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Digital performance – what trends and new technology will shape 2017?

20th December 2016

With mobile dominating online trends throughout 2016, Deri Jones thinkTRIBE’s CEO takes a look at the new trends and technology that could impact digital performance in 2017.

The relentless rise of mobile

The biggest story of the last year or two has been the growing dominance of mobile. It sounds like Groundhog Day but we can all expect more of the same over the next twelve months as consumers continue to favour mobile for browsing and buying. Mobile is outstripping desktop by a margin which means that retailers need to be more proactive than ever in order to ensure that the shopping experience matches the platform.

Google is working on a new, mobile-first web index. Currently, Google’s ranking systems typically evaluate the desktop version of a web page’s content but as mobile pages often have less content, the algorithms aren’t necessarily returning valid results for mobile users. A shift in indexing to mobile versions could downgrade sites that aren’t responsive and aren’t delivering equivalent content across all platforms.

Naturally, this could have a profound implication for some businesses digital performance and means it’s more important than ever to make the mobile experience as holistic as possible. In short, it will be a case of putting mobile first, rather than simply optimising for mobile.

Up close and personal

Retailers, in particular, are also using the data they can capture via marketing tags to enable tailored content to be delivered to customers across the web and via social networks. We believe that the increasing sophistication of this kind of bespoke content will be an important e-commerce trend in 2017, as retailers look to reduce cart abandonment and increase conversions.

From the shopper’s perspective, it means they can have access to unique content based on their own preferences, location and brand interactions – all created automatically. Each visit to a retailer’s site will be even more precisely tailored than the previous one as results are refined with information from every interaction.

There is the potential for this to feel intrusive – hence the growth of apps such as Privacy Badger which block trackers. That said, many consumers enjoy the fact that personalised and relevant recommendations – delivered via platforms like Monetate, Magento 2 and Sitecore – can be tailored from information relating to their online activity and brand interactions.

Platform hopping

And, speaking of platforms – we’re seeing lots of businesses re-platforming to improve digital performance, especially during peak periods. One of the problems with this is that unless a clearly defined process is followed to review platforms based on essential criteria, it can lead to performance issues further down the line. It may be that business drives the search for a new platform but tech teams need to be involved from the outset to avoid unplanned glitches when the chips are down.

Artificial intelligence

Even though we may be a long way from the kind of humanoid robot that might relieve us of some of life’s duller tasks, artificial intelligence has become sophisticated enough to actually be useful in everyday life. Most of us are aware of the existence of digital assistants, such as Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana but 2017 could be the year when many consumers enjoy their first interaction with a chatbot. This fully automated chat agent is ready to answer questions and serve as a brand’s first point of contact. E-commerce brands will need to monitor how these developments change the buyer journey and ensure they’re ready for more widespread use.

Social selling, brand building and unified commerce

Social networks are massively invested in finding fresh ways to bring in revenue as ad load (volume of advertising in relation to page content) is predicted to become less and less effective. Networks like Instagram, Facebook and Google need to diversify their revenue streams and several have been experimenting with a variety of selling options.

In the same way, it’s likely that more global brands will try to form closer bonds with their customer base rather than routeing sales through traditional distribution channels. These D2C (direct-to-consumer) relationships – harmonised across high street stores and online operations will allow manufacturers to control the customer experience and brand interactions from beginning to end.

Unified commerce will see the integration of retailers’ stores (actual or virtual) into a centralised infrastructure. Using platforms like Magento’s Commerce Order Management (MCOM), to centralise systems, retailers will be able to offer consumers the freedom to browse, buy, receive or collect and return products to their own schedule. The idea is that, for the consumer at least, there won’t be a difference between an online store, a high-street store or a Facebook interaction – they’ll simply be interacting with the brand.

In with the new

Of course, all this innovation means that retailers have to devote more resources to ensuring their websites are capable of meeting consumers’ sky-high expectations. If you’d like to learn more about how thinkTRIBE could help you prepare for peak demand through a fully managed service that’s tailored for your operation, get in touch. In the meantime, why not check out our range of services or catch up on our informative blogs.