This time last year our panel of experts made 39 predictions for ecommerce in 2015. The main themes were marketplaces, delivery, cross-border trade, mobile, marketing, social media, payments and bricks-and-mortar retail.
This year we got in touch with even more experts, and asked them what they think will be the big trends for ecommerce in 2016. Some of the same themes came up again: marketing, marketplaces, mobile, delivery and social media.
But a number of new topics have got the experts’ attention this time around:
- Small business trends
- Innovations in technology
- Selling to China
- Amazon marketplace
- Private labeling
So here it is: our Expert Voices Ecommerce Predictions for 2016.
Small Business Outlook
1. There Will Be Higher Barriers but Greater Potential
2016 is an exciting year for ecommerce. While certain avenues like drop-shipping are become increasingly difficult to stay competitive in, other avenues such as FBA have opened up promising new opportunities. The barriers to entry (initial investment) are getting higher, but so are potential profits along with it.
Shabbir Nooruddin, Bootstrapping eCommerce
2. Buyers Will Get Tired of Mass Produced Items
2016 holds great promise for SMBs. The ecommerce world is changing rapidly and central platforms such as eBay are shifting their focus back towards the sellers that initially helped establish them. It seems like buyers are gravitating away from mass-produced low-cost merchandise, and finding more value in local markets and higher quality products. These two trends may very well mark the uprising of SMB owners, who are becoming more business savvy and constantly looking for new ways to improve.
Lahav Gan, CEO, CampaignGo
3. More Traditional Retailers Will Turn to Ecommerce
In 2016 I expect a large migration to ecommerce from smaller more traditional retailers, due to consumers abandoning bricks-and-mortar shops for online stores on Black Friday. Successful businesses will rely more and more on user research and user experience to stay ahead of the game. I think we will see quite big improvements in how we shop online.
Elizabeth Hitchins, Freelance Consultant, KidsonTalks
4. SMBs Will Find It Harder to Compete
SMBs will find it harder to compete online for business. The consumer is continually raising the bar on their expectations for websites, as is Google and other key online marketing partners. Mobile responsiveness is now table stakes. SMBs can no longer get by with a web site built by their friend’s friend or a relative.
Dawn Kole, Founder, Digital DNA Marketing
5. Businesses Will Rely Even More on Marketplaces
Bigger sellers continue to look for ways to attract customers; same-day delivery, click-and-collect for example. These innovations are often expensive and way beyond the abilities of most businesses. This makes marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon increasingly important as they enable SMEs to access services that would otherwise be beyond their reach and level the playing field.
Dan Burnham, Head of Account Management, Volo
6. “Nano Commerce” Will Overtake Big Retailers
Thanks to the continued growth of marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, together with user-friendly platforms such as Shopify, many new merchants will emerge. These new merchants have a great opportunity to create a nano-commerce environment, usurping large and traditional e-retailers.
Alan Wilson, Founder, Expandly
Ecommerce Marketing Trends
7. Customer Retention Will Be Key
Customer retention will be key in helping SMB’s maintain healthy growth rates in 2016. Success will require sellers to think like both a scientist and a marketer by collecting the right data, making an accurate analysis, testing those hypotheses, and then acting on what they’ve found with proactive customer service and marketing plans focused on providing value to customers.
Jodi Gaines Pereira, Co-founder, ReplyManager
8. There Will Be a Shift to New Communication Channels
2016 will bring with it a shift in the channels that retailers can use to communicate with their customers. Cutting-edge ecommerce businesses are already starting to use web push notifications and integrations with chat apps like Facebook Messenger. They are putting the right messages in front of their customers through these new channels – ones that have only arisen recently. This trend will continue, and the best retailers will look beyond email in order to make their customers’ journey even more personalized.
