Pay Attention to These 4 Powerful Ecommerce Trends

When Amazon hit the scene back in the 1990s, the retail world mostly shrugged. Some laughed. “You can’t sell things online,” was the collective boardroom refrain. “Consumers need to touch and feel merchandise before they fork over their hard-earned dollars.”

Funny how things change. Two decades on, Amazon is one of the biggest companies in the United States, a behemoth with fulfillment centers in every major metropolitan area and a transaction volume that consumes vast quantities of bandwidth.

Of course, the mere fact that e-commerce exists is no longer news. Online purchasing is just another prong in the multi-channel retail environment, increasingly indistinguishable from in-person buying.

E-commerce is also increasingly bound up with next-generation digital advertising techniques — something online marketing pioneers like Jeff Kamikow have been heralding for years. Here’s a look at four trends that underscore the ongoing evolution of ecommerce.

  1. Personalized Ad Service

Personalized ads tap a variety of user-supplied data, from browsing habits to previous purchases, to serve hyper-targeted, hyper-relevant ads — ideally, before the targets even realize they need what’s being sold.

Personalization extends to other channels as well. For multi-touch buys, savvy e-retailers leverage personalized email messages, social ads, mobile push notifications and more to keep buyers engaged and increase repeat sales rates..

  1. Opportunistic Mobile Marketing

One of the most exciting e-commerce trends: mobile marketing beacons, connected devices that sit in retail environments and interact with users’ smartphones as they pass nearby. Beacons allow brick-and-mortar retailers to essentially flag down prospective customers and serve them with a relevant ad or deal, dramatically increasing the likelihood of conversion.

  1. Loyalty Programs

Retail loyalty programs actually predate ecommerce by a significant margin. (Just ask Grandma about her Woolworth’s frequent shopper’s discount. Oh, the stories she’ll tell.)

But e-commerce has breathed new life into the loyalty concept. As with the e-commerce trends outlined above, the theme here is that loyalty programs are far more responsive and personalized than at any time in the past.

Loyalty programs vary widely: Niche retailers tend to focus on action-specific discounts and incentives, while broader-based players tap blunter solutions (think Target’s REDcard). Still, one in eight U.S. shoppers now belongs to an online loyalty program — up from 9 percent at the start of the decade. Retailers that can’t figure out how to tap that market leave a lot of money on the table.

  1. Digital Wallets

This one is a bit of a stretch. Not because digital wallets aren’t an important retail trend, but because they relate to in-person retail at least as much as to “traditional” e-commerce. Then again, digital wallets are part of the rapidly expanding Internet of Things, so they’re technically a piece of the ecommerce pie as well. It’s all a bit confusing.

Bottom line, any retailer — online or offline — that wants to appeal to young, tech-savvy consumers needs to consider accepting Google Wallet, Apple Pay and any other digital wallet technologies that gain traction going forward. There was a time, remember, when few merchants accepted credit cards. Outside certain resilient niches, cash-only businesses are now few and far between. Given time, digital wallet adoption is likely to follow a similar trajectory.

Which ecommerce trend are you most excited or nervous about?

Where’s Digital Advertising Headed in 2016? Jeff Kamikow Weighs In

Jeff Kamikow

Jeff Kamikow, a digital marketing pioneer who helped set up the first revenue strategy for one of the United States’ most venerable media companies, is the first to admit that he’s done the same thing his entire career.

Kamikow has been in the advertising game since the early 90s, when he worked for a couple of print publications (remember those?) devoted to personal computers (remember those?) and assorted accessories.

Back in the early 2000s, he showed Time Inc the online marketing light. Specifically, he devised the first sustainable Internet revenue strategy for two well-known but struggling Time properties, helping the storied firm bridge the digital chasm.

Since then, Kamikow has held positions of increasing responsibility for a variety of digital and mobile marketing firms, devising, implementing, testing and reworking revenue strategy after revenue strategy. He’s almost seen it all, at least when it comes to online marketing, and his insight has helped many a rudderless brand reinvent for ever busier, ever more jaded consumers.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that Jeff Kamikow has a thing or two to say about the state of the digital advertising industry. On the heels of some huge changes in 2015, Kamikow expects a few equally important shifts — some of which simply continue multi-year trends — in 2016.

