What Will Online Shoppers Be Like in 2016?

December 30, 2015

The dawning of each new year brings a wave of excitement for the possibilities that lay ahead. You make new sales goals for yourself and your team. You brainstorm new strategies to find more customers in the months to come. And you dream about where your bottom line will sit this time next year.

But the new year can also usher in a feeling of uncertainty. E-commerce is constantly changing, and it’s hard to predict what will happen in coming calendar year.

As a retailer, you must stay nimble and adapt to whatever trends come along. But most of all, you must know your customers — how they shop and how they purchase items online.

Here a few predictions for how online customers will behave in 2016:

They Will Search Using Phrases and Questions, Not Just Keywords

Online shoppers are using more detailed search queries when looking for a specific item. In fact, half of all search queries are now four words or longer. Single-word searches, on the other hand, are becoming more challenging and less popular, due to the massive amount of data available.

Google has recognized this tendency toward semantically entered searches, and so should you. Aim to use the language your customers are using by identifying the sort of questions they’re asking — and then answering them on your site.

They Will Become Your Biggest Brand Advocates

Social media provides an inexpensive way to engage with potential customers and promote your brand identity.

As eMarketer points out, while consumers don’t always buy via social media directly, it’s an important place to influence future buying behavior — as consumers seek further information about products and act on recommendations from their network.

This trend is supported by recent research, which reveals that 71% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after a social media referral. Facebook is the top social commerce platform, driving more than two-thirds of mobile traffic and accounting for 50% of all social referrals.

Make it your aim to engage and build trust with potential customers on social sites. Attempt to make them advocates rather than giving them the hard sell.

They Will Be Mobile

There are now many touchpoints where you can interact with online shoppers. Collect and analyze data from all of them, and measure the various ways shoppers interact with your brand. Adapt your marketing to what you find.

Put your focus on mobile going forward. Many retailers report that up to half of website browsing occurs through mobile devices (both smartphone and tablet), with a smaller percentage making actual purchases this way. But the amount of purchases on mobile devices is growing. The mobile share of all online retail spending in the US is predicted to rise from 18.7% (the equivalent of $57 billion) in 2014 to 26.2% ($94 billion) in 2015.

Be aware that shoppers are constantly comparing products, reading reviews and finding deals while moving seamlessly from smartphone to tablet to PC. Google found that 90% of consumers used multiple screens sequentially to complete a task, with 98% moving between devices the same day. And at 67%, online shopping is one of the top activities done when moving between devices.

Make sure you use consistent branding and pricing across all channels to rubber-stamp your message and avoid confusing customers.

Want to look further into the 2016 crystal ball? Download the eBook 5 Consumer Trends Retailers Need to Know About (And How to Take Action) for more insight and tips.