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10 New eCommerce Trends in 2016: To Improve Your Online Strategy

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Read Time: 8 min

Design trends come and go.

Some trends, like everyone’s favorite parallax, are merely aesthetic. They’re little tweaks here and there that fail to go beyond surface level changes.

Others, however are signs of a bigger trend, one that has the power to impact your bottom line. These are important to keep an eye on, especially if you’re just setting up an eCommerce site for the first time, to make sure you’re creating something that visitors will love. 

Here are ten of those bigger, new eCommerce trends in 2016, that you can expand your online strategy around and see a return on your investment this year.

Ecommerce Trends 2016Ecommerce Trends 2016Ecommerce Trends 2016
eCommerce trends

1. Multi-Device Shopping

It’s hard to imagine that the first iPhone just came out a few years ago. Before then, it was easy to read articles on your mobile device. However anything more complex, like filling out a long contact form or going through a checkout process, would have been largely unthinkable.

Not anymore.

Currently mobile accounts for 40% of all ecommerce revenue and it’s expected to grow up to 70% in just a few years! Even more surprising is how common multi-device shopping has become. For example, people will begin a purchase on one device before switching to another almost 85% of the time!

That means not only does your website need to look (and work) flawlessly on desktops, but mobile and tablets too. The experience needs to be in sync and consistent because many of your shoppers will hop from one device to the other mid-purchase.

Any hiccups along the way can disrupt their sale.

2. Common UI Patterns

Steve Jobs once said something along the lines of, “Design isn’t how something looks. It’s how it works”.

There’s a big difference between art, or a beautiful web design that’s pretty to look at, and the user experience of your website that helps shoppers find what they’re looking for and purchase en masse.

That’s given rise to a huge importance placed on designing the user interfaces (or UI) of your site to make sure that there aren’t any inconsistencies in navigating it. Mainly, that involves reducing friction to make sure people can scan, search, browse, select, and add new products to their cart in a seamless way.

Take a quick view through some of our best selling eCommerce themes of 2016 and you’ll see some of these common elements in play:

Or learn more about the popular and attractive Ella Shopify theme, which has a number of modern eCommerce elements built into its design: 

Ella eCommerce Shopify Theme TrendingElla eCommerce Shopify Theme TrendingElla eCommerce Shopify Theme Trending
Ella - trending eCommerce shopify theme

3. Personalization and Contextual Shopping

Using common UI patterns can help provide your customers with a more consistent experience. However it also means that many sites, including all of your competitors that a customer might see, will begin to resemble one another.

Fortunately, the next big trend is personalization. That means the homepage might change, depending on which products a customer viewed on their last visit.

This type of ‘contextual marketing’ is still in it’s infancy, but is already beginning to make headlines. In fact, 89% of executives are backing ‘customer experience’ as their main point of differentiation.  

For example, Amazon is ahead of the curve on most of these trends, including personalizing their homepage to reflect your prior purchases, searches, and recommendations for similar products.

Personalized Amazon HomepagePersonalized Amazon HomepagePersonalized Amazon Homepage
Personalized Amazon homepage

4. Customized Product Demonstrations

Customizing page content is one thing. But providing interactive product demonstrations is another compelling way to showcase what your products have to offer and how they work.

For example, standing desk company EvoDesk features an interactive online store where you can literally build your desired model over the course of a few minutes.

Customizable product pageCustomizable product pageCustomizable product page
Customizable product page

As you add more features to the initial base product, you get a live demonstration of how the product will actually look and function. This way each consumer knows they're getting the exact product they want, allowing you to put your unique stamp on it.

5. Location Targeting

Last year, mobile internet usage finally surpassed desktop for the first time. That means more people are accessing the internet and browsing around on-the-go than ever before.

One of the most interesting aspects of mobile is the innate integration with a GPS device to pinpoint your location. On that front, it’s no surprise that location-based mobile advertising is expected to expand from $4.3 billion in 2014 up to $18.2 billion in 2019!

