4 E-Commerce Trends to Dial Into for Black Friday/Cyber Monday

If you're not improving your e-commerce game, you're likely falling behind.
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Online shopping is bigger than ever, and with the right e-commerce techniques, your Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be too. (Photo: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)

For any business owner, it’s important to stay “in the know” — and the world of e-commerce is no different.

“If you’re not paying attention to current trends in e-commerce, you’re more likely to fall behind your competitors who are,” said Ryan BeMiller, e-commerce marketing blogger for ShoppingSignals.com. “As with anything in business, it’s about staying competitive and maintaining forward progress. If you’re not progressing, you’re falling behind.”

Stay up to date on what’s happening in the online retail space with these four e-commerce trends.

Ryan BeMiller

“Five years ago, many people seemed to think that smaller e-commerce merchants would be swallowed up at a record pace by Amazon. But in reality, there has been a major boom in e-commerce startups and growth in that time.” -Ryan BeMiller (Photo: Ryan BeMiller)

Increased competition in a thriving market

In 2016, online retail sales in the U.S. reached $390 billion, and Forrester predicts that by 2020 that number will hit $590 billion, making up about 15 percent of total U.S. retail sales that year.

“It’s an exciting time,” said BeMiller. “Five years ago, many people seemed to think that smaller e-commerce merchants would be swallowed up at a record pace by Amazon. But in reality, there has been a major boom in e-commerce startups and growth in that time.”

With more marketplace options and specialized fulfillment services, running your own e-commerce business has become a lot easier in recent years. And as more consumers increase their online shopping, market opportunities are expanding — and lots of entrepreneurs are looking for a slice of the pie.

If you want to be successful, your brand needs to stand out among the noise, by focusing on building a real, lasting brand and providing over-the-top customer service, BeMiller said.

“That model has been proven to work — and thrive — right alongside Amazon and the other big players.”

Related: How to Get Your E-Commerce Business Noticed on Cyber Monday

Enhanced communication with chatbots

One trend more businesses are jumping on is the use of artificial intelligence to communicate with customers — and online retail is no exception. In fact, chatbots seem to be a natural fit in the e-commerce environment.

According to BeMiller, chatting platforms like Facebook Messenger and Slack are becoming a standard way for brands and consumers to interact. By creating “bots” that can automatically respond to customers’ most common questions, your business can become more available, efficient and engaging.

“Savvy e-commerce marketers are using bots as another great way to get automated messages to customers.” -Ryan BeMiller

“Savvy e-commerce marketers are using bots as another great way to get automated messages to customers — much like they would with email auto-responders,” he said. “These bots can be used in conjunction with email messages, and open rates [for chatbot communications] are significantly higher than email open rates.”

If you’re interested in building your own chatbot for Facebook Messenger or to use on your website, ManyChat, Botsify and Chatfuel all have free versions of their bot-building platforms.

Related: 3 Disruptive Technologies that Are Making Their Way to Small Business

Streamlined shopping across multiple devices

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Amp up your website for the holidays and prepare for shoppers across all different types of devices. (Photo: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock)

Another trend online retailers should get ahead of is creating a more streamlined shopping experience across multiple devices — known as omnichannel marketing.

“E-commerce businesses need to work on improving user recognition across multiple devices and sessions, and retargeting to users at various touch points,” BeMiller explained. “Ideally, a user can continue [shopping] where they left off, whether or not they’re on a different device. If that can’t be achieved, we should at least be able to retarget them to bring them back to a similar point in their [customer] journey.”

To do this, he said, brands must focus on making mobile shopping easier for their customers and providing “tighter transitions between devices” for a more seamless experience.

Related: Use Remarketing to Solve Shopping Cart Abandonment

Advanced email marketing strategies

As competition increases in online retail, smaller e-commerce brands are also stepping up their email marketing game.

BeMiller noted, “Everyone is using transactional emails for order and shipping confirmations, and many are using basic weekly or monthly newsletter emails with promotional content. But very few are taking the extra step and actually planning out content over a three- to six-month period.”

If you want to win more business, you must cater to your customers’ needs and interests by delivering a timely and compelling mix of educational, entertaining and promotional content, he said.

“A well-thought-out email marketing plan can do this and result in a very significant increase in customer lifetime value.”

Related: 4 Ways to Up Your E-Commerce Game in 2017

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