With the year coming to an end,

we took a step back from all the stats, trends and changing platforms from this past year and pinpointed five areas we believe will be game changers in 2016.

SHIPPING IS CHANGING

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Click and collect. Crowdsourced shipping. Drone deliveries. It’s safe to say the face of shipping is undergoing a major facelift! These changes are aiming to elevate the consumer journey to react promptly to context-based needs. Simply put, a two-week shipping delay no longer cuts it for consumers.

Businesses who used to compete on price now leverage delivery as a differentiator”

With big box retailers like Best Buy and Foot Locker on board, crowdsourced deliveries might be the next big thing in 2016. Bizrate Insights recently claimed same-day delivery services appear to have much more value for American millennials (18-34) and generation Xers (35-49) as opposed to baby boomers (50-64) and seniors (65+).  Based on an Uber-esque business model, Deliv is one of several clever companies that aim to bridge the gap between retailers and customers by offering same-day delivery catering to consumers’ immediate gratification needs. This convenient shipping option can easily be added into existing e-commerce websites or in store checkout.

Businesses who used to compete on price now leverage delivery as a differentiator: practical, smarter shipping options will undoubtedly become a major competitive advantage for omnichannel retailers.  Over the course of 2016, this state of affairs will likely affect SMEs who don’t have access to the next-level shipping facilities that are essential to Amazon’s and Walmart’s digital success. Smaller retailers will therefore need to explore innovative and cost-efficient shipping options to keep a competitive edge.

With its stunningly cheap residential delivery rates, there’s no doubt the US is ahead of the shipping curb. But Canada shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, Canada Post states that 76% of Canadian households placed online orders last year, and that  it delivers about two-thirds of e-commerce parcels in the country. Last October, Canada Post introduced Delivered Tonight in Montreal, which enables customers to receive their purchases within hours of placing their online order. So far, this service is available on select websites like Frank & Oak, SSENSE and Eros et Compagnie. If your brand is looking for another competitive delivery tactic, pickup in store is becoming an increasingly common, low-cost alternative.

BEEF UP YOUR CONTENT

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According to a study conducted by Comscore and UPS, 73% of consumers agreed that detailed product information was the most important factor within their customer journey. Unfortunately, only 43% of brands surveyed believe that consumers buy products based on product descriptions.

In 2016, this will change.

Consumers want content that’s jam-packed with information, brand awareness and personality”

Some companies believe the way to combat the mass disconnect between consumer and the lack of content on their sites is through “Robowriters,” but these shouldn’t be used to beef up your product descriptions. “I can agree that machine-generated content will work basic formulaic information,” writes Scott Gillum, Ad Age columnist and President of B2B agency Gyro. “What I won’t buy is a world of content that exists purely on facts and data, void of any emotional connections. In fact, another trend that is now happening may signal a need for even more writers who can make personal connections with audiences.” Gartner predicts that by 2018, machines will be writing 20% of all business content.

But the demand is clear – consumers want content that’s jam-packed with information, brand awareness and personality. In 2015, Americans watched 60 million hours of unboxing videos on YouTube. 71%  of social media users are more likely to purchase from brands they follow online. On average, brands that publish 15 blog posts per month convert 1,200 new leads per month. Companies who have prioritized business blogging are 13 times more likely to enjoy positive Inbound Marketing ROI.  No matter the platform, quality content strategy and confident execution deliver positive brand awareness, conversions and even ROI.

After creating this bank of content, how do you catalogue it?

That’s where PIM comes in.

Product information management software helps to centralize and harmonize products’ technical and manufacturing information. It helps to organize rotating product catalogues and keeps track of products sold at the online store. For instance, if you are a clothing retailer, you may choose to pull your winter jackets from your store during spring and summer months. Will you be using PIM in 2016? It’s looking like it.

THINK MOBILE

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Shopping is far from a linear experience. Consumers use a wide variety of devices and mediums to discover, research, and purchase their products. For instance, a large number of consumers are now looking for products on their smartphones and then moving to their desktop to make the purchase.