Ivan Mazour, CEO and Founder, Ometria
9. Businesses Will Focus More On Their Own Sites
The past couple of years have seen a lot of activity off-site (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and much of it has been done badly. Whilst social is necessary, it is very resource intensive and much gets lost in the noise. The real value that brands can control, and that will convert, is on their own site. There will be a focus on providing true value to visitors to turn them into fans and advocates so they register for email communications. Quality data is the key to success, but to get that retailers must make their own back yard a great place to hang out.
Matt Thorpe, Internet Marketing Consultant, Grasshopper UK
10. Marketing Automation and Integration Will Determine Success
Marketing automation software will be the determining factor for successful marketers. Integration between web sites, social media, email marketing, mobile will be critical to pulling marketing automation together. Online commerce – defined differently for all businesses – will emerge into distinct methodologies – lead generation, ecommerce, and informational.
Dawn Kole, Founder, Digital DNA Marketing
11. New Marketplace Competitors Will Arise
2016 is the year the ecommerce landscape will evolve. Amazon will still be a dominating force and online shopping will continue to be driven by on-demand delivery. However, we believe new marketplace competition will be formed, enriching the shopping experience.
We anticipate Google, Facebook and Uber to double down on ecommerce strategies – other entrants are just noise. Each of these companies has a market dominating position in their own industries, and they will monetize the data they have to bridge the gap between their users and their shopping behaviors. Let the games begin!
Chad Rubin, CEO, Skubana, Managing Director, Crucial Vacuum.com
12. More Marketplace Sellers Will Build Independent Webstores
With more sellers on marketplaces like Amazon facing the threat of being delisted, selling across multiple platforms and operating independent shops is becoming more appealing. In 2016, the barriers to starting one’s own shop will diminish and more sellers will see the benefit of doing so. Our prediction, more business for the likes of Shopify and Bigcommerce.
Matt Godwin, VP Strategic Partnerships, eRated
13. Multi-Channel Will Become the Norm
In 2016, I think we will see an even greater shift by retailers to a multi-channel strategy. In fact, it will be essential for retailers to meet the demands of their customers, no matter where they shop. A consistent brand experience across all channels will be how you succeed. The terms “multi-channel” and “omni-channel” will fade, as a holistic approach to commerce becomes the norm, and smart retailers will utilize all channels to provide the best possible customer experience with the most profitable return.
Brian Nolan, Co-founder & CEO, Sellbrite
14. There Will Be Massive Disruptions in Technology
Taking a 50,000 at entrepreneurship in general, I see some massive disruptions for 2016 in several key areas that will affect ecommerce entrepreneurs. Very traditional industries like business banking and loans, business legal work, and accounting are all being tackled by tech-savvy entrepreneurs. The Fintech movement is providing entrepreneurs with loans quicker and easier than ever before. Legaltech is removing the overhead of legal advice, and cloud accounting companies are automating this necessary facet of business. 2016 is going to be an interesting and progressive year for entrepreneurs.
Richard Lazazzera, Founder, A Better Lemonade Stand
15. Big Data Will Become Accessible to Small Businesses
The acquisition and accessibility of big data for SMEs will be a major driving force behind the development of ecommerce this year. A more intelligent breed of analytics will be at the forefront of business decision-making, as investments in gathering user data and tailoring the experience to suit the needs of customers come together.
Antony Chesworth, CEO & Founder, ekmPowershop
16. 2D Barcodes Will Become Standard
2015 was a great year in ecommerce, and many sellers saw huge expansion due to easier internationalization. In 2016 the 2D barcode will become the norm, yielding huge improvements in tracked service provision. Ensure you are ready by adding smart 2D barcodes to all of your parcels.
Karl Ciz, Director, StoreFeeder
17. There Will Be an Early Move to Magento 2.0
This year there’ll be more focus on technology – with lots of merchants re-platforming to allow for growth and added flexibility. Magento 2 is a really interesting topic in ecommerce currently – at SME and enterprise-level – with the new platform eliminating some of the key issues with version 1 and looking likely to help increase Magento’s market share over the next few years. I’ve spoken with merchants of all sizes who are looking at moving over already, despite expecting to have to wait 12-18 months for it to be fully stable. Some mainstream merchants have already launched on the platform.
