In spite of the state of the economy both here and abroad in 2011, it was one of the most successful years to date for eCommerce. The IMRG predicted that €81bn of eCommerce sales were made in the UK in 2011 – a significant figure when you consider that high street sales are in decline.
By Gabriel Hopkins, head of eCommerce products at WorldPay
Social commerce will be one of the most exciting developments this year. Throughout 2012 merchants will become more in-tune and synchronised with the social media activity of consumers and how people interact with their brand through alternative channels.
We’ve seen some initial activity in this space in the past few years but as social channels become more sophisticated when it comes to consumer’s interactions with brands, we’ll see merchants become savvier to these conversations by targeting customers with special offers and rewarding them for loyalty.
In January, for example, Facebook launched 60 in-built apps from the likes of Ticketmaster and movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, encouraging users to spend more time on the site and take the next step in using social platforms.
If an individual ‘likes’ a page on Facebook, merchants can identify a new set of customers that may not have interacted with the brand before outside of the social space. This allows merchants to become more targeted in the delivery of special offers.
Facebook and other social platforms such as Twitter and Foursquare will become the first step on the eCommerce ladder for merchants that don’t want to build a whole website but want to start selling online quickly; it’s cheaper and easier for merchants to become more targeted in their efforts to interact.
Throughout the course of 2012, more merchants will launch flash sales that offer consumers time-limited discounts through online channels. There’s an immediate connection here with the emergence of social commerce, as customers that interact with the brand online or on social media platforms such as Facebook will get first or priority access to such offers.
It will lead to a new way for consumers to engage and purchase from their favourite brands, and merchants can reward loyal customers.
The popularity of voucher codes for consumers will continue to rise in 2012. More significantly though, merchants will need to identify innovative and creative ways to drive traffic through to online and mobile sites as opposed to one-off opportunistic purchases.
Merchants are increasingly using QR codes, but to prove their worth they’ll need to become more sophisticated and offer real value to entice late technology adopters. For those that don’t like the QR concept (or for those without a smart phone), the codes shouldn’t be used at the expense of a good old fashioned URL.
mCommerce will hit the mainstream in a big way in 2012. 2011 already saw a ramp-up in mCommerce – Juniper Research estimated $240bn was spent on mobile devices in 2011, yet there is so much more to come. WorldPay research found that while consumers enjoy the convenience of purchasing goods through mobile devices, they are frustrated by the process, as existing sites require them to enter excessive information and it can be laborious.
In 2012 mCommerce, merchants will be looking at ways to optimise their websites to create mobile versions, which include payment pages or develop specific Apps that have payment pages embedded. Until now, Apps have re-routed consumers to a website to pay but this is set to become integrated as the technology develops to support the payment process.
Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable with mobile shopping – it can be done anywhere, anytime – but in 2012 merchants will look to reap the rewards from a solid mobile offering.
eCommerce removes geographical boundaries, giving merchants the opportunity to sell to consumers around the world. Merchants are becoming savvier to the opportunities overseas trading presents and are adapting their sites to offer preferred local methods of payment.
All size businesses are benefitting from this wider customer base, including smaller businesses that might have traditionally been restricted to selling within their own territory. Merchants are tapping into this wider customer base and identifying extra revenue sources.
What we know is that eCommerce and associated channels are developing rapidly (many of the developments that we expect to see in 2012 are light years ahead of where we were five years ago). 2012 could go down as the milestone year in terms of changing the way consumers interact with brands online. Technology, coupled with consumer appetite, provides a perfect catalyst for these new trends to enter the mainstream.
Merchants must ensure that they develop solutions and platforms that put the consumer at the heart of the browsing and payment process in retail transactions. We’ve seen the effects that inconvenience can have on consumer attitudes towards shopping, so it’s imperative that the needs of shoppers are accounted for at every stage of engagement.
It’s an exciting time, and it will be fascinating to look back at these predictions in 2013 and reflect on how 2012 was the year that retail entered the modern age in the way we know it is capable of.