Here at Summit we pride ourselves on our forward thinking, and the start of a new year seems the perfect time share our thoughts about the months ahead. Our team of digital and retail experts have put their heads together to bring you Summit’s top predictions for what 2017 will mean for online retailing.

Talking to technology: 2017

Artificial intelligence is changing the way people shop and it will continue to do so throughout 2017. With voice search rapidly growing, it’s clear that people are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of talking to machines. Chat bots are also set to have a huge impact on the buyer journey, helping with shopping, booking and even customer service on brand websites.

As the continual development of such technology changes the buyer journey, brands must learn to adapt to this new user behaviour or risk missing out on huge amounts of sales going forward.

Mobile first – again!

It’s once again the year of the mobile – honestly. In 2016 mobile traffic overtook desktop for the first time, and with Google working on a new mobile-first web index, optimising sites for mobile is now more important than ever before.

The growth of mobile is also changing in-store experiences, with digital store assistance, store maps and location-specific deals rapidly developing the convergence of digital with physical.

Bespoke online experiences

By the end of 2017, brands will be aiming to provide an accurately customised experience which learns from every visit, ensuring that users receive a new and different experience each time they come to a site. This will be achieved with personalised offers on favourite products, suggested items tailored to previous views, searches and purchases, and the surfacing of selected editorial content that will be of interest to each individual. Online shopping will ultimately feel like walking into a store where the staff already know your name, what you like, what you’re looking for and the information you will find most useful.

Convenience is key

Convenience comes hand-in-hand with the growth of mobile and personalisation because users want, and are coming to expect, instant gratification. One-click ordering and other ‘push-button’ services will be huge this year. Amazon’s one-click ordering system and the ability to speak to Siri or Alexa to reorder products are beginning to have a huge impact on customers’ expectations, meaning brands must think differently about the shopping, payment and delivery methods they offer to maintain brand loyalty.

Payment and loyalty

One way brands are striving to meet these new high and instantaneous expectations of consumers is with the use of payment apps. Starbucks is one brand that has proven the success of this in the US. By streamlining their payment process and implementing a loyalty program they generated a 12% rise in revenue, and have collected an invaluable amount of customer data along the way.

Combining this updated payment method with a well-thought-out loyalty scheme is key to ensuring that both the brand and customers benefit from the set-up, while increased personalisation will also help to make payment apps a huge success in 2017.

The faster the better

As a result of this hunger for convenience and speed, brands will need to up their game when it comes to delivery methods. Faster delivery is on the rise, and Amazon Prime has been at the forefront of this change by introducing same-day delivery with local drop-off points. Increasing the flexibility of delivery will eliminate one of the main pain points of the online shopping experience, increasing sales and revenue as a result.

The introduction of local pick-up points may lead to a reduction in the size of stores, with brands having less need to pay for large buildings to house thousands of products and extra stock. The number of store staff required will also decrease as a result, but the sales people who remain will be extremely well informed, using the data available to them to understand their customers and anticipate their needs in ways that have never been possible before.

Selling on social

Social selling has been a hot topic for some time now and we’re yet to see it really take off, but 2017 could be the year that it gains momentum, with social channels under increased pressure from shareholders to diversify their revenue streams. Social selling could help specific products go viral, increasing sales as well as brand and product awareness on a massive scale.

The continued rise of Cyber November

Black Friday and Cyber Monday have grown in popularity over the last few years, and 2016 saw a number of brands extending their price reductions to week-long sales, taking full advantage of the influx of eager bargain-hunters. With the sales period growing each year – from a day, to a weekend, to a week – we predict that this year it will be a month-long event spanning the whole of November.

Co-shopping households

According to the Food Marketing Institute, 58% of households share their grocery shopping responsibilities. Although this trend of basket sharing has a positive effect on sales, it also creates obstacles in the way of grocers understanding their customers. This is likely to cause an even bigger rise in loyalty and reward schemes, as food retailers strive to collect enough data to identify the individual preferences within a household.

AR & VR are becoming a reality

Interactive content such as augmented reality and virtual reality have risen dramatically in popularity over the last 12-18 months. Nintendo’s Pokémon Go game felt like a groundbreaking moment in 2016, and brands will start to harness this technology to deliver meaningful and engaging content to consumers.

With VR headset ownership growing and smartphone possession at record levels, there are great opportunities for incorporating this into a retail strategy; from enabling customers to visualise products in their home before they buy, to delivering interactive experiences in store.

A 2016 study in the US found that 61% of consumers prefer to shop at stores offering augmented reality experiences, while 71% would shop at a retailer more often if it offered AR. With this in mind, immersive content that can be accessed both from the comfort of a consumer’s home and in store could take off as retailers start to realise the potential returns.

These are just some of Summit’s predictions for what looks to be an exciting year ahead, to find out what else we expect 2017 to bring, get in touch with us today.