Paul Rogers, Director, GPMD and Founder, Audited
18. Self-Service Ecommerce Solutions Will Spread
Technology is disrupting old-school, expensive services. The rise of “do-it-yourself” solutions will empower merchants to do everything from design to web shop building, without having to hire expensive service providers.
Victor Levitin, CEO, CrazyLister.com
19. There Will Be a New Era of “Contextual Commerce”
This year will begin the era of contextual commerce. This is a state of commerce in which products and services are sold seamlessly across multiple channels, in the same context as the channel itself. This includes everything from making a purchase through a Tweet to a Buyable Pin; I could also see this extending to channels such as email and commercials on TV. For merchants, the barrier to entry for multi-channel selling will only get easier from this point forward. Consumers will become more attuned to discovering and purchasing from new brands across a variety of devices and channels.
Nate Stewart, Senior Product Manager, Bigcommerce
20. Mobile Use Will Accelerate
Mobile commerce will continue to break records. We saw 40% of all Black Friday sales came from mobile device this year, up from 28% in 2014. This trend will accelerate and force many retailers to redevelop their businesses – but will deliver huge rewards for sellers who get mobile right.
Victor Corcoran, CEO, XSellco
21. Buyers Will Turn Away from Mobile-Unfriendly Sites
Forget the crystal ball – the future is already here and it’s called mobile. Mobile must be your number one priority in 2016. With more time now being spent online in the mobile environment than the more traditional laptop or desktop environment, failure to jump on board the mobile bandwagon will result in you actively turning customers away. As well as a mobile responsive site or dedicated app, mobile should also influence search and email marketing campaigns, social media activities and content-led initiatives.
John W. Hayes, Marketing Strategist, iContact and author of Best-Selling Online Marketing Books
22. Mobile Will Put More Pressure On Bricks and Mortar Stores
Never has it been so crucial for eBay sellers and website owners to make sure their listings are smart device compatible. 2016 will show an even bigger movement to purchasing through smart devices, as the population gets more tech-savvy with their phones and tablets. Everywhere we look people have their faces buried in a smart device. And they are not just browsing, they are also purchasing. Every time they do, it is another nail in the coffin for bricks-and-mortar stores.
Neil Waterhouse, Author of Million Dollar eBay Business From Home
23. Mobile Will Drive Design Innovations
We’ll continue to see mobile traffic increase and surpass desktop traffic, and retailers will focus on mobile conversion rates. I expect to see more companies emerge in the no-UI ecommerce space like Magic and more personalized curated sites like StitchFix. More retailers will take advantage of big data and analytics to have a more personalized shopping experience.
Neal Kaiser, CEO, Upshot Commerce
24. User Experience Will Give Way to Customer Experience
Not only will the percentage of traffic from mobile increase, but also the different types of mobile devices. Web design will be more about intelligent navigation, form, function and adaptability to different environments rather than just graphical elements. UX is shifting towards CX – the overall customer experience.
Abbas Tharkar, Founder, dZine-Hub
Selling to China
25. Small Businesses Will Start Selling on Chinese Marketplaces
I believe that SMBs who partake on marketplaces will be joining both Amazon.cn and native Chinese marketplaces Alibaba and JD.com. These mega-ecommerce behemoths are trying to offer sellers more opportunity in front of their target markets.
Hendrik Laubscher, Development Strategist, PriceCheck
26. More Barriers to Export Will Fall Away
UK and European retailers are set to increase their presence on Asian marketplaces. With the huge numbers produced from Singles Day, $8bn in 10 hours, interest in this market is only going one way. In 2015 various barriers to entry were reduced due to increased demand from international retailers wanting to sell into China, SE Asia and Japan.
