As merchants gather their bearings from 2012’s busiest shopping season, they must also get prepared for the new trends, technologies and channels that will undoubtedly impact their digital stores in 2013.
In 2012, for example, merchants not only had to revamp their Facebook profiles due to the Timeline layout, but many also built a social presence on emerging networks like Google+ and Pinterest. Moreover, mobile, localization and targeting consumers based on their behaviors were also among 2012's top e-commerce trends. Discover more about these topics and other important events that impacted e-commerce this year below:
January – Social Advertising Gains Momentum
At the very beginning of 2012, a comScore study revealed that social networking sites reach 82 percent of the world’s online population, which means that these sites have become more than just a way to communicate with customers. In fact, the study named Facebook as the largest publisher of U.S. display ad impressions. This is most likely because Facebook advertising is not only easy to use, but also affordable for all sizes of businesses.
February – Commerce Gets Personal
Data made a huge impact in 2012 and is expected to continue gaining momentum in 2013. This is because merchants can use customer data to better target and segment consumers. For example, Hats in the Belfry's e-commerce site leveraged behavioral commerce platform Steelhouse to target customers browsing on their site in real time, and saw average order values increase 95 percent. Additionally, email solutions provider Listrak also launched a Post Purchase Solution, which helps merchants create behavioral targeted email campaigns based on customer purchase history data.
March – Facebook Timeline Launches
Although most of the general public was not thrilled about Facebook’s Timeline design, the change proved fruitful for businesses. In fact, the new layout increased fan engagement by an average of 46 percent, according to Simply Measured. The new design required Business Pages to add a cover photo to their profile, as well as gave Page managers the options of customizing their app section, pinning posts and highlighting content.
April – Magento Merchants Go Mobile
The Imagine eCommerce Conference brought a host of new updates to Magento merchants that focused on improving the mobile shopping experience. One of the biggest updates was the integration of HTML5 into Magento Mobile, which includes gesture-based controls, multi-touch and image scaling, as well as device-specific audio and video capabilities. Other features, such as improved search functionality and the ability for consumers to drag and drop products into the shopping cart, also help merchants build a user-friendly mobile shopping experience.
May – Google+ Goes Local
Google not only made waves in 2012 by launching a massive redesign of Google+ in April, but by also integrating local features into the social network the following month. The local update allows users to discover information about nearby places, including scores and reviews from Zagat. Furthermore, the update makes is easier for businesses on Google+ to gain additional visibility on the Web.
June – Google Launches Product Listing Ads
In 2012, Google was busy not only revamping its social network but also dabbling in the commerce industry. In fact, the search engine giant launched a beta version of Google Shopping, which allows merchants to pay to list products within the search engine results pages. These Product Listing Ads (PLA) include a photo and description of an item and are only featured when someone conducts a specific product-related search.
July – Pinterest Proves its Profitability
Pinterest has remained controversial in regards to how much it actually influences consumers and their purchasing decisions, however, a study from Shareaholic shows that Pinterest directs more referral traffic than Twitter, Google, StumbleUpon and Bing. This proves that merchants can gain traffic by maintaining a presence and promoting their products on this visually driven social network. Moreover, Pinterest proved its commitment to merchants in late November, when it finally launched verified Business Pages.
August – Consumers Ask for Social Login
Social login was a hot topic in 2012 because many consumers suffer from Password Fatigue, meaning they have too many passwords to remember daily. Password Fatigue can result in consumers choosing to not become a member of a site because of the simple fact that they will need to remember an additional username and password. In fact, a Janrain and Harris Interactive study revealed that 38 percent of respondents would rather undertake household chores than have to create another online identity. Luckily, merchants can integrate social login functionality, which enables consumers to login with existing social profile credentials, into their sites from providers like Janrain, AddThis or Gigya.
September – Facebook Offers Opens to Everyone
Facebook took aim at the daily deals industry earlier this year with the test launch of Facebook Offers, which the world’s largest social network made available to all Facebook Pages in September. This feature enables merchants to create and promote a limited-time sale that fans can redeem online or at brick-and-mortar stores. It is important to note that merchants have the ability to customize their Offers with details like headlines, images and bar codes.
October – eBay's Redesign is Picture Perfect
One of the Web’s most popular marketplaces, eBay, launched a robust redesign along with a few other updates to help improve user-engagement metrics on the site. The most noticeable update was the eBay Feed, which provides users with a personalized page of items displayed in a Pinterest-style layout of image tiles. Additionally, the company also launched a new daily deal section, called Lifestyle Deal, which offers service-based deals to customers.
November – Merchants Get Found with Amazon Business Pages
The ’Net’s largest retailer unveiled Amazon Pages last month, which is a self-serve, brand-specific Web page at Amazon.com that functions as a custom landing page. This service could prove to be very profitable for merchants, because it promotes their products to millions of Amazon viewers and buyers.
December – Facebook Jumps into Local Search
Facebook updated its “Nearby” feature right before Christmas, which makes it easier for iOS and Android users to discover places while on the go. This feature should prove to be very valuable to merchants because it can help them gain visibility and increase foot traffic in local brick-and-mortar locations.