  1. Mobile’s Domination Will Become Official

According to an eMarketer study, mobile advertising spend is projected to top $100 billion for the first time in 2016. More importantly, mobile will account for more than 50 percent of all digital advertising outlays for the first time ever next year.

And with nearly geometric growth projected through 2019 — eMarketer projects a total outlay of nearly $200 billion by then — it’s virtually assured that mobile will remain dominant indefinitely. At the end of the decade, mobile is poised to account for a stunning 70 percent of all digital ad spend and more than 25 percent of all ad spend.

To be blunt, brands and career marketers that fail to plan for a mobile-first world are about to get killed. We’ve known this day was coming for a while, and now it’s here. It’s why Jeff Kamikow has been pounding the table on mobile ad networks for years now — and, if you play your cards right, it could be your ticket to the digital marketing big time.

  1. In-SERP Video Advertising Could Presage a Seismic Shift

Though it’s not totally set in stone, Jayson Demers writes in Forbes that Google appears close to rolling out embedded videos in main search engine results pages (SERPs), augmenting existing text and image results without requiring searchers to toggle the Video tab.

It’s not clear how these ads will be priced, whether they’ll autoplay once the search is complete, or how many will appear in a given SERP. Jeff Kamikow has long argued that this is a logical development, given the ascendancy of the inarguably more visual mobile medium, and it’ll be fascinating to see how it plays out in 2016.

For now, savvy marketers may want to buy paid text ads while they can — both to reinforce brand recognition above-the-fold if and when this deployment occurs and to take advantage of pricing dips once pent-up demand for video spots is released.

  1. The Daylight Between Content Strategy and SEO May Finally Wink Out

Marketers have been crowing that “content is king” for years now. Frankly, the phrase is a bit of a cliche, so it’s easy to drown content-boosting voices (including Jeff Kamikow’s) out and miss the very simple, very important point they’re making.

It’s this: The days when traditional SEO techniques added value to subpar content are over. They’re not coming back. Going forward, it’s increasingly likely that, when applied to subpar or even at-par content, traditional SEO techniques will subtract value.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have an SEO strategy, or that white-hat best-practices will suddenly stop working.

You just need to make sure that your SEO strategy complements your content strategy, not the other way around. Create content, in whatever form it takes, with your core audience personas in mind. Then optimize it.

  1. Social Media Won’t Always Be Earned Media

For the first few years of the social media revolution, as adoption skyrocketed, social campaigns were like manna from heaven: classic earned media, without the drudgery of PR outreach and journalistic brown-nosing.

Then the social platforms started worrying about their own bottom lines. Good for them; not so good for cash-poor marketers.

Today, it’s still possible to run an organic social campaign on a shoestring or even nonexistent budget and ride it for a decent dribble of earned media. (No viral unicorns needed.)

But the writting is on the wall: Facebook recently redoubled its suggestion feature, creating another potential revenue source for itself and a potential exposure opportunity for marketers   Of course, the change is likely to reduce the amount of organic space in users’ feeds, reducing organic opportunity and pushing up bid rates for paid ads.

Meanwhile, LinkedIn is slackening its buttoned up advertising standards — again, great if you have the inclination and budget to pay for social promotion, and not so much if you’re looking to do more with less.

Personally, Jeff is a big believer in social campaigns done right. But it’s critical to understand these changes — and there are likely to be a lot more in 2016 — as they come. Otherwise, you could find yourself throwing good money after bad.

Don’t Count Your Chickens…

If Jeff Kamikow has learned anything in his decades-long advertising career, it’s that supposed sure things can fizzle out in a relative heartbeat. And even someone with as much experience as Kamikow can be wrong from time to time. Still, it’s best not to bet against a proven winner — or assume that doing the same thing time and again will cut it in a rapidly evolving digital marketing environment.


Image Attribution: Kevin Dooley. Creative Commons License