Location-based mobile ads are also perfect for aligning your online eCommerce experience with brick-and-mortar stores too. You're able to take advantage of the easier reach and accessibility (on mobile) and leverage that to get them on-site to see more. 

Learn more about location based marketing in our comprehensive tutorial on the subject: 

6. Product Videos

90% (!) of visitors say that watching a video helps them to make a product purchasing decision.

It’s unsurprisingly then that 71% of people also think videos explain products better than plain text. That’s kind of obvious when you think about it, as videos are the best medium (besides in-store) to see what a product looks like, how it works, and how it can help the customer.

The stats overwhelmingly back this up. 73% more people purchase if they watch a product video. The good news is that these videos don't need to be huge, splashy ad campaigns either. 

Customers want to see what they're getting. So show (don't tell) how the product is used, highlighting its use case in context so viewers can immediately grasp the significance or unique features.

7. Multi-Channel Marketing

We live in a multi-device world, where you spend more time on a phone or tablet than in front of a computer. That experience has impacted how we shop online too, with 85% of shoppers starting a purchase on one device and purchasing on another.

They might catch a link while browsing their social feed on their mobile device, remembering to head back to their desktop later to purchase. Or they commonly will add a product to their cart on one device at work before purchasing on their home computer later that day. 

Bottom line, the experience needs to be consistent as the number of shoppers jumping around like this only continues to grow. 

8. Social Media Advertising

Social media advertising gets a bad rap because it historically doesn’t convert as well as Google AdWords (and other ‘direct-response’ style options).

However with new developments like Facebook’s Dynamic Product Ads, eCommerce companies have a powerful new option.

These ads are unique, acting more like retargeting or remarketing ads that pull in data from the products someone viewed on your site a minute ago and reminding them to purchase while later browsing Facebook.

Facebook Dynamic AdsFacebook Dynamic AdsFacebook Dynamic Ads
Facebook Dynamic Ads Template

These ads are also tailor-made for mobile, piggybacking on the growth of mobile advertising mentioned earlier and cutting through the noise by showing relevant, targeted ads at the right time.

The Honest Company has already seen huge improvements, netting a 35% click-through rate increase with a 38% cost reduction at the same time!

9. Marketing Automation

For years, email marketing has dominated other channels like social media for driving real product sales from repeat site visitors.

The results aren’t even close, with social media coming in well under 1% (while email is topping 30%). 

However just as the experience on your website needs to evolve and become more personalized, so too do your email campaigns.

Unfortunately for all of us, consumers are getting more messages than ever before. Their inboxes are overflowing with promotions, so much so that email service providers like Google’s Gmail have begun filtering these things automatically so that most people never see them anymore.

Marketing automation can help. We also have a large collection of perfect eCommerce email templates compatible with multiple popular providers, or browse through our Mailchimp collection: 

Or dig into the versatile Multimail email template, which works with Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, ActiveCampaign, and more popular email systems:   

Multimail email templateMultimail email templateMultimail email template
Multimail email template

10. Flash Promotions

Black Friday used to be just a single day.

But with ever-growing competition among retailers, it’s expanded to span several days now too.

Many popular stores now open on Thanksgiving or Christmas nights, capitalizing on the popularity of these huge shopping days instead of continuing to delay until the next day.

This has spilled over to online retailers too. Forrester research found that over 70% of fourth quarter shoppers are trying to take advantage of these sales and promotions.

These huge shopping periods now span several days, so plan your holiday promotions and email campaigns accordingly.

Apply These Trending eCommerce Strategies

Some design trends are just flashy moments in time; fun to look at but rarely impact your business goals. However these ten examples are here to stay, with their significance only growing in importance over time.

Start experimenting with some of these eCommerce strategies early to put yourself ahead of the curve as they become the mainstream in the second half of 2016 and beyond.

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