With over 4.88 billion people around the world owning a smartphone, the mobile market is in full bloom. As it stands, e-commerce conversion rates on mobile are below 1% (source: mobify), signaling  opportunities to improve, as 93% of people using a mobile device for research go on to make a purchase (Google/Nielsen).

Mobile and desktop developers often just look at user behaviour on a desktop and try to replicate it on a mobile phone”

Since users need to find what they’re looking for quickly, filters and apps should be designed accordingly. However, mobile and desktop developers often just look at user behaviour on a desktop and try to replicate it on a mobile phone. This is a big mistake, as users do not act the same way across devices.

“According to Google data, for much of the 2014 holiday season, mobile shopping clicks exceeded those on the desktop as shoppers made their purchase decisions on the go,” writes Google Retail Industry Director Julie Krueger.  “And people are no longer discriminating between mobile and desktop when it comes to shopping—whether that’s in a store or on an ecommerce site.”

With major digital companies such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon taking steps to simplify the transition from mobile shopping to mobile buying, it’s fair to say others will follow suit. The expansion of screen size provides powerful multi-channel shoppers with the ease of purchasing directly from their mobile devices.

MAKE YOURSELF SEEN & HEARD

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2016 promises to be an exciting year for SEO! Here are two trends we foresee taking over, as we continue our shift to an increasingly mobile e-commerce.

Voice search: Mobile users are progressively using voice commands from their phone to search for content on Google and Bing. Rather than typing keywords on their mobile phone, they’re asking Siri or Google Now to find the items they’re looking for. At the WWDC 2015 keynote presentation, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering revealed that Siri gets over 1 billion requests per week. This new technology will alter how we tackle SEO strategies and bring forward the question of visibility on “question-based” searches such as, “Where is the closest shoe store?” or “When is there a sample sale at Brandsource?”

For SEO on e-commerce websites, this also brings into play proper ranking on relevant long tail keywords, and the development of content specifically for Google’s direct answers. Having your sites rank high enough to be placed as the copy appearing as Google’s direct answer looks like a daunting task, but it can be done by creating & linking content on FAQs, how-to-articles, as well as ensuring that Q&A on specific products appear directly on their product pages.

In short: improve rankings that you own, and lower negative rankings that are out of your control”

Online reputation management (ORM): As consumers are more likely to buy products with positive reviews and good brand reputation, there will be more SEO offerings related to reputation management. This means making sure your brand’s ‘Knowledge Graph’ panel is visible on the right side of a Google search, as well as ensuring there are no negative results for your brand’s search queries. In short:  improve rankings that you own, and lower negative rankings that are out of your control.

FROM NAVIGATION TO IMMERSION

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Next year, Web design quality will be evaluated according to user experience. The challenge will be to combine customization, animation and functionality. Future websites will be even more comprehensive and engaging, compelling consumers while satisfying their needs.

Customization is one of the most important elements in enhancing user experience. Tomorrow’s consumers likes being able to manipulate certain elements and control certain types of data within their interface. It allows them to live a richer experience, better adapted to their needs. Think of live chatting services (such as LiveChat), or the customization feature on a product, such as Nike I-D. In time, customization leads to a higher level of engagement and increased conversion rates. Additionally, a fun experience means more time spent on the website!

The basis of good design remains storytelling. Ask yourself: What story does my design tell?

Another fundamental element in user experience is the way the brand is branded (!). Leave nothing to chance when creating a welcoming and engaging interface that allows consumers to immerse themselves easily. Details such as animations during loading and fly overs, apparitions, videos and GIFs improve a website’s navigation and add value to the user experience. If all is well balanced and orchestrated, real magic can be created!

Of course, the basis of good design remains storytelling. Ask yourself: What story does my design tell? Don’t forget to always keep the consumer at the heart of your design, it will ensure you address their needs early on and stay focused. Have fun being creative!