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5 digital retail trends that will be big in 2017

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Dec. 22, 2016
Experts in retail, ecommerce and marketing look into their crystal balls and predict what will be the big trends in online retail in the coming year.

If Black Friday and Cyber Monday are any indication, 2017 should be a good year for ecommerce. Indeed, in the United States alone, shoppers made an estimated $3.34 billion in online purchases on Black Friday and a whopping $3.39 billion the following Monday, breaking previous records.

Besides offering hard-to-resist deals, retailers took advantage of a variety of technologies and apps to help drive sales this season. And analysts and online retail watchers predict these five digital retail trends will be (or become) even bigger in the new year.

1. Mobile commerce 

Mobile commerce has been steadily growing, but if Black Friday and Cyber Monday mobile sales are any indication – with U.S. shoppers alone purchasing over $2.4 billion worth of goods via a mobile phone or tablet on those two days alone – 2017 is going to be huge.

“Apple Pay and Android Pay have greatly improved the mobile check-out process, and PayPal does more than $14 billion dollars in mobile payments alone,” says Matt Smith, founder, Later. “Consumers are spending more time on mobile devices and mobile internet traffic is now greater than desktop.” Moreover, “mobile-first social networks like Instagram, and more frequent mobile-based searches on mobile devices, will make it hard for anyone to be a winner in the ecommerce space without a huge focus on mobile.”

The use of mobile wallets is also predicted to grow in 2017.

“With brands like CVS and Samsung seeing success after implementing CVS Pay and Samsung Pay, more retailers will begin adopting this strategy [mobile wallets] as a way to engage with consumers and build loyalty with their brand,” says Don Hughes, CIO, Kobie Marketing. “Mobile wallets simplify rewards programs and offer opportunities to interact with consumers wherever they go. Retailers can even use these apps to offer time-sensitive and location-based vouchers and deals, which is a great way to surprise and delight customers and incentivize a purchase.”

2. Chatbots

“Chatbots exploded in 2016,” says Daniel Brzezinski, CMO & vice president of Marketing & Product Development, GetResponse. “Everyone from technology companies like Facebook to Microsoft and retail brands like J. Crew and Staples have invested in the space. And it’s clear why. Chatbots signal a more real-time, personalized approach to customer engagement,” he says. “It’s ‘conversational commerce’ that, despite being a simulation, feels more human and authentic than most marketing. Bots offer a convenient, responsive form of interaction customers crave.”

And live chat and chatbots are going to be even bigger in 2017, with consumers being able to conduct transactions via chatbots.

“Messaging apps have surpassed social networks in terms of monthly active users, and in 2017 you can expect more online retailers to leverage chatbots on Facebook’s Messenger Platform to create a better online shopping experience,” says Smith. “Bots will change how customers shop online because, instead of being limited to browsing or searching, they will be able to get personalized recommendations based on their size, order history or preferences. Some sites are [already] sending their order confirmations and shipping information directly through Messenger instead of email.”


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