2017 was an amazing year in the ecommerce industry. New technology emerging towards the end of 2016 flourished this year and took stable hold throughout the online retail world, with trendsetters paving the way for the future.

There were 6 particular trends that answered questions we had about 2017 at the end of last year. Technologies and best practices had already evolved so much, but there was no real way to know if they would be passing fads or technologies to stay for the long run.

With an industry expected to top out at $1.195 trillion this year worldwide, competition is becoming fiercer than ever before. However, staying on top of ecommerce trends will keep you ahead of the competition, so you can keep your piece of that 1.2 trillion dollar pie.

6 Ecommerce Trends to look out for in 2018

At Divvit, we believe in following the data. The trends that took off in 2017 will lead us to insights for next year and help you prepare your online store for 2018.

1. Ecommerce Growth Booms in China

In 2016, China overtook the United States as the world’s top ecommerce market. However, A lot of the end of 2016 was uncertainty concerning new tax laws that the Chinese Government was implementing on foreign ecommerce imports. However, if 2017 proved anything, it’s that this monster of a market isn’t going anywhere.

‍Image from SmartInsights

In fact, between now and 2019, the Chinese ecommerce market is predicted to double. With such exponential growth, targeting the Chinese market is one of the best ways to put yourself in a great strategic position for next year.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend for 2018:

The best way to take advantage of this trend is to get your site mobile-perfect if it isn’t already. Mobile shopping is king in China: more than 95% of internet users in the country go online via mobile. This means 695.3 million new customers for your store.

Another great way to tap into this market is getting your site localized for the Chinese market. This doesn’t just mean making sure that your store is in Chinese, but that it looks like a local site when a Chinese user connects to it. I recommend looking to local professionals who can give you insights into the Chinese market and localizing your store.

2. The Move Towards Mobile

Ever since mobile browsing overtook PC browsing in 2016, mobile optimization has been a huge topic in the ecommerce industry.

2017 saw no change on this front: Mobile accounts for 42% of sessions. However, despite the rise in mobile browsing and sessions, ecommerce revenue by mobile only accounts for 21%.

‍Image from WolfGang Digital

Why would that happen? If people are browsing on mobile, why aren't they purchasing on mobile too?

What we’re actually seeing is the rise of the multichannel customer, who will browse across devices before deciding to purchase. So even if your mobile conversions aren’t as high as your mobile browsing, understand that it might be because your customers are using their mobiles to decide which of your products they want to purchase.

However, if your overall conversion rate starts to take a dive, there might be an issue with your mobile checkout optimization.

This trend isn’t limited to the electronic experience either. According to Google, 42% of customers will research via mobile while in a brick-and-mortar store. Even this year, Google announced that it would be changing their algorithm to prefer mobile-friendly sites, which will be coming quickly in 2018 & 2019.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend for 2018:

According to our own data, our customers’ orders that contained at least one session via mobile averages at 36%.

If over a third of your page visits are via mobile (and chances are, that’s a lot higher), having your store optimized from landing page to confirmation for mobile users is not an option, it’s mandatory.

Try to create a seamless experience from mobile to PC. Your site should be responsive and your overall look and feel should be consistent over multiple devices and screens. Make sure that your mobile navigation and checkout are user-friendly and lightning quick.

3. The Fall of Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and the Rise of Cyber November

Classically the shot that kicks off the holiday shopping season, Black Friday (and more recently, Cyber Monday) is the event of the year for retailers. In fact, the ecommerce industry has boomed due to this ‘shopping holiday,’ as now customers can shop for their hearts’ desires from the comfort of theIr homes without standing in long lines before dawn at big-box retailers.

But why wait for the end of November to kick things off? 88% of US retailers start advertising sales in the first week of November, and Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Week lasted 35 days in 2016.

Western companies are not the only ones pushing November as the ultimate shopping season; Alibaba’s singles day (November 11th) was a record-breaking success in 2016, selling $17 billion in just 24 hours.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend for 2018?

There’s even still time to launch your sales early in 2017. Nothing is stopping you from making Cyber November your top sales month.

But be practical- make sure your inventory and logistics are in place to handle the volume. While starting earlier will give you the flexibility to react to trends during this holiday season, don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t fulfill orders before the holidays.

Make sure your delivery times are clearly listed on your site, for example, “Orders delivered before X date need to be ordered by X date.”

Your site should also be optimized to handle potential traffic volume during Cyber November too. The last thing your customer wants to see is a site that’s down.

4. The User-Generated Content Takeover

User-generated content (or UGC) is one of the most valuable pieces of content you have access to. Not only does it give you real feedback on your store and products, but it’s fresh content that you don’t have to create.

