The end of the year is an ideal time to take stock of the opportunities and challenges your business experienced in the last year. It is also a good time to strategize what new avenues you’d like to travel next. Here are three of the biggest trends to follow in 2018 — along with four trends from 2017 that are predicted to grow in the New Year.
Trend #1: Influencer Marketing
“A recent study by Mediakix found that the influencer marketing on Instagram is expected to reach a whopping $1.07 billion this year alone with a projected growth of $2.38 billion in 2019.” [Shopify]
Hudda Beauty, A.K.A. Hudda Kattan, has 14M Instagram followers. Chiara Ferragni, founder of the fashion blog The Blonde Salad, also has 14M followers. Bri Emery’s photographs make her a standout in home design on Instagram and on the website DesignLoveFest, which she founded.
These are just three examples of Instagram influencers who are fast replacing traditional celebrities in moving their fans to buy the products they tout. Shopify believes these Instagram personalities “wield the kind of power once reserved for Hollywood stars…at least when it comes to reaching new audiences, driving followers to take action and sell.”
Tapping social influencers to help promote your brand can help raise awareness and drive engagement in a way that advertising alone cannot. Influencers build buzz around your brand; they also establish “social proof” that your product is trustworthy. If an influencer uses it and loves it, it’s likely that that influencer’s followers will, too.
Take beauty subscription service Birchbox. They partnered with Emily Schuman of the lifestyle blog Cupcakes and Cashmere. Emily helped select the samples that would go in that month’s box. This simple arrangement was a win-win for Birchbox and Schuman. Schuman got her blog’s name on thousands of Birchboxes mailed around the country, and Birchbox got the attention of Schuman’s followers, many of who perfectly fit Birchbox’s demographic — young women with disposable income who liked beauty products and accessories.
Even if you’re not a regular on Instagram, it’s worth your time to click around and get to know the influencers in your niche market. They should be individuals whose voice and style align with your brand’s. Start your search by looking at the top post’s by hashtag in your brand category and identifying the people behind them. You can also use influencer marketing platforms like HYPR or Neoreach to gather information on top influencers with whom to pursue a partnership.
Once you’ve identified some names, you can estimate their engagement by looking at their number of followers, as well as the number of likes and comments on each promotional post.
You don’t need to spend a bundle to attract influencers and get them talking about your brand. Some influencers are willing to accept free products as payment for honest reviews. Others may opt for an equal exchange or “share for share” (S4S). They’ll post about your brand if you link back to their account or website and share their content with your users.
Also consider seeking out the ‘micro-influencers’ in your brand category — those individuals with 10,000 followers or less. According to Shopify, “studies suggest that 82% of shoppers are very likely to follow recommendations from micro-influencers.” These micro-influencers are usually willing to accept free products rather than money. After all, your brand can help boost their visibility as much as they can help you promote your brand.
Finally, leverage the power of user-generated content created by your existing customers to promote your company and establish that valuable social proof. Run contests and offer free merchandise to customers who take pictures or video of themselves showing off your products, then post those pics and videos on your eCommerce site. Seeing real people using or wearing your brand can also influence new shoppers to give you a try. Inc. cited a study by the visual marketing platform Olapic that found that “56 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product after they see it in a positive or relatable photo posted by another customer.”
Trend #2: Google Shopping Ads
Most eCommerce companies would give their right foot to understand Google’s search algorithms. Instead, they’ve had to settle for bidding on Google AdWords to increase the likelihood that their website will appear in the first page of search results. Or they purchase text-based ads, which are often ignored by users because these are marked as ads.
Google shopping ads allow you to feature full pictures, prices and some copy for your product. Even better, your ad will be one of the images users see at the top of the search results, even before they see the text ads and organic results. When a customer clicks on the picture, they’re taken directly to your site. Google shopping ads have better conversion rates than text-based ads because people naturally notice and respond to an image more readily than a block of ad copy.
If you purchase Google Shopping Ads, be sure to submit clear, quality photos and your most competitive prices — both of which will help your ad stand out among the rest.
Trend #3: Voice-Assisted Shopping
“It’s predicted that 50 percent of search will be voice search by 2020, and I only see that number rising and affecting the eCommerce world.” [Forbes]
Chances are you know at least one person with an Amazon Echo or Google Home. These voice-activated machines allow users to make simple commands: to hear a piece of music or research something on the web simply by asking for it out loud. 2018 will see a rise in these home-based assistants. More smartphone users will also use their phone’s built-in voice-activated commands to do online product research and make purchases.
Other trends that will persist into 2018
- Mobile marketing. Multichannel Merchant recently cited an Invesp report stating that “mobile devices currently account for 19% of all eCommerce sales in the United States” and that number is expected “to rise to 27% by the end of 2018.” With mobile sales rising, having an eCommerce site that renders well across platforms will go from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have.”
- Personalization. Online shoppers — particularly millennials — have come to expect a certain level of personalization from their favorite brands, whether that’s a curated email of products that fit their tastes or the ability to customize your product offerings to their specifications.
- Online research. Instead of going directly to a physical store or website, shoppers are doing more research through search engines before they buy. In fact, according to Salesforce, “85% of shoppers conduct online research before making an online purchase.” Make sure the product information on your eCommerce site is robust and that you’re keeping your prices competitive.
- Chatbots. As we explored in a previous blog post, chatbots operate on messengers apps like Facebook Messenger. They can send customers personalized information, suggest products and even answer simple customer service queries. Expect to see more of these pop up in 2018 as they become more sophisticated online shopping concierges.
Ready for 2018? We are.
Make 2018 your best sales year yet. Contact Orderhouse with questions about your eCommerce business today.
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