2016 should bring further reductions to these barriers, with quicker and cheaper fulfilment, better intellectual property protection and an easier way to list your products on the likes of JD.com and Tmall.
Luke Trayfoot, Strategic Partnerships, WorldFirst
27. AliExpress Will Attract More Western Businesses
eBay has made vast changes to improve cross-border selling with the Global Shipping Program. Alibaba could build on the same platform to scale AliExpress as another major cross-border marketplace. I expect to see US sellers opening up shop on Alibaba with as much confidence in sales as eBay and Amazon.
Brett Rush, Enterprise Customer Specialist, SureDone
28. There Will Be a Boom in Selling to China
The rise of marketplaces like JD Worldwide (which has a strong focus on bringing Western sellers to China) will result in a mini-boom for businesses brave enough to take that step. This will have a positive impact on storage and distribution industries as well as currency conversion, translation and localization. The key thing for businesses to remember when expanding to China is the huge cultural differences – the Chinese consumer has entirely different expectations for customer service.
Scott Galvao, Managing Director, InterCultural Elements
29. The Amazon Opportunity Will Continue to Grow
I expect us to continue to see Amazon extend its dominance, with Prime as a central pillar of value for consumers. The ecosystem that Amazon is building, with consumer services such as streaming media, has a tremendous network effect. The opportunity for online sellers to leverage this via Amazon FBA will continue to grow. We will also see more brands migrate to a direct-to-consumer model using FBA. Amazon is essentially a third-party logistics (3PL) platform with 300 million customers – this makes it an incredibly exciting area of growth for online sellers in 2016.
Alasdair McLean-Foreman, CEO, Teikametrics
30. Amazon Will Remain the World’s Largest Retailer
Amazon will keep its place as being the largest retailer in the world, in terms of market value, after passing Walmart in 2015. Walmart and other traditional brick-and-mortar stores will continue to struggle if they fail to innovate their business, especially with Amazon testing Prime for self-fulfilled marketplace sellers. In-store pickup will be a thing of the past.
eBay will also make a comeback this year if they continue to go back to their roots and give the small business owner and individual sellers the treatment they deserve, just like in the early 2000’s.
Carlo Silva, CEO, 2nd Office
31. Amazon Will Offer Paid Account Management
Amazon recently rolled out an end-of-year pilot program for Account Manager services, in a fee-for-service format. I knew of a few participants in the invitation-only trial run and heard that it would cost anything from $1,500 to $2,000 per month in order to have one in your corner. Clearly Amazon is making an attempt to clean up past inconsistencies in account management, and sellers who are willing to pay stand to gain once this goes wider.
It’s unclear how much impact an Account Manager might have on performance and policy teams that restrict accounts, but having an internal advocate for you will likely be worth the investment.
Chris McCabe, CEO & Founder, ecommerceChris, LLC
32. FBA Will Get Even Stronger
As Amazon’s Prime Now and Fresh programs are rolled out to more US cities, the need for FBA among Amazon sellers will be even greater, while brick-and-mortar resellers will experience more noticeable Amazon pain.
The development of Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime program will help Amazon grow, but also make it much easier for Amazon sellers to diversify beyond Amazon. We will see thousands of current brands wake up to the point that a consolidated distribution model, combined with channel and catalog control, is a much better long-term strategy on Amazon.
James Thomson, President, PROSPER Show and Partner, Buybox Experts
33. Repricers Will Harness Predictive Analytics
As ecommerce purchasing patterns continue to scale, the number of sellers on each listing will grow in tandem. The current selling price will continue to be one of the most important factors, and automated pricing tools are a pivotal piece of online selling strategy. Repricers that are able to harness data into predictive analytics will be the most powerful in the coming year.
Koby Kasnett, CEO, Informed.co
34. Private Label Sellers Will Face Stiffer Competition
The strong dollar has made it easier than ever to buy from China. More first-time entrepreneurs will start their own businesses, creating stiffer competition and price wars. Businesses who have benefited from private labeling in the past will find their profit margins dropping like dead flies.
