5 Hot eCommerce Trends Likely to Dominate in 2015

These are exciting times for anyone belonging to the eCommerce industry. With virtually all the companies and associated industries making a beeline to make their presence felt on the web, there is a sort of boom in the eCommerce sector. There is a rapid proliferation of new apps, cutting edge technologies and almost daily something new is added to already vibrant sector of eCommerce and new jargons are also added to the ever expanding world of eCommerce. In such a scenario, it is evident that the analysts and experts associated with this field are always in the act of predicting the latest trends and opportunities, which if identified correctly, can give a decisive edge to the online retailers.

Times for eCommerce Industry with New Technologies Emerging
These are exciting times for eCommerce industry with new technologies emerging all the time

Hence, to make things a little bit easier for you, we have collected some of the most widely anticipated trends and predictions for the eCommerce industry in the year 2015. These areas are going to make a major impact on the way you do business online, and while some of these trends have been developing since quite few years, some of the trends have made a sudden appearance on the scene just lately. Here is a brief lowdown on all such trends.

1. Year 2015 may be the Center Stage for Mobile Technologies

Mobile payments and emerging mobile technologies will ensure sea change in the eCommerce arena. These trends were building up since last few years and this year, they are all set to change the entire setup of the eCommerce industry and mobile eCommerce is finally going to see the light of the day. Global m-commerce sales are picking up like anything and are predicted to reach $120 billion globally in 2015, as per the report by specialist market analysis firm Paul Budde Communication, and according to the forecasts by Google, in the UK, 50% of the retail related queries will be from a smartphone come this Christmas.

With the explosive growth of the smartphone industry, ominchannels, multi-channels and screen swapping are all the in things for the mobile industry this year. In order to take the advantage of the mobile hot trend, advertisers and e commerce retailers have to ensure that they have responsive websites and optimized ads, that are able to seamlessly display the website in a mobile, a tablet and a desktop as well, so that they can reach to all the segments of their customers. Even in a brick and mortar store kind of environment, mobiles are increasingly making their presence felt. As customers search for price points and product reviews, retailers are beginning to look forward to adopt m-commerce in order to advertise, promote offers and enhance the user experience (UX) of their customers when they are present in their shop. In addition to this, with the rising popularity of contactless payments, on the go transactions, mobile POS systems and the much awaited arrivals of Apple Pay in the UK, this looks like a trend that is going to gather further steam in the year 2015.

2. Social Media will Rule the Roost in 2015

If your eCommerce business doesn’t have a social media presence, then it is not going to be noticed by anyone, since it is strongly predicted that social media will consolidate its presence in the year 2015 in the arena of eCommerce and will have a strong impact on eCommerce sales as well. What has been crystal clear in all these years in the evolution of the social media is that being on social media is not just about brand building and promotion, it is about making that personal connection with the users and customers, where engagement and personally connecting with your target audience is the name of the game. In such a scenario, storytelling and one on one interaction with the target audience assume prominence.

Hence, things to look out for in a social media marketing campaigns should be the fact that such promotions are able to create a buzz amongst the target audience and people in general. Best ROI comes from the word of the mouth advertisement and users naturally sharing and talking about a particular brand. Ultimately, people ape each other and buy after getting influenced from each other, so eCommerce social media campaigns should be targeted at promoting customer interaction, suggestions and recommendations.

Utilizing flash sales through platforms like Instagram and Snapchat is a given and will still play an important role, but it is expected that this year the scales are also tilting in the favor of review sites like Trustpilot, which lay greater emphasis on what other customers are saying and their reviews about a particular product. In one study, it is concluded that 62% of people are more likely to buy from a company after seeing a positive review from other users, and conversion rates are on the up when there are ample reviews and recommendations from other customers on any eCommerce website.

Social Media will Rule the Roost in 2015
People buy from people, and social media plays a vital role in this process of buying

However, you must not forget that all the emphasis on the social media is good, and that ultimately people buy from people, but surely the customer service you deliver in store is also important. How you make the customer feel in person and how much you are able to satisfy your customer offline as well is also going to play an important role in the expansion of your business. So in the era of the social media onslaught, don’t forget also to enhance the offline experience of your customers.

