With online retail sales in the United States shooting past the $300 billion mark in 2016, it’s safe to say that ecommerce is an entity that shows absolutely no signs of slowing down.

As the competition increases, staying relevant and competitive in the industry is becoming more difficult, especially for newer companies. Pushing ahead of the curve depends heavily on doing in-depth research on upcoming trends, determining what progressive changes you can make to your model, and actually implementing these strategies at photon-speed.

While many retail trends are internet-specific, there are a few that are proving to be universal, and blurring the lines between online and offline. Let’s talk about which ones can help retailers give customers what they want, and in the process, catch up with the best in the business.

Personalized Shopping Experience

One of the essential characteristics central to ecommerce success, as evidenced by trends, is being able adapt your site to the needs of each customer.

Amazon is of course one of the leaders in creating personalized shopping experiences. Amazon does so by tracking customer actions and incorporating algorithms with marketing automation to suggest future purchases. Just suggesting products related to previous searches has increased Amazon’s sales by close to 30%.

Retailers can use such information to send personalized deals and coupons. Rubio’s Coastal Grill sends customers who’ve opted in to their Beach Club special coupons for events such as their “half birthday.” Providing a deal specified to a single customer leads to exponentially higher open and click rates, greatly increasing the likelihood of a purchase.

Adding in a personalized touch to your business by offering shopper accounts, sending out emails, or suggesting items the consumer may be interested in gives your shoppers the unique and personal experience they are searching for. There are a lot of ecommerce marketing automation tools out there – Dynamic Yield is one that lets you segment and target advance audiences, and customize messages for anonymous and returning visitors according to purchase history, weather forecast, geolocation, etc.

Live Chat Options

One of the benefits of running an ecommerce business is you can operate 24 hours a day, even when you are not able to attend to it. However, issues can crop up anytime, and customers expect instant assistance at all times. This is why the popularity of chatbots and customer support on social media is steadily rising in the ecommerce industry.

Chatbots are automated programs that can answer FAQs or suggest products based on a customer’s questions or needs. They are growing more sophisticated every day, especially with applications of interactive voice technology, like Amazon’s Alexa, becoming more and more commonplace. However, while chatbots make for a great addition to a website, they are not a replacement for customer service departments.

Including a live chat option on multiple platforms is becoming one of the best ways to engage customers and provide them a consistent omnichannel experience. For example, Indian jewelry retailer BlueStone offers a live chat option on not only on their website, but also on their Facebook page. Live chat operators are available to answer questions about shipping and delivery (a primary concern while buying jewelry online) or even set up an “at-home trial.”

Since the site offers ultra-expensive items, many customers are likely to have questions and want to try the jewelry on before they purchase, so having a representative available at all times offers them that extra sense of security and confidence that might nudge them towards purchase.

Facebook is also encouraging chatbots on Messenger, in an attempt to generate higher engagement rates, as increasingly larger numbers of customers continue to interact with brands on social media.

Quicker Shipping

The demand for responses from online businesses has also expanded to delivery times. Customers are becoming increasingly willing to pay extra to receive their goods within a day or two, as Amazon’s fastest growing division (retail subscriptions, Prime) has demonstrated. Many brick and mortar stores are offering these types of instant delivery services, such as grocery shop Instacart, or services like Postmates, who purport to deliver everything from clothes to office supplies right to your front door.

Ecommerce businesses are opting in on this trend by offering expedited shipping, or getting creative with pick up services; case in point, Amazon Locker. Offering same day delivery can significantly set your business apart from competitors. Same-day shipping plays a major role in store loyalty.

Video Advertising on Social Media

By now, you know the importance of social media and what it means for ecommerce. But the developing trend of video advertising in social media is something you should prioritize in 2017 and beyond.

Snapchat, and its copycat features on Instagram and Facebook, are quickly growing as popular platforms for video ad content. As shopping on mobile devices continues to grow, video has already become the most popular content format that helps influence consumers.

As a direct consequence, retailers have recently begun testing advertisements on Snapchat stories with a “swipe up for more” option – leading viewers to a targeted landing page on their website. This is a great way to reach a new, young audience while providing unique content.

In Conclusion

Staying on top of industry trends is imperative for brands to be noticed and stand out from the growing crowd of me-too online businesses. The best way to stay relevant is to embrace change with versatility. Tweaking your site to offer a more customized experience, with individualized deals, recommendations, and loyalty perks will ultimately make customers crave your products.