Your goal should be to build “high perceived value products” for your customers, or you could go out of business. Create brand distinction and provide irreplaceable unique value to your customers.
Mark Houng, China Sourcing Expert, Mark Houng Inc.
35. There Will Be a Brand Protection Backlash Against Private Labeling
The massive growth of private label sellers will result in an equally strong backlash for brand protection on Amazon. This was already seen in the second half of 2015, with significant actions by the Product Quality team, and increased category gating. In 2014, the Jewelry team created a QA department that does regular testing for the fine and fashion jewelry category to protect Amazon customers, due to rampant mislabeling and outright fakes, with great success.
Amazon values customers above all else, and private label sellers who don’t approach their product with legal and compliance considerations in mind will find their listings or account suspended.
Rachel Greer, Partner, Cascadia Seller Solutions
36. Private Labeling Will Go into Decline
All internet “gold rushes” share one thing in common: a similar life cycle. The early adopters make the most money, then move onto selling information. After a few years it hits mainstream, with a flood of competition and black-hat tactics. Then the gold rush declines, revenue distribution becomes more even, and less “big dogs” are being created.
I suspect Amazon private labeling will be in full decline by Q4 of 2016. By 2017, unless your product is extra innovative, another “me too” product will make you zero dollars in sales – the complete opposite of today’s conditions.
James Amazio, Founder, Feedbackz
37. More Retailers Will Use Kickstarter to Create Real Brands
2016 will be the year of Kickstarter and creating real brands. Private labeling is slowly dying due to competition and lack of quality. If you can create your own product that brings value to the world, you will be able to have high margins, and sleep well knowing that no copy-cats are going to force you into a race to the bottom. Test the product and market on Kickstarter, and create a brand that will outlast any of the third-party marketplaces.
Will Tjernlund, Amazon Expert, FBA Expert
38. Private Label Sellers Will Diversify
Amazon is going full force into 2016 and they will continue to dominate the ecommerce marketplace space. Private label sellers on the site will start to shift their focus from creating standalone items to creating DIY packages and subscription boxes. Social sites such as Pinterest have ignited this area of interest, and it will continue to spill over onto Amazon.
Pilar Newman, Amazon FBA Expert
39. Niche Retailers Will Expand Creatively
In 2016 we’ll see an inside-out move by niche online retailers. Brands that have been extremely niche will expand in two ways. First, they will seek new online selling channels and will become more multi-channel. They have shored up their back-office operations and are now ready to use new selling channels to get their wares in front of new buyers. Second, they will stay niche but expand or widen their offerings. An example of this is Siete Family Foods. These makers of grain-free tortillas will build out a full line of healthy Mexican foods.
Robert Gilbreath, VP of Marketing, ShipStation.com
40. Amazon-Only Brands Will Consolidate and Grow
Large Amazon-only brands will begin to emerge. Sellers who run their brands well will begin to have enough sales, profit and sophistication to attract investors. These investors will purchase brands and achieve economies of scale by consolidating them into extremely large Amazon companies. They will enhance their investment by turning these into larger ecommerce brands, and then further maximize the brand by exhibiting at trade shows and other traditional channels, and selling their products to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Large seven figure profits will be made.
Mark Scott Adams, Amazon Seller and Creator, FBA HeadStart
41. International Ecommerce Will Drive Growth
I think a lot of SMB sellers will be working hard to try and compete in a global economy this year. With currency fluctuations in Australia, we are noticing a lot of retailers looking to export and make the most of opportunities in other countries. New payment systems are making cross border trade easier than ever and marketplaces like Amazon are actively trying to onboard international sellers. But finding your way in a worldwide ecommerce market that is becoming ‘flatter’ every day will be a challenge!