3. Customization is in

In this era of social media, one should not forget that there is a huge potential for customization, and paid social should also continue to play a vital part of eCommerce marketing plans. Due to the availability of a huge amount of data on prospective and current customers, now eCommerce retailers can target exactly who they want. Market segmentation is expected to on the rise, with focus on targeting the niche audiences. With the big data technologies doing the rounds, mass customization based on personal preferences could become the common place in the eCommerce industry. In such segments, online retailers will target customers based on upselling and product suggestions, cart abandonment marketing and personalized nurturing.

However, one should not forget that data acquisition and privacy issues are still sensitive issues. While the Government committees in their public reports are increasingly calling on the social media websites to be more transparent about their terms and conditions, there is likely to be many new developments on this front in the coming twelve months of the year 2015.

4. Delivery Times will Shrink Further

Quicker delivery times have become the norm rather than the exception in the eCommerce industry and increasingly the waiting times after which the customers have delivered the order are shrinking. Gone are the days of waiting weeks and weeks for a product to be delivered as the instant access to goods and services becomes the new industry benchmark. Hence, the importance of speedy delivery will continue to grow for eCommerce retails in 2015. The success of Amazon Prime demonstrates this fact amply, and there are other retailers that offer click and collect services or home store pickups, so that delivery times can shrink further. In all this clamor for more delivery speed, it is self-evident that from 2015, customers would not have to pay anything for standard delivery, and expedited shipping is not a luxury it used to be before. This has also become a norm, since there is increasing competition among online retailers and a quick turnaround time helps them to better compete with their rivals. In this context, the brick and mortar stores still hold the advantage since they have the luxury of offering the instant gratification to the shoppers, where they shop, pay and instantly receive the product in their hands, and hence would be hard to replace solely by online retailers.

5. 2015 is the Year for Wearable Tech

With Google glass and Apple’s iWatch setting the trend, the sector of wearable tech is going to gather steam in the year 2015. In addition to this, there are a number of other smartwatch, smart wristband and even smart clothes retailers with products already in the market or in the final stages of production. Gartner, the technology research firm predicts that the global market for these type of products will reach about £3.2 billion by 2016. With the scene of wearable tech gaining such traction, it is possible that it can add a new dimension to how we all interact with shops and retailers through this technology and how eCommerce operates?

2015 is the  Year for Wearable Tech
Wearable tech is the emerging technology in the year 2015

While answers to such an important question is not clear now, and it is yet to unbundle how this new technology will impact the eCommerce scene. However, this is likely to add a channel or the advertisers to make use of and enhance the shopping experience of their customers, just the way smart phones did. Due to the wearable technology, the online information becomes very easily accessible to the potential customers, and imagine a scenario where a potential customer walks past your shop and his wearable watch beeps a limited discount you are offering for a limited amount of time that day, and the customer is tempted to try you out. How the wearable technology will shape up keeping in view the needs of eCommerce retailers remains to be seen since it is an upcoming technology but its evolution is surely going to bring some more excitement to an already hot scene of exploding growth in the eCommerce sector.

These are the broad trends that are likely to dominate in the eCommerce retail arena in the year 2015. It is a fact that consumers today have become more knowledgeable, and they increasingly know what the right price for any commodity or service is and know where to find the best deals with increasingly quicker delivery times. Hence, in today’s eCommerce marketplace, speed, price and availability matter more than customer loyalty, which has become increasingly hard to foster.

Boost Social Media Optimization for Enhanced Traffic

This is the age of social media. Social media activity is the single most largest activity being performed on the internet presently with a huge number of tweets being tweeted, videos being uploaded on YouTube, status updates posted on Facebook and career related content uploaded on LinkedIn every second. In short, social media has become a new tool of expression for the new age society. Thus social media optimization (SMO) assumes greater significance if you want to drive more traffic to your website. SMO was originally designed to drive traffic from the bookmarking sites and social networks. However, due to the explosion in the social media activity on the internet, SMO also has a positive effect on the SEO parameters of any site. A good SMO strategy will attract traffic from both the direct social sites and even from the search engines.

SMO Activities
Due to the primacy of social networks today, SEO stands to get benefitted by SMO activities.

