Top Ecommerce News You Need to Know; Highlights from Pinterest, The National Retail Federation, PricewaterhouseCoopers

Tracey Wallace
Director of Marketing MarkterHire | Former EIC, BigCommerce | Founder, Doris Sleep

February 13, 2015

Happy Friday, everyone! With Valentine’s Day and spring break right around the corner, it’s likely you’ve been filling orders and preparing your store for a seasonal shift in products.

If you’ve fallen a bit behind on ecommerce news and trends for this week, not to worry. Below, everything you need to know before you head into the weekend: Pinterest is laying the groundwork to add a “Buy” button to its consumer experience; the National Retail Federation presents its forecast for 2015, including a prediction that retail sales will jump by 4.1%; and PricewaterhouseCoopers has published updated data on consumer shopping trends, noting that web-to-store shopping experiences amount for at least 15% of all conversions.

Both Startups and Household Name Brands Compete for Social Selling Dominance

Last year, Facebook and Twitter announced plans for “Buy” buttons within each respective social platform, leading many to speculate about the future of social shopping. This week, social shopping platform Fancy landed $20 million in Series D funding, proving the market is still very much investing in socially-driven shopping experiences.

Fancy, often compared to Pinterest, has been somewhat under the radar and keeps its cards close to its chest, though the company is valuated at up to $1.2 billion. As for Pinterest, the social scrapbooking site may very well be turning into a social shopping mall in the near future.

Pinterest insiders say the company is laying groundwork for a launch into ecommerce.

According to Re/code, Pinterest insiders say the company is laying groundwork for a launch into ecommerce with a “Buy” button similar to those found on other social media sites. In fact, the company rolled out an “Install” button on Wednesday, offering Pinterest’s first truly actionable pin that downloads an app to a user’s phone without that user needing to leave the Pinterest platform.

The “Buy” button would function similarly, allowing users to buy items without leaving the platform, ultimately reducing the time between finding a product you like and actually purchasing it. It’s likely Pinterest would use payment processor Stripe to power the new “Buy” button.

“Despite coming late to the game, Pinterest has an advantage over Facebook and Twitter because its users are already coming to the site to find new products,” wrote Re/code reporter Jason Del Rey. “Its user base is also larger than any of the startup apps [Fancy, Wish or Wanelo]. The challenge will be managing its users’ expectations, as it probably won’t hold any inventory of the products being sold.”

Social shopping may also take a niche route to industry-wide adoption.

Social shopping may also take a niche route to industry-wide adoption. This week, 3-year-old wedding planning site Loverly announced its plans to launch an ecommerce line based on what brides on the platform like the most. Loverly has occasionally been described as a Pinterest for wedding planning, and the data collected on the platform has given deep insights to the growing startup.

“We have real-time insights into what’s trending in bridal,” said Loverly founder and CEO Kellee Khalil. “As a search and discovery platform, we gain valuable insights into not only what our users are searching for but also what they aren’t finding. The Loverly Collection taps that data while leveraging our brand affinity to create wedding must-haves today’s millennial brides and bridesmaids have been waiting for.”

Looks like the race to win social shopping loyalty is on.

January Sales Declined for Second Month in a Row; Retail Forecasts Still Strong for 2015

The National Retail Federation announced on Thursday that it expects retail sales to jump this year by 4.1%, due in large part to lower gas prices, rising wages and increased job growth in the U.S.

“The consumer is feeling a bit better — consumer sentiment is at record levels, there are improving prospects for jobs, gas prices for now remain low,” Matt Shay, NRF CEO said on a briefing with the media. “The ingredients are there for a more sustained and robust expansion.”

Consumer sentiment is at record levels. There are improving prospects for jobs and gas prices for now remain low.

Yet, despite these expectations, January’s numbers weren’t reflective of any positive sales data for retailers. In fact, spending remained sluggish last month, with many economists suspecting consumers used extra money saved at the gas pump to pay down debt.

Overall retail sales slipped 0.8% in January, declining for the second month in a row. Beyond a poor January performance, though, analysts aren’t backing down from their positive 2015 forecasts.

“Should we be worried about the weakness of underlying sales over the past two months? Possibly,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. “But all the conditions are in place for a period of very strong consumption growth. We still expect to see that strength come through in the retail sales data soon.”

Consumers Prefer Brands with Both Both Brick-and-Mortar and Ecommerce Presence

According to a study published this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the amount of research performed by consumers before buying a product has increased significantly across all categories since 2013. In fact, web-to-store shopping experiences, in which a consumer researches a product online and then buys in-store, amount for at least 15% of all conversions for some industries, and up to 36% for others.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 5.51.07 PM

This trend in online research and in-store buying is creating what many are calling “Webrooming.” By the time consumers get to a physical store, they already know what they want and are in a “get in and get out” mindframe. This is making upselling particularly challenging for sales associates at brick-and-mortar stores.

On the other hand, the trend is proving the importance of having both a digital and physical store presence. While only 7% of retail sales in the U.S. occur online, it’s clear that shoppers are using online stores to compare prices and product reviews.

7% of retail sales in the U.S. occur online.

By and large, consumers still prefer to shop in-store. According to the PwC study, nearly 40% of consumers make purchases inside a physical store at least once a week, compared to just 27% who do the same online. While this is good news for brick-and-mortar stores, the ability to find products online before buying them in person highlights the importance of local SEO.

In all, it is becoming more and more clear that consumer purchasing habits favor those businesses with both physical and digital options.

For more ecommerce news and updates, follow us on Twitter, sign up for our newsletter or add our RSS feed to your Feedly account.

Photo: Flickr, Esther Vargas