Year on year, the amount of online purchases in Australia has continued to grow.

According to NAB Online Retail Sales Index: April 2016, online retail spending in Australia increased by 6.6% in the 12 month period to April 2016 to $19.6 billion.

More broadly, it was estimated that at the end of 2015 that 44% of the world’s population had shopped online at some point in the year. It is expected that this number will jump to 50% by 2018.

So what does this mean for small business?

Now that the big brands seem to be getting their e-commerce strategy house in order (or though at the time of writing, Kmart still did not allow for online purchases fully across all product lines!) what will be the key to successful online performance for your business in future?

There are several key trends that you need to be focussed on. For my money they all revolve around the personal experience that you offer.

Regardless of whether it’s about the tech used, what happens during the research or purchase process, or the after sales experience offered, everything will succeed or fail based on the experience the customer has had on their individual buyer journey.

So what are the things to start to become aware of and look to implement in your business?

Here are my top 5 digital buying trends for 2016 and beyond

1. Beacon technology.
What is this you ask? Well think about the movie “Minority Report” and the way the particular items to purchase are flashed on large screens as a person walks past them – each unique to them.

Well this technology is not too far away from becoming a real thing in our shopping experience. The way beacon technology works is that a store can detect a consumer’s mobile phone presence in their physical location (from an app that the consumer has downloaded) and send them a notification of discounts when in store. So not quite the personalised experience of Minority Report (yet!) but one step closer to making the buy process all about me (or all about you!)

2. Social Selling
Have you already seen a buy button placed after a tweet? I have. What about buying from inside your instagram feed? If not yet, you will soon. Social commerce is on its way; it’s not the clunky process that you may have seen in the past, but a seamless process that allows you to browse and buy from within your feed of choice.

Applications like Spreesy will become more and more commonplace allowing store owners to hook up their catalogues and social accounts so that you can buy online from the social channel of your choice.

3. Mobile all the way
How does your buying process work on a phone? Have you bought from yourself lately? Does it work? Really, really work? This needs to be so simple for people and cannot be stressed enough that EVERYTHING needs to be reviewed from the prism of MOBILE FIRST.

Yes I am shouting that as it is so critical to success!

4. Cheap is not enough
OK, so here is something you will be pleased to hear. Being the cheapest, or having free shipping will not be enough to secure the sale. This is good: as all small businesses know, competition on price and offering free shipping for everything simply is not possible.

So how do you differentiate yourself? It will all come down the details of the customer journey. What is the experience of browsing your site, what is the language like in your emails, what kind of after-sale experience do you offer.

With the opportunity to provide after-sales information via email marketing automation, the ability to provide a personalised and pleasant shopping experience online has never been easier. And don’t ever forget that buying online is like buying a present, for yourself. So think about the packaging – how can you make this part of the buying experience resonate with your target audience?

Australian based Birdsnest – still continues to thrive and grow with the most awesome after-sales service and personalised touches of anyone in her niche. She just kills it, over and over again. (And they don’t do free shipping carte blanche either)

5. Storytelling
In a world of seemingly endless things to buy, how do we get our customers to buy from us. By engaging with them. By understanding who are target customers really are and telling them stories that they relate to , within the context of our products and services.

Marketing automation (think ConvertKit, Infusionsoft, Ontraport) are the tools that will allow you to do this. By personalising what customers receive from us to suit them and their situation in email marketing, in particular landing pages, via remarketing allows us to tell stories about our brand and our business that will allow us to connect to our customers.

And you can’t put a price on that.

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