The concept of social media optimization was first floated by rohit bhargava in his article ‘the 5 rules of social media optimization’ in the year 2006. In this article, Rohit emulates the importance of social media optimization to attract traffic to any website and how important role SMO plays in driving traffic from the social media sites to your website. Even the definition of SMO in Wikipedia recognizes this fact and as per Wikipedia, SMO plays a key role that is akin to SEO and optimizes the content so that it could be shared easily across the social media channels.

While the initial focus of the SEO was on link ability and easy bookmarking, the priorities have changed since the social media scenario has undergone a lot of transformation with the passage of time. The user recommendations are playing a huge role to rank up the pages and websites in the search engine page results. Looking at the SEO efforts from a traditional point of view, it focused more on the technical aspects of the website. However, all this has changed due to the constant changes in the Google’s search algorithm where digital marketers are focusing more on the user experience (UX) and even the quality of the content itself that is being shared. More often, the content that has the most shares, most comments, most social proof that it is being liked by people is going to produce the best results in the SMO rather than just blind sharing of any social media post. Focusing on quality rather than the quantity is the key towards SMO.

Quality is the Key Towards SMO
Focusing on quality rather than the quantity is the key towards SMO.

However, social proof and social signals may not just be confined to the number of shares or the size of an individual’s network. The quality of interactions that the person does is by far more valued than the number of people that particular individual is having in his or her account. With the vast strides that have been made in machine learning and artificial intelligence and also big data, now increasingly the huge multitude of data that is been produced by the social networks is now being analyzed by the algorithms of say Facebook and they are taught to consider many more parameters rather than just the number of shares or the number of comments on the particular post before defining what in terms of machine language can be termed as a valuable piece of social media posting. In this context, you may be tempted to opt for quantity over quality and may think that one way to SMO of your content is to join every Facebook or LinkedIn group out there and post the link of your content, sharing endlessly just for the sake of sharing without looking at the relevancy of the content shared in that particular group. This is however is very wrong way of approaching SMO.

This kind of behavior is not only intimidating to other users but it is also counterproductive. This kind of behavior diminishes your authority and the poster of quality posts that have value and the moment your posts are seen by users, they are likely to unfollow you or hide your posts from their Facebook news stream or may even report your content as spam. Machine learning makes things even worse for you. If the algorithm discovers that there is no interaction with your posts and links, such as sharing, commenting or liking, the algorithm would conclude that your content is not valuable. Thus, the more quantitative approach you make towards your SMO efforts, the more your content may not be valued in the form of user generated activities and your authority diminishes.

Keeping this context in view, Joshua Berg, one of the leading authorities of SMO has advocated a seven step model for social media optimization named REALSMO, which is described as follows:

1. Reputation

You have to ensure that the type of content you post promotes you as an expert in your field. You don’t always have to promote original content that you have written, but, if you can be the source of credible information and info that is interesting and has a high social value, even though it is from some other source other than you, it goes a long way in establishing your credibility as the originator of good and interesting sharable content. All this will make you a respected and a qualified source. In addition to this, your reputation of how you engage and help people online would go in a long way in establishing as a credible source. It will be enhanced if you openly share your content and expertise including content that is not your own, engage with your viewers through discussions and commenting and generally being helpful and nice with people.

2. Engagement

No man is an island, and this tenet holds true especially in the era of social media. You need to actively engage with your viewers and be a participant in their every activity with your website. This can be in the form of comments, shares, likes and plus ones. You should besides sharing your content also share good quality content produced by others and give your expert comments and feedback. One way to enhance user experience (UX) on your website is to make it easy for people to interact with you and also with each other. You may find that communities on LinkedIn and Google plus are far more active and people are willing to engage themselves in lively discussions on these sites in the groups they are listed in. You should also encourage people to comment on the content that you have created. This serves for you as a valuable feedback and also helps in raising the social media quotient of the content that you have created, so user engagement is much more beneficial to you.

3. Authority

There are many dimensions to authority and it doesn’t come easily. Search engine algorithms are keen in determining what individuals and brands are seen as authoritative and trusted by real people on the internet. The most obvious way you can do is by gaining Google Authorship. Gaining Google Authorship not only helps you in establishing yourself as an expert in the eyes of your audience but also serves to highlight your profile prominently in search results. So, in order to gain the two pronged benefit of gaining the status of authority and being in the top rankings of the search results, you cement your presence on the social media scene. Being an authority also helps you gain the trust of your readers and audience, since they tend to trust you more if your audience views you as an authority on certain subjects.

