it is as much a device to partake in mobile commerce as a smart phone. Therefore the combination of these devices in consumers hands, should make 2011 a year where people become more comfortable with the concept of mobile commerce. Additionally more online retailers are stepping up their game and offering mobile friendly sites, or dedicated apps that provide a custom mobile commerce experience. Any ecommerce merchant who is not considering mobile commerce to be part of their strategy in 2011 should seriously rethink their plans, as it is an easy way to increase the reach of an online store, and hopefully increase sales.
2010 has been a difficult year to keep up with everything going on in the social commerce space, as new companies have jumped into the competition, and older companies have improved their offerings to accommodate ecommerce merchants. However social commerce is just getting started, as more people are starting to understand what it is, and become comfortable with the concept. There are now conferences that are 100% focused on the social commerce niche, as more merchants start to realize the potential, and want to learn more about how to incorporate it into their marketing efforts. Many consumers use social media as a starting point to see what their friends and family are interested in, and therefore it makes sense for ecommerce merchants to interact with consumers in these places, so that they can generate more sales. This is why more ecommerce software solutions are offering their merchants the ability to set up a shop within Facebook, as it allows consumers an easier way to shop while already on Facebook.
There are also a number of companies fighting to make there new social commerce solution the next big thing, so it is likely that 2011 will see these companies pushing their message out to the masses. However the real challenge for an ecommerce merchant will be to figure out what works best for their online store.
This year, if you did not hear about one of the great deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Tippr, or one of the many other group buying sites, then you must be out of the loop. Group buying was definitly a hot topic in 2010, and the momentum is not looking like it will stop anytime soon. Groupon made some acquisitions over the course of 2010, and it is likely that the heavily funded company will continue down the same path in 2011. New entrants to the scene like DealPop and Wrazz are trying to carve out their niche, so consumers can expect to see a lot of news about group buying in 2011.
What will be interesting in 2011 with group buying, is to see how this ecommerce niche evolves, and what the companies will do to differentiate themselves and their group buying deals. There are also companies trying to get into the scene as group buying aggregators, but it is too early to tell if one company will come out on top for that service.
Private Sale Sites
This niche of ecommerce started out with sites like Vente-Privee who were able to offer consumers great deals on top fashion brands, as part of their free ‘membership.’ This is because the companies are often buying excess samples, which the designers no longer need, so the savings can get passed on to the consumers. Over the last year the private sale concept has become mainstream, and dozens of competitors have jumped in to try and capture their piece of this rapidly growing market. However, many of the private sale sites that have premiered over the past year have been in niches outside of luxury fashion. Zulily focuses on private sales for mom’s, babies, and kids. Whereas Eziba from Overstock.com focuses on private sales for home decor products.
Not only should 2011 see more variations on the private sale ecommerce model, but it is likely that there will be some acquisitions in the space, as companies look to be the dominate player in this secret world of deals.
Expansion of Virtual Goods and Currencies
Facebook has already pushed their virtual currency, Facebook Credits, into the mainstream, as traditional retailers like Walmart, Target and Best Buy are set to carry them in store. Consumers can now pick up a Facebook Credit card at one of these local retail stores, and then go back home and purchase any virtual goods on Facebook which they desire. 2010 was a year in which we witnessed Google purchase local Seattle start-up Jambool, which is a full featured virtual economy platform. Since the acquisition, there have not been many updates from Google, but it is almost guaranteed that we will hear more about what Google has planned for virtual goods and currency in 2011.
Another trend in this ecommerce niche is the merging of virtual goods and tangible goods, all within the same online store. Cheezburger owned LOLmart does a great job in this arena, offering up their funny shirts and toys, along side their virtual currency. Expect more companies to experiment with a hybrid offering like this, which allows them to increase revenue from their user base.
Online + Offline Intergration
As traditional brick and mortar stores become comfortable with having an ecommerce presence, you will find that many do not want to give up their old ways. Earlier this year, Pier 1 jumped back into the ecommerce game, and one of their top priorities was testing a site to store pick up feature. So consumers can still benefit by using the ecommerce site for research, and narrowing down a product, but they get to actually reach out and touch the product at the store before they purchase it. Consumers love to shop online, but most are not ready to give up shopping at brick and mortar stores entirely. Therefore 2011 is sure to see more companies experimenting to see if they can find a successful marriage of offline plus online.
Consumers love to shop online, but they also enjoy being able to reach out and touch the product before making a purchase. This is just one of the reasons why so many ecommerce sites have adopted the use of automated product videos, as they allow consumers to have a better sense for the products they want to buy. Not only can automated ecommerce videos help with online sales, but they can also be helpful with SEO, and help an ecommerce site rank better for their top keywords. There are a number of companies in the space that are working hard to attract big name ecommerce sites to utilize their technology, but so far SundaySky seems to be the leader in this market. The company has raised more money than any other player in the automated ecommerce video niche, and looks to be a serious force in 2011. Consumers should expect to see more and more automated product videos added to their favorite ecommerce websites next year, as this is a trend that is not going away any time soon.
Superior Customer Service With Help From Social Media
There is no doubt that bad customer service can crush an ecommerce company, but the opposite can be true for those ecommerce companies who excel at providing excellent customer service. Zappos is a great success story of an ecommerce company that made it their mission to outshine their competition in the customer service arena. Their customer service efforts translated into amazing sales numbers, which led to Amazon acquiring the company for almost $1 billion. Now as we approach 2011, more ecommerce companies are embracing their approach to customer service, and utilizing new techniques to address the needs of their customers. Social media is a great channel to use for customer service management, and more companies have started to use sites like Facebook and Twitter to interact with their customers. Many people hate to call into customer service as they have had bad experiences with other companies, and often have become frustrated with the entire process. This is why many consumers have turned to social media to have their issues resolved, as it is quicker and more efficient.
Twitter is really an open forum for any customer to voice their opinion about an online business, regardless of whether the opinion is good or bad. Therefore ecommerce companies should figure out a way to address these consumers, who will speak their minds, no matter what.
2010 has been a year that has allowed the push shopping ecommerce model to rise in popularity, as Kim Kardashian helped to launch ShoeDazzle and then Kate Bosworth entered the game with JewelMint. These sites use a push shopping model, where consumers pay a set monthly subscription fee, and then the sites periodically send suggested products to that consumer. The consumer can either move forward and apply their subscription fee to a product pushed to their email, or just not buy anything at all that month, thus not incur a fee. Since push shopping strives to recommend products to the consumer that match their taste, it is likely that someone will want to buy multiple items in a month. Ultimately push shopping allows an ecommerce site to be a personal shopper of sorts for the customer, and only send them targeted products. This is somewhat of a hybrid from the private sale site, but in the push shopping model, consumers can never view all the products.
Since this ecommerce model is still fairly new, 2011 is set to be a year where we see more companies pushing further into this niche, and trying to obtain their piece of the market share.
What to Do About These Emerging 10 Ecommerce Trends
While it’s not necessary to participate in all of these ecommerce trends, it is important to make yourself aware of them and keep tabs on how they evolve in the marketplace. Ecommerce is no longer as simple as setting up an online store and selling a specific product. Ecommerce is growing, and part of that growth includes expanded ways to connect with a consumer and ultimately make a sale online. All merchants should experiment with at least a few of the above trends, and keep their eyes peeled for new ecommerce trends that will begin popping up in 2011.