'Net Roundup: Top Retail Trends

By Allison Howen, Associate Editor

Many retailers look forward to reading New Year predictions in January to help steer their business in the right direction for the upcoming year.

Most do this, however, without realizing that it may be more beneficial to look at the trends made popular by the previous year. After all, online shopping trends established in 2015 are already widespread, and retailers who are not keeping pace with these developments are starting 2016 at a disadvantage.

To help retailers start the New Year on the right foot, Website Magazine enlisted the help of six ecommerce professionals to shed light on 2015's most popular trends. Check out what they had to say below:

Attention-Grabbing GIFs

"Ecommerce marketers know that email marketing is a major driver of sales, and the competition for inbox attention reached a whole new level in 2015. To help their emails stand out from the crowd, retailers pulled out all the design stops, especially during the holiday season. For example, they regularly used animated GIFs in really fun and surprising ways. GIFs are incredibly effective at communicating emotion and urgency or adding a little humor and personality."

-Cynthia Price, Director of Marketing at Emma

Flawless Social Customer Service

"This past year the increasing importance and interplay between social and customer service in the ecommerce space has been particularly noticeable. People increasingly seek and expect genuine and meaningful interactions with retailers on social, and brands must continue to find ways to maximize social engagement and customer care."

-Andrew Caravella, VP of Marketing at Sprout Social

Personalized Email Marketing

"When opening their inboxes, consumers don't want to see one-size-fits-all emails. They want emails that are catered to them, specifically. This means retailers must factor in a customer's past behavior - Web browsing, email activity, purchase, as well as preference center data. Using any (and all) of this information for personalizing content, campaign types and much more will ensure a smooth user experience and pave the way to brand advocacy. One way to cater to customers' demand for personalization is through a variety of triggered campaigns because they always deliver timely, relevant and engaging content in response to a consumer's action or declared preference."

-Ivy Shtereva, Director of Marketing at Yesmail

52 Content Marketing Tips

Developing, publishing and promoting content played a huge role in retailers' online strategies in 2015. Discover 52 content marketing tips to increase website traffic at wsm.co/content52.

Big Data for Trend Tracking

"The idea of "big data" resonated with us as well as many other companies in 2015. Tracking trends and data that span multiple work silos and functions is pivotal in improving workflow and working efficiently. There are many options to choose from, but having the correct digital tools to track this information is imperative."

-Leslie Pritchard, Marketing Specialist at CARiD.com

Better Out-of-Stock Functionality

"A trend I saw in 2015 that regrettably was embraced by only a few retailers was true "customer centricity" when it comes to a huge problem: out-of-stocks. The IHL research group estimates that retailers lose $600 billion a year from shoppers finding products unavailable.

"The trend I'm optimistic about is intelligent triggered alerting where customer service reps can merely ask to take an email address for these shoppers to put them in a queue for alerts as soon as there is availability again. Several large retailers innovated in this area this year, meaning we should see a lot more embrace it next year."

-Kim Garretson, CMO at TrackIf

Faster Website Speed

"The ecommerce trends we've noticed the most in 2015 are demand for speed and accuracy. When it comes to speed, page optimization is extremely important. Gone are the days where you can expect to wait 3-5 seconds for a page to load so you can shop. We worked with our clients this year to enable full-page caching and lazy-loading of any non-critical assets."

-Josh Larson, Lead Web Developer at Happy Medium