Google Authorship
Being an authority helps you gain the trust of your audience

4. Leadership

Leadership consists of high quality research, thinking and original content production. A trait of a good leader will be that they research everything they can about their areas and then share thoughtful insights which is based on their own judgment, experience and analysis. This adds value to the kind of content they are creating and this will definitely attract more visitors and audience to the content they are creating. In contrast, if you consistently generate poor quality content, then you will lose the trust and respect of your audiences and your content will consequently not be shared on the social media. As a leader, you can also play the role of a content curator. This means you don’t have to share your original content every time in order to establish yourself as a leader in your area. If you just give your thoughtful insight or just add a good summary to the content that others have produced, your job is done.

5. Social

For the sake of social media optimization (SMO), you also need to build high quality networks, where in network quality potentially matters more than the number of members you have in your network. You can begin by connecting to experts and authority figures in your field, read what they say, engage them in a discussion through your comments and shared insights and also share your ideas. Thus, it is not just the number of people you have in your network, by the manner you are able to curate your relationship with your network members and trying to establish a one on one relation with the members in your groups, especially the experts, will go in a long way in your SMO efforts.

6. Media platforms

It is very important that you focus on the right kind of platforms and communities that are relevant and related to your audience. You need to do a little bit of research here and find out where does your audience hang out? Some platforms are more effective in improving the SEO benefits of SMO than other platforms. Google plus is a pertinent example of this. Google is trying hard to give you all the credit for your shared links to the degree they deserve.

7. Optimization

Optimization is a vast subject in itself and consist of a number of topics. Broadly speaking, if you make your share buttons prominent and make it easy for your audience so that they are able to share your content easily, then your job is then. This also adds to the social proof and by demonstrating a number of shares of your generated content, you are able to establish yourself as a thought leader and an authority. You should also try to group subscription options such as email, RSS and newsletters. In addition, making your audience to easily comment on say your blog post will also go in a long way in establishing your credibility and optimizing your content. Hence, you should use social login options to make it easy for users to comment. Also, besides all this, you should optimize your title tags for sharing, especially on Twitter, where there is a character limit and you should also include your name. Last but not the least, do try to include as many images as possible as pictures speak a thousand words. Include pictures that add value and can be used as a thumbnail for your content.

6 Steps to an Excellent Content Marketing Strategy

Devising an effective content marketing strategy is very important for the content of any website to get the recognition it should get. Just churning out great content is not enough, but marketing such type of great content to fulfill the goals of the website in terms of user experience (UX), user engagement and conversions is also an important factor. However, devising an effective content marketing strategy is not an easy task. It consists of various number of steps such as market research, site audits, content audits, customer surveys and interviews to enlist just a few of the steps. Below a six step content marketing strategy framework is presented to give a comprehensive idea about the process involved in devising an effective content marketing strategy.

Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Devising a comprehensive and an effective content marketing strategy is not an easy task.

Step 1: Comprehensive Research of the Company Involved

One should have a fundamentally strong understanding about the company for which the content strategy is to be devised. The entire working of the company is to be understood like the back of one’s hand in order to devise a good content marketing strategy for it. Hence, in this process a lot of questions need to be asked to the client. These questions may include but not be limited to what is the business model of the company? How does the company bring revenue? What specific products or services of the company bring in the most revenue? What is the reason for that particular product or service in netting the most revenue? Why and where are the other products or services lacking?

Then after these fundamental questions have been answered, the questionnaire moves to the sales section of the company and you may ask questions like how is the sales team structured and on what metrics are they measured by? Then comes the turn of knowing about the existing customer base of the company and how does the company attract their customers? What kind of methods they use to attract customers and how do they stack up against each other? Then, the last part of the questionnaire is devoted fully to understand the existing content generation process of the company. Questions have to be asked like are there any editorial guidelines that are being followed currently? What is the internal process to get the content approved? What kind of content is being produced currently? What kind of branding, if any, is the company engaging in?