Nathan Huppatz, Co-founder, ReadyToShip
42. More Efficient Operations Will Help Businesses Grow
As we enter 2016, we see a continued trend for rapidly growing multi-channel merchants to “get back to the basics”. More sizeable merchants are realizing that selling online is a volume game, and due to the competitive landscape, they need to gain their edge through aggressive pricing combined with more efficient operations than their competitors.
Focusing on a solid systems foundation upon which they can scale, and minimizing wasted time from a lack of system integrations, becomes critically important. More integrated systems on a scalable platform equals the ability to grow without needing as many people, which adds up to better bottom-line margins.
Michael Anderson, CEO and Co-founder, Etail Solutions
Shipping and Delivery
43. Customers Will Expect Same-Day Shipping
In 2016, ecommerce SMBs will be expected to deliver better and better convenience for their online customers. Same-day or even one-day packing and shipping will become the norm for most sales orders, and a retailer’s mobile shopping experience will need to be seamless in order for them to compete and scale their business.
Nick Maglosky, CEO, ecomdash
44. Amazon Will Continue to Disrupt Logistics
As ecommerce continues to evolve rapidly through 2016, Amazon will continue to dominate and disrupt, and their logistical dominance will grow. Their plan to handle shipments from third-party warehouses for products purchased on Amazon will further disrupt the courier and logistics industries.
Victor Corcoran, CEO, XSellco
45. Same-Day Delivery Will Become the New Standard
2016 ecommerce is all about logistics. I predict continued advances in the speed of shipping mostly from Amazon with same-day delivery becoming the new standard, in heavily-populated areas at first. Global retailing will continue expanding at break-neck speed with third-party warehousing and fulfillment enabling the retailer and customer to transact like next-door neighbors, but be worlds apart.
Brandon Dupsky, eCommerce Coach, www.BrandonDupsky.com
46. More Convenient Delivery Options Will Emerge
We’ll see a shift move from “in-store pickup” to faster and more convenient home delivery options, such as ship from local retailer. Retailers will own the “last mile” of fulfillment.
Neal Kaiser, CEO, Upshot Commerce
47. Consumer Drone Deliveries Will Begin
I think we will see the first Amazon drone deliveries to consumers in 2016. Due to the slow-moving US Federal Aviation Administration, the first drone deliveries will be in the UK. But within weeks, people will claim they have been injured by drones and a number of frivolous legal claims will be filed.
Andy Geldman, Founder, Web Retailer
48. Social Commerce Will Mature
Facebook and social media are going to continue to mature. We’ve seen Facebook really take market share from companies like Criteo and Adroll, by offering their remarketing ads directly. It’s hugely powerful, drives amazing ROI, and I think it’s going to continue to be easier and simpler.
2016 will see some surprising commercial offerings from the social networks. Potentially, we’ll see some acquisitions in the social shopping space, to allow search engines to compete and bring some of that technology into the regular shopping space. There will be fabulous opportunities for smart SMBs to jump on social in a profitable manner.
David Jaeger, Founder, Global SEM Partners
49. Sellers Will Need to Get Smarter with Social
Sellers will need to be smarter in using social, in particular buy-now options within social to connect and capture consumers’ attention.
Many of the larger group-buying and daily-deals sites have really focused on service and delivery alongside pricing – great news for reputable suppliers and customers alike.
Tim Brown, Owner, Wishper and New Zealand Trading Solutions
50. There Will Be Innovation in Product Discovery
Integrated product discovery features such as Facebook’s shopping feed will start to appear in more places, and across additional channels where consumers are already spending their time. A recent study claimed that nearly half of all product searches start on Amazon, which is a major shift in shopper behavior when we consider that Google has traditionally captured the bulk of searches.
That shift will inspire other platforms to experiment with product discovery. Twitter and Pinterest are already doing this, which means retailers will benefit from competing for shoppers’ attention on as many channels as possible.
Mike Burk, Director of Product Management, Bigcommerce
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading our 2016 ecommerce predictions. Any comments? Let us know just below.