You know who loves fresh content? Google’s search algorithms.

In 2018, UGC will be more important than ever before with the rise of multichannel customers. Social sharing of your products makes friends and family of your customers that much more likely to trust your site, and a customer is 97% more likely to purchase after having interacted with UGC.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend for 2018:

User-generated content isn’t limited to social shares. A huge part of UGC is reviews left on your site or external sites about your store and products. Reviews boost your SEO and provide rich snippets in Google search, making your products stand out even more.

Provide a scrolling carousel on your site with your customers photos, reviews, and thoughts about your product. Not only is it a powerful statement about how many people love your products, it can be extremely helpful:

Source: ModCloth

ModCloth is basically the example of perfect ecommerce.

In the image above, we can see the dress on display and just below, a row of photos of customers who have purchased the dress. This shows customers how the dress looks on a variety of heights and sizes- and the customer can immediately picture themselves in the dress. This is just one example of how adding UGC to your site is a simple and powerful way to boost your site for 2018.

5. Bring on the Machines

If there was anything 2017 brought forward, it was the rise of chatbots, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. In 2016, one of the biggest driving trends was the personalization of user experience, and online sellers relied on machines to create unique and seamless experiences.

Chatbots were leading the way through 2017, with 48% of consumers preferring to connect with a company via live chat than any other form of contact.

And adding a bot in the mix? It could save you up to $0.50-$0.70 per interaction. When you’re not there, live chat doesn’t do a whole lot for your ecommerce unless you add a chatbot in the mix. Doing so can make you available 24/7 and provide easy service to the questions that are most frequently asked.

Chatbots weren’t the only AI to make an appearance in 2017- we also saw the rise of AI and machine learning in determining just how likely a user was to purchase.

The AI is able to track how a user acts when purchasing, noting their behaviors and determining how likely the next user is to purchase based on whether their behaviors match up with those who have already purchased. This allows for hyper-targeted remarketing that can close an otherwise lost sale.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend for 2018:

The best way to take advantage of these trends is to welcome them with open arms. These new developments are far from passing fads, and are becoming more important than ever. Installing a live chat and chatbot on your site can be quite easy with the right resources. There are many chat companies that will help you configure your bot to respond to your most frequent questions.

Machine learning for UX personalization is a relatively simple-to-implement tool as well- often being a line or two of code to plug into your site. Either develop your own code to get something customized to your site and customers’ needs, or choose a provider that will work with you to get it configured correctly.

6. A New Reality: The Rise of V-Commerce

Augmented and virtual reality are becoming more popular than ever as ecommerce sellers latch onto this engaging new trend. While these technologies are largely still in development, retailers from all over are scrambling to develop their own systems that will create virtual stores, products, and experiences for their customers.

According to Statistica, even if virtual and augmented reality is adopted at a low frequency in 2018, the world economic impact could be up to $2.5 billion.

‍Image from Statistica.com

That’s just if the frequency of adoption is low. This could get as high as 12.6 billion dollars if the current adoption trend continues- given that 35% of consumers said they would shop more online if they could virtually interact with the products. This is definitely a trend to keep an eye on for the next year.

How to take advantage of this ecommerce trend in 2018:

Don’t adopt expensive AR and VR systems just to adopt them. Think about how they’ll best work for your business, and consider developing a way to test them out with your customers. While the AR and VR market is still quite niche, this is a field that will explode over the next year.

Ask your customers if they would be receptive to it and find out if they would understand it. This is not going to be a technology for everyone, not at first anyway. Test the waters before you jump in, but if signs point to yes, jump in with both feet.

In an industry that’s becoming more and more competitive by the day, your ecommerce store can’t afford to slip beyond the edge. Staying relevant by offering new ways for your customer to interact with your store is the best way to keep them coming back.

We think these ecommerce trends in particular will be the most important in 2018, and even in the last quarter of 2017. Keeping up with them isn’t just about doing what’s new and shiny; it’s about how these trends can best translate into added value for your customers. And obviously, the best way to know if these trends are affecting your site is to keep up on your data and analytics.

What are your favorite trends of 2017? Which ecommerce trends do you think will shine in 2018?

Whitney Blankenship

Content Marketing Manager
Whitney Blankenship is Content Marketing Manager at Divvit. When she’s not creating awesome content, she’s reading up on the latest in Social, Digital, and Ecommerce trends. She’s also the fastest Googler in the West!
Whitney Blankenship is Content Marketing Manager at Divvit. When she’s not creating awesome content, she’s reading up on the latest in Social, Digital, and Ecommerce trends. She’s also the fastest Googler in the West!