We asked some of the most influential experts in eCommerce what they thought would be the biggest trends in 2016 and beyond and here’s what we found.
International more important than ever & localisation a must
All of the experts we interviewed thought that international expansion would be one of the dominant trends we would see in 2016. And to succeed internationally, you need to ensure that you localise your offering for users in the various markets you’re targeting.
“We’re going to see a big increase in retailers internationalising. And this will involve retailers in multiple markets around the world leveraging the web to extend their reach.”
“Increasingly they will adopt a more focused localised approach in these markets in terms of language, content, range, logistics, payments, customer service and marketing. In order to be relevant to local market customers, you have to localise.” – Martin Newman
“I think International will continue to grow with the US starting to make more traction.”
“For cross border, localisation is key.” – Greig Holbrook
“It is absolutely vital to have an international strategy. International will be bigger than the UK in the near future, and successful expansion is a combination of driving growth and realising opportunity.”
“Customers are ready to buy from the UK, but they want to buy from retailers who have made the effort to translate products and policies and offer customer service support into local language too. They want to search in their own language, and they want fast delivery and local returns.” – Al Gerrie
Marketplaces key to international growth
The general consensus is that marketplaces are a cost-effective way to enter a new overseas market in order to test the market with various products and marketing messages. In order to achieve success in online marketplaces, you’ll need to focus not only on localisation of marketplace listings, but also getting your delivery and return policies in order.
“Retailers should be focused on integrating with international marketplaces and improving their returns processes.”
“Ninety percent of Chinese eCommerce is made up of marketplaces and TMall is 47% of that figure alone. Why try to break into a notoriously difficult market by going direct, when there is an established marketplace the Chinese already trust and resonate with, with its own payment gateway too?”
“Adding new marketplaces can increase your online revenue by over 50%.” – Al Gerrie
“Retailers should be focused on integrating with international marketplaces and improving their returns processes” – Greig Holbrook
Opportunities for growth: China, Europe, Middle East
In terms of growth areas, the usual suspects have been mentioned, with China’s popularity only partly affected by the economy’s slowdown and India still on the list of promising markets.
But emerging markets were not the only places brands and retailers should be looking for growth opportunities. Many countries in Europe still hold a lot of promise for UK and US brands and retailers.
“Due to it sheer scale, China will again be a focus for lots of international brands. However, the current economic slowdown in China will affect the pace and investment in which retailers pursue market entry”. – Martin Newman
“For those with the capacity to support wider exploration, especially those with a luxury or ‘British’ angle to market, getting an early understanding of the Middle Eastern markets might be wise” – Joe Tarragano
“We are not really predicting explosions in any specific markets, but consistent growth (or indeed catching up with the UK) in the main markets such as US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy.” – Ian Harris
“2015 was interesting as the usual good markets like China and Russia took a hit – India, Scandinavia, U.S would be my top 3.” – Greig Holbrook
“British retailers are naturally trading in France and Germany but often tend to ignore the rest of Europe. Some of these countries you can afford to come back to and focus on later, but trading now means less competition, so do some research to understand the potential that is there. Look further afield, but keep one eye on the emerging countries within Europe too.” – Al Gerrie
Brands will become more customer focused
The experts interviewed all agree that a seamless experience is a must. Successful retailers will be the ones that will be customer focused and create great experiences regardless of the medium or channel.
“Traditional thinking of established lines between different sales channels is now an outdated approach. In 2016 retailers must strive to build a consistent and fluid experience in all interactions between their brand and the customer, wherever those interactions take place.” – Terry Hunter
“All channels should be connected with the customer at the heart, rather than the siloed approach of many companies.” – Ian Harris
“In order to be relevant in future, retailers must rethink their models. Systems, people and processes need to be changed to meet the needs of multichannel customers.”
“If 40% of your sales are generated online, and soon this will be 50%+, how many stores do you need? How many more should you open? The web and store channels don’t necessarily need to be treated in isolation of course as click and collect will also drive some of these decisions.” – Martin Newman
This customer-centric approach will likely be reflected in organisational structures and hiring decisions. Having one person responsible for the customer experience is a trend that will most probably continue to grow, with roles such as the Chief Customer Officer or Customer Director becoming more popular and Customer Service Directors having more influence in developing and implementing digital strategy.
“The chief customer officer. While everyone in a retailer’s business should have some responsibility, someone has to ensure that the customer experience is relevant and that systems, people, processes, customer service and marketing communications are aligned and centred around delivering the optimal customer experience.” – Martin Newman
“Customer Experience (not just digital, but all customers). How does a customer interact with a brand online, offline, social, phone etc?” – Ian Harris
“The rise of the CDO type role, which could be a digital director or customer director or some similar title, seems likely to continue and I welcome it.” – Joe Tarragano
Technology trends & challenges
It’s always difficult to anticipate technology trends and the answers we received demonstrate that.
“One of the biggest challenges facing eCommerce players in 2016 is making sure that their back-end systems are fully optimised to deal with spikes in traffic. Sometimes these peaks are inevitable and can be predicted, such as during the Black Friday period. At other times, however, peaks in demand come out of the blue.” – Terry Hunter
“From a technology perspective we’ll see a big increase in digital being leveraged in store. This will include in-store ordering, the endless aisle, mobile tills, social media engagement through touch screens, interactive mirrors and so on.” – Martin Newman
“I think programmatic display advertising is definitely a big area for us. There are lots of people doing it badly or paying far too much so we see this as a huge growth area this year.” – Ian Harris
Martin Newman – CEO, Practicology
Martin Newman founded Practicology in the UK, and leads the global business today. He has been involved in multichannel retailing for over 25 years, and had profit and loss responsibility for retail, direct mail, ecommerce, kiosks and call centre channels for a number of retailers including Ted Baker, Harrods, Pentland brands (Speedo, Kickers, Boxfresh etc.) Burberry and Intersport. Read Martin’s full interview here
Joe Tarragano – Retail Practice Director, Transform
Joe Tarragano is the retail practice partner at the consulting firm Transform, which focuses on digital transformation and multichannel strategy, design and delivery, where he has led projects for retailers such as Argos, New Look, Sainsbury’s, Debenhams, Halfords and many more. Joe was previously a client of Transform’s at eBay, where he spent six years in a variety of leadership positions across Europe. Read Joe’s full interview here
Al Gerrie – CEO, ZigZag Global
Al Gerrie is CEO at ZigZag Global, who provide software linking retailers with warehouses around the world where ecommerce customers can send returns. Instead of sending the goods back ZigZag will resell the stock locally via marketplaces to provide cash recovery – not returns. Read Al’s full interview here
Terry Hunter – VP, Ecommerce and Client Strategy (Europe), Astound Commerce
Terry heads Astound Commerce’s European operations. He brings 20 years of enterprise technology leadership experience and 11 years’ experience in digital technology design and delivery. Read Terry’s full interview here
Ian Harris – Director at Search Laboratory
Ian is the founder and CEO of global search engine marketing agency Search Laboratory. For the last ten years his unique scientific and mathematical approach to SEO and PPC advertising has seen him grow Search Laboratory from a two-man operation to today employing over 150 in-house search specialists and linguists, managing a world famous client list with offices in Leeds, London and New York. Read Ian’s full interview here
Greig Holbrook – Founder, Oban Digital
Greig Holbrook is the founder of Oban Digital – an international digital marketing agency with a multinational team specialising in serving clients with expert localised, multilingual strategy.