2014 was a year for the books, when it comes to eCommerce! The rise of consumer data being collected (and, unfortunately, in some instances, stolen), a focus on how smart the customer has become, and technology enabling new ways of communicating, this year completely rocked.
We’ve come up up with 14 reasons why we think 2014 was awesome. And why we are even more excited about 2015!
1. The more connected customer. Today’s customer is almost always online and has instant, 24/7 access to a connection via a mobile device, which means the touch points for engagement have expanded and consumer expectations are higher than ever. With a focus on responsive web design and improved mobile checkout, sites such as Kuiu.com (MakDigitalDesign client) can accommodate mobile users without worrying about losing sales for lack of a well designed shopping and checkout experience. The more connected the customer, the more options they need. Retailers must continue to understand the shifting demands of shoppers.
2. Mobile browsing and buying. There was a constant influx of purchasing from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets over the Thanksgiving weekend (20 percent of Black Friday online sales were via a smartphone or tablet). This is not only a clear indicator of our new on the go lifestyles, it should also be viewed as an opportunity for retailers to see that sales can and will be completed from just about anywhere at just about any time – eCommerce is 24/7/365. After being told for years that mobile was going to explode, the pressure is absolutely building.
3. Technology go smarter. Through smarter apps featuring geo-targeting capabilities and in-store displays with Bluetooth technology (such as iBeacon) to identify devices browsing in-store, new technologies took this years online and in store behavior to new levels. Now when shoppers enter a retail store they might receive a push notification with a deal on a brand that they frequently purchase. Walking by a display can send a notification to let a customer know that there is a shirt to match the pants he or she just bought. And because technology got smarter….
4. The consumer got smarter. Consumers gained a better understanding of how marketers and technology worked together behind the scenes. Consumers noticed the on-screen products they just looked at on Zappos mysteriously following them around on Facebook, and within their browsers on other sites. They weren’t always comfortable, and had mixed feelings about what marketers were doing with product and online targeting. Regardless, these tactics seemed to work from the retailer side.
5. The marketer got smarter. In response to the consumer getting smarter, the marketer also got smarter by realizing that the smart consumer has all the power. Monetate, a cloud based testing, email optimization and personalization software company has a quote that fits this shift: “A happy customer is a happy marketer.” Marketers know that happy customers tell two friends about their experience and unhappy customers tell everyone they know about a bad experience. The goal is plain and simple, make it a good experience.
6. Segmentation made it all relevant. As consumer, we actually expect targeted and relevant marketing and that’s because marketers learned to use consumer data to make smarter and better decisions. Thanks to analysis of online browsing habits and a greater ability to capture a 360 degree view of the customer from site and in-store data, retailers were able to more easily segment customers and remarket to them based on behaviors and preferences.
7. Data was a driver. If we could call 2014 the year of anything, it would most likely be coined, “The Year of Data.” Everywhere we looked we saw the importance of data. Data drove campaigns and decision making across business units. As an industry, eCommerce has always believed in the importance of data, but the ability to harness and leverage it started happening much more often this year through solutions that could aggregate and use data for effective marketing and management.
8. Customer-centricity became a big thing. So back to customers who got smarter, since that happened, marketers and site designers remembered that the true hero of every business story is the customer. By bringing the customer and their needs to the forefront, companies emphasizing a customer centric approach and using technology for enablement, were more highly regarded and appreciated. For some, this resulted in an increase in sales and higher customer loyalty.
9. CRM mattered more. Because customers were at the forefront of marketing, CRM (customer relationship management) became more integrated with other key business functions. The CRM no longer served as just a database of information, but also as a treasure trove of data that, when opened and analyzed, would explode with analysis of how to better manage those relationships and more effectively target customer segments.
10. Omnichannel communication. The customer journey was also a focus in 2014. Companies understod that the journey to conversion is non linear and involves a multitude of channels. The sales funnel has becomes convoluted. This new path quickly became a consideration and new strategies were deployed to figure out how to generate and nurture leads from every channel.
11. Internal collaboration happened. A focus that will continue into 2014. And probably more aggressively, is the internal collaboration necessary for companies to communicate, especially with the changing workforce and rise in remote and contract workers. With Facebook and other companies trying to open up communication between employees and create a free flow of information, location of employees and top talent may continue to be less of a concern for organization. For eCommerce this means that companies may be able to create a more collaborative process for escalating customer service issues and find resolutions at a quicker pace, a win, win for the company and the customer/
12. There was value beyond the purchase. With the full circle of marketing strategies that span from offline to online and back offline, companies strived to create more meaningful and engaging relationship with their customers. By encouraging sharing and online shopping with friends, companies strived to create more meaningful and engaging relationships with their customers. By encouraging sharing and online shopping with friends, companies created the value beyond purchase.
13. Customer were more than a number. Maybe the most fundamental lesson marketers and eCommerce industry leaders earned in 2014 is that customers aren’t just numbers. Although data can be tied to every single customer who shops in a store and/or online, they mean much more than a number in a data set. First and foremost, the customer relationship relies on trust. Once a company violates that trust, through a security breach or false advertising, it is hard to win that customer back without a serious effort. Customers also expect relevancy and value, and again, they are smarter than companies think so never underestimate their power.
14. eCommerce sales were awesome. Overall, the industry fared well and we learned that the mobile focus is only increasing and will continue to be a key driver and platform for sales.