Effective Content Strategy Model
Both the company and the customer have to be researched comprehensively for devising an effective content strategy

Step 2: Data Collection

After getting the information about the company, next step is to get comprehensive information regarding the content and the website of the company and the type of customers it is targeting and attracting. The more the type of content produced currently and the customer are understood properly, the more robust will be the outcome of a good content marketing strategy. It is also important to understand what type of content we want to produce and for this it is imperative that the customer be understood in detail. This can be done in a number of ways, and one of them is competitor analysis. You need to research aspects like and gather data on what types of content are your competitors producing and how much traction are such type of contents gaining in terms of user engagement? Are there enough comments on their blog posts? How many shares their Facebook posts have got?

After this comes the keyword research. One needs to understand what kind of keywords are we targeting and what kind of keywords are needed to be targeted to bring traffic. What and how are the landing pages for such keywords? What kind of viewership and user engagement does the current combination of keyword and landing page bring? Then comes the role of market research and customer surveys. At this stage, the surveys may vary depending on whether the company is B2B or B2C. Some of the questions that may be asked to your B2B clients include demographic related questions like occupation, industry, job, title, age and gender for any particular customer. Then you have to probe the customer more regarding how long you have been a customer for that particular company? How likely are you to recommend the specific product or service of the company to others? Then specific product or service related questions should be asked.

Step 3: Preparation and Assessment

After all the necessary data has been collected from various sources, it is very important to assess the data that has been collected and correlate with the data that you already have on hand. Meaningful interpretations have to be obtained about the company and its services, the services it is offering and the kind of customers it is targeting. In addition, in depth information should be available regarding the customers it is engaging with and the type of content this is being produced currently and the future targets thereof. In the world of measurable metrics and analytic s, you should take care to measure the following analytic s before and after the creation of the content.

There are traffic, page views, pages per visit, average time on website, entrances/exits, conversion rate, bounce rate, page authority, rankings, etc. Once such type of metrics have been established, it is time for carrying out a comprehensive content audit. The purpose of content audit is to evaluate how the previous content on the site has performed and as well as to determine the future direction of the website in terms of the content.

After going through this comprehensive and research intensive process, the company gets a clear idea regarding what opportunities are present in the website content and how it can be leveraged in order to get the maximum viewership and conversions. During this research process, not only the content is audited, but the process involved in the generation of such content is also audited and evaluated and recommendations are made right from the stage when the content is conceived in the mind of the owner or writer to its execution stage where that particular piece is uploaded on the website. The tone, voice and the style of content is also studied and improvements are made.

Step 4: Prospecting

During this process, the channels through which traction for the content that has been produced are studied and various refinements are made on the type of content to be generated so that it suits the particular traction method that has been chosen for the promotion of the content produced. Also, during this stage, it is important for the company to keep itself abreast of the specific industry news it is involved in and keep on top of the content that its competitors are creating. This will give a streamlined approach and will help in identifying clearly the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s own content produced and the kind of traction method that is to be used in order to stay ahead of its competitors.

Step 5: Creating and Promoting the Content

Now, the process of creating the actual content after all the above listed processes is started and care is taken to ensure that the content created follows both the internal protocols and processes that were established in the step three of the process. In addition, whosoever is responsible for the content produced has to take care that editorial standards are being followed and assess that content that is being creating is actually doing the job it is supposed to do. The content that has been created has to confirm to the checklist of is the content credible? The content has also be informative and should be easy to understand. The content has to be useful and something must be in the content to make it exceptional to the customers.

Promotion of the Content Produced Through the Right Channels
Promotion of the content produced through the right channels is very important part of content marketing strategy

Step 6: Assess the Performance of Content

After the content has been uploaded on the website following all mentioned above processes, it is not time to evaluate the content produced and promoted. Now it is time to answer that how a particular piece of content has performed, what teachings did that particular piece of content give to the company editors and are there any changes to be made in the process. In addition all the data that has been received in the form of website analytic has to be assessed concerning that particular piece of content.

The long term goal of the editor or the content writer should be that the content produced is able to fulfill the original goals of the content marketing strategy. Over a passage of time, producing such type of engaging and informative content should become easier, more clearly as leanings are developed and iterated every time. Even though the process seems to be resource intensive in the beginning, as time progresses, the goal is that producing effective and meaningful content for the company becomes a norm rather than the exception. The other aim is to significantly up the quality of the content that is produced through the process mentioned above and the audiences should be able to lap up the content produced.