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At the beginning of the year, we weighed in on the trends and insights that were kicking off in the eCommerce landscape for 2017. It’s safe to say the overall growth of online retail is showing no signs of slowing. The NAB online sales index indicated that in the 12 months to December 2016, “Australians spent an estimated AU$21.65 billion on online retail – a level that is equivalent to around 7.1 per cent of the traditional bricks and mortar sector.”
The NAB online sales index also revealed that spending online is still dominated by those aged between 35 and 44, with takeaway food, media, homewares, appliances, and personal goods such as fashion and recreation the largest growth categories.
The majority of spend online occurs in metro areas, at 74 per cent, with the remaining, 26 per cent, in regional areas.
For further information on the breakdown of online spending in 2016, click here.
During a recent talk for Marketing Science Ideas Xchange, digital business specialist, Luke Rattigan, emphasised the importance of “contextual eCommerce” – bringing the shopping experience to the consumer – with innovations such as shippable pins and Facebook store integration.
“In 2016 in the USA we’ve seen a huge share of online buying happening right on social media, or wherever the customer is. It’s convenient, people browse product images anyway, and targeting based on demographic, location, and interests is pretty accurate.”
For Rattigan, the key eCommerce trends to look out for, in addition to contextual eCommerce, are video, messaging apps and the evolution of augmented reality and virtual reality.
According to Rattigan, many companies see messaging apps such as FB messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, and We Chat as the future of communication, eCommerce, payments and information sourcing.
There’s no denying the power of the mobile phone in our contemporary shopping experiences, and as more people choose to shop from the palm of their hand, eCommerce websites need to be mobile responsive.
“Mobile transactions will grab an increasing share of online sales in 2017. So retailers really need to ensure their mobile sites are optimised for that channel and not just offer contorted versions of their eCommerce websites,” says Michael Baker, a Sydney-based independent retail and retail property consultant.
“Google’s latest search algorithms seem to favour mobile-optimised websites with higher rankings, which is sensible, as search is meant to be about relevancy and usefulness,” he says.
When PricewaterhouseCoopers spoke recently with Paul Zahra, Global Retail Adviser and former CEO of David Jones, on the retail trends to look out for this year, he echoed this sentiment.
“The smartphone will increasingly become the preferred shopping tool,” he said.
Google offers a free tool to test how mobile-friendly your website is.
As well as mobile optimisation, online retailers should not shy away from the importance of digital content and its power over the customer.
As Zahra says, “Retailers will become more content savvy. This means that digital content will need to be more engaging, entertaining and valuable than ever before in order to get through to consumers.”
When we think of engagement and entertainment, this is increasingly taking the form of video. In his talk, Rattigan mentioned the three growing video trends businesses should be aware of are silent video with text as an overlay, the 3-second ‘audition video’ which should grab the viewer’s attention and entice them to enable sound immediately, and live video.
Live video is a particularly fast-growing trend. From Facebook Live to YouTube, Instagram Live and Periscope Pro, live streaming is a form of social media marketing that has the potential to engage with your audience in a really creative way, whether it’s with a real-time look behind-the-scenes, a product launch or a Q&A with company members.
If there’s one thing that’s clear when looking at the current eCommerce climate in Australia, it’s that the future looks bright for small and medium businesses.
As Brian McDonnell recently wrote for The Australian, “The consumer shift towards eCommerce has opened the world’s virtual doors to Australian SMBs. The opportunity to scale a business is now at the fingertips of every business owner.”
“Small businesses are nimble [and] innovative”, he says. “The world has truly become an SMB’s oyster.”
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