Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we looked at the history of ecommerce, and explained a little bit about what it means for your store. For today’s post, we invited entrepreneur and business strategy consultant Sramana Mitra to discuss her vision of the future of ecommerce and share some of her tips to make ensure your store is ready. Check out her latest book, From eCommerce To Web 3.0: How To Leverage The Evolution Of The Internet, released last week.

Ecommerce is booming. With the tremendous penetration of smart phones around the world, both merchants and buyers are increasing in number. Ecommerce is also evolving. Here are five trends that a storeowner should keep an eye on, in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve:

1. Content Marketing

Once upon a time, the best way to build a brand was via advertising. That has changed, as the Internet evolved. Today, the best way to build a brand is by publishing great content. This domain has come to be known as Content Marketing. Let me refer you to a case study to understand the phenomenon better. JackThreads is a men’s fashion e-commerce merchant that chose to merge with a men’s fashion content company, Thrillist, to take advantage of the trend. Read more here.

2. Context-specific personalization & Vertical Search

More stores are focused on a niche. They should be. In the context of that niche, what are the personalization needs of the customers? Some of the personalization needs can be addressed by using vertical search interfaces, while more sophisticated personalization is achieved by inserting recommendation engines in the back-end. Let’s look at, a top 100 online retailer that has recently been acquired by Home Depot. understood early on in their history that customers have specific types of needs that can be clustered and their site navigation reflected that understanding. Read more here.

3. Social buying behaviors

Taking advantage of social media is table stakes in e-commerce these days. But how do you tackle the subtleties? One of the best case studies I have seen is a children’s apparel store, Smocked Auctions, that has done a phenomenal job of engaging their community of Facebook fans in comment-selling. Read more here.

4. International buyers

Start looking outside the United States for customers. Whatever niche you choose to focus on, check if there are international buyers who may give you an expanded market. Cross-border e-commerce companies offer channel partnerships. Here are some examples to study: Bay.Ru caters to Russian customers with a base in Chicago. Also look at Oransi, a company that is successfully selling to the Chinese market to understand how it can be done.

5. Mobile buying behaviors

By now, you have read about the mobile commerce trends. Customers are spending huge amounts of time on mobile devices, and consequently, mobile shopping is on the rise. Certain markets operate primarily on the mobile platforms. Site navigation design using personalization and vertical search become all the more critical when you are looking at a small screen. The more precise you can be in showing customers what they are looking for, the more likely you will score a sale.

 To take advantage of this, here are some actionable steps:

  1. Position your store precisely so that your context is crystal clear.
  2. Your content strategy needs to flow from that positioning.
  3. Merchandising is one of the key drivers of commerce, so you need to get that right.
  4. Figure out how your community behaves in your context, and accordingly develop your strategy for engaging them.
  5. Design a simple, well thought through user interface that takes into account how customers search for merchandise in your context.
  6. Derive a personalization strategy by following that logic further.

Hope this helps. Good luck!

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