3 e-commerce trends for 2016

The commerce and marketing landscape has changed dramatically, with new and better software and solutions developed every day to help brands optimize customer interactions - we can only expect this speed of transformation to continue in 2016.

Contextual Marketing will continue to drive the evolution of B2C experiences

Marketing professionals too are facing an unprecedented challenge to create relevant content and offers that cut through the noise, as consumers are bombarded with messages through more channels than ever.

Strategies that rely on demographics-based segmentation are no longer personal or relevant, thus successful marketers must use messaging that speaks to the consumers as individuals, addressing their immediate personal circumstances and shopping intent.

We know that marketers recognize the value of personalized marketing because 91% of marketers surveyed in a new SAP Hybris’ contextual marketing survey plan to prioritize improving the customer experience through personalization over the next year.

As such, we can predict that marketing processes will evolve to rely instead on leveraging contextual signals to create individual real-time personalization based on customer intent – the needs of the customer in the moment when they choose to interact with the brand.

Marketers must therefore strategically collect, consolidate and utilize customer data, including real-time signals, which are typically not yet captured today.

Only a small minority of marketers currently have the capability to capture customer intent and deliver real-time, behavior-based marketing across all channels.

Brands are defined by customer experiences and marketers are striving to give individual customers memorable experiences that are directly relevant to their current needs.

Marketers need to view the customer journey beyond exposure to marketing content or offers and utilize data to improve experiences with sales, service, and all commerce touchpoints.

B2B Buyers expect a B2C-style shopping experience

Enterprises across Asia are now facing new challenges in keeping up with customer shopping habits of B2B buyers.

Traditionally, business-to-business (B2B) transactions have been handled through lackluster back-end operations, but we foresee that B2B customers will expect a B2C-like shopping experience – with omni-channel visibility and seamless integration being the new requirements of B2B sellers in Asia.

According to a recent global Forrester Consulting and SAP Hybris Study, on average 61% of B2B buyers in China, Australia, India and Japan are making more work-related purchases online, and a substantial number of them make purchases via web, mobile or tablets more than half of the time – just like B2C buyers.

Thus, B2B seller companies that emulate B2C shopping experiences are able to cater to the evolving needs and expectations of B2B buyers everywhere.

Businesses that fail to adapt to the evolving needs of B2B buyers will find it difficult to compete with those that provide a personalized, B2C-like experience that caters to the needs, habits and preferences of customers.

These new expectations present new challenges to B2B sellers to win, serve, and retain customers, and will certainly transform the way suppliers sell and deliver in China and across Asia. In order to adapt to B2B clients’ needs and stay abreast of market trends, B2B sellers will need to deploy eCommerce platforms with expected features and functions.

B2C Brands will up their game through O2O

The original concept of Online to Offline (O2O) was to connect online commerce back to brick and mortar stores. Nowadays, to fully integrate the online and offline worlds, omni-channel commerce initiatives and activities can no longer start and stop with O2O.

The customer journey can now start when you are watching TV, or standing next to a bus stop or poster with QR codes, through which a quick scan will bring you to a website, video or a mobile app, and lastly back to a retail store with discounts and coupons to spend.

The O2O journey has become a never ending cycle with an increasing number of components to be taken into account – and have therefore evolved to the O2O2O (Offline to Online to Offline, or vice versa) model.

In 2016, we see the O2O2O model picking up, as retailers provide more opportunities for consumers to interact with the brand and as added functions may make the customer experience more fun and engaging.

Already, companies in China and Japan have been spearheading this realm (ahead of the rest of the world) with the recent Alibaba TV Gala night for Singles Day, and other collaborations between brands and TV channels.

With this new business model, brands have expanded the reach of their overall target consumers – potentially drawing in each TV audience, and each pedestrian that walks past a banner. Through these channels, the direct transmission of television or physical presence (offline), apps and websites (online), then consumption at brick and mortar stores (offline) are effortlessly linked and integrated.

The powerful combination of the offline and digital environments enable the collection and analysis of data on the behaviors that were not previously available, and the wide range of specialized data obtained can in turn help advertisers and marketers effectively convert interest into sales.

We may regard the O2O2O model as a stunt today – but the jump between the online and offline worlds will become so seamless that the transitions between the two will progressively become second nature.

Ultimately, the future of commerce is all about selling smarter through omni-channel capabilities, contextual marketing and an O2O2O business model. When all are achieved, retailers can fully understand their customers’ preferences, become more aware of their position in the buying journey, and can actively leverage all sorts of data in determining their consumers’ propensity to making purchases.

Nicholas Kontopoulos is ‎global head of fast growth markets and marketing innovation at SAP Hybris.