Five trends defining online retail in 2016

May 3, 2016

For over sixteen years, the eRetail Benchmark from eDigitalResearch (edr) has been tracking online retail. With results used to inform digital strategies and shape online experiences, eDigitalResearch’s (edr’s) retail expert Crispin Boon takes a closer look at the trends defining online retail in the months ahead.

Predictions and trends featured originally appeared in eDigitalResearch’s (edr’s) The Future of eRetail Report.

The online customer experience matters now more than ever. UK shoppers spent in excess of £100bn online last year – with online retail sales growth already growing in the first few months of 2016.

Our experiences have become key to how we see and view brands – we base perception, expectation and even loyalty on the experiences we have with brands and the way they make us feel. Customers not only seek out a great price but also a great experience – every digital retailer must do everything they can to remain competitive.

The coming months belong to those brands who continually create exceptional experiences. The overall customer experience is king – from marketing to operations, listening to customers and effectively managing experiences is what will keep brands ahead of the competition.

It’s why we continually benchmark the online retail sector using results to inform digital retail strategies and identify key trends that will shape digital retail experiences.

A single customer view to deliver the right experiences to the right customers

A great customer experience isn’t just about the rational these days – it’s about creating an emotional and personal connection with customers too.

As deemed by customer experience specialists at the beginning of the year, 2016 is the year of emotion – getting to grips with customers wants, needs and feelings is now fundamental to understanding customers. Real-time, automated and intelligent analysis of customer comments is key in helping businesses to deliver for their customers in 2016.

Many retailers haven’t hit the mark with personalisation strategies focusing heavily on basic segmentation and blanket email campaigns which customers can see through.

Integrating real-time customer feedback with key supporting information is becoming fundamental to really personalising experiences – by knowing all that you can about individual customers, you’ll know what your next best action can be.

Same day delivery cementing the importance of delivery and logistics

Same day delivery is set to shake-up the online retail sector.

As consumers, over the past few years we’ve become increasingly more demanding. Thanks to the continued role of mobile devices and growing IoT trend, we want to shop when we want and how we want.

With instant gratification on the rise, the need for same-day delivery is also on the rise. It’s why smart brands with logistics power are turning delivery into a marketing proposition rather than a policy – including Amazon and the launch of their Prime Now delivery service.

We’ve increasingly witnessed top digital customer experiences becoming on a par with one another within the eRetail Benchmark. It means that offering a fantastic end-to-end digital experience will be wasted if it’s not supported by great delivery and service.

Video and interactive content used to drive sales

The popularity of video continues to grow and is particularly prevalent on social media – in the next few months, we expect the use of video in the online shopping journey to also increase as it becomes a key medium for consumer content.

With people consuming more hours of video footage than ever before, there are new opportunities to engage with customers and bring the digital shopping journey to life.

Video is a fantastic way of conveying emotion – and one key reason that video is becoming so powerful for brands. From style guides and expert help to customer generated video review content, 2016 will be the year that video plays a more central role in the digital customer experience.

Mobile outstrips desktop

One prediction we made at the turn of the year has already rung true.

According to IMRG, mobile sales overtook desktop for the very first time in February 2016. It means for retailers that the whole digital customer experience must be the very best it can be – delivering a stand-out digital experience that provides both inspiration and functionality really is more important than ever.

Consumers no longer see separate experiences for each channel and increasingly expect a blended, seamless experience no matter how they shop. People now expect to move between devices and for wish lists and items in baskets to remain consistent – a key frustration currently for many shoppers.

Use of social media for retail will increase

Consumer’s mind-set to social media appears to be changing.

Growing platforms that have now well and truly laid their mark on the social media landscape, such as Pinterest and Instagram, are becoming renowned for their discovery purposes – users actually go there to browse and gather inspiration rather than just share stories and converse with friends.

It’s why both platforms have introduced ‘buy now’ buttons to allow brands to turn these browsers into direct purchasers.

But if retailers use of social media is going to increase, social touch points need to be integrated fully into current Customer Experience Management programmes, as well as keeping track of growing social media trends. It’s why listening to the Voice of the Social Customer is so essential – and with integrated solutions you’ll be able to capture what customers have to say about you across a number of different sites.


Crispin Boon is Research Director at eDigitalResearch (edr) and a key figure head in the digital retail industry leading customer experience programmes for a range of pure-play and high street retailers.

Download the Future of eRetail Report to understand what customers want from their digital customer experience in 2016.