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Why 2017 will be the year of the e-retailer

2016 proved to be landmark year for online shopping with retailers broadening their service to fulfil the entire cross-channel experience, while shoppers increasingly took to mobile. There is every reason to to be alert for some big behavioural shifts in 2017 that will keep things very interesting for digital marketers.

Simply optimising your mobile site won’t be enough to stand out and thrive in the digital retail battleground. To be a true success story in 2017, here are some growth and development areas to focus on for the coming year.

Think mobile first

In recent years smartphones have become the centre of our lives, both personal and professional, so the rise of mobile shopping is hardly surprising. In 2016 desktop was king for big-ticket purchases, but more and more shoppers are making the move to mobile when purchasing expensive items.

To capture rising mobile Average Order Value, retailers must focus on consumer security and convenience in the mobile checkout process. Ensure a short, simple and beautiful mobile checkout experience for every transaction, and customers will be encouraged to complete their high-dollar shopping journeys on mobile.

In 2017, expect a majority of online retailers to become “mobile first” brands, modeling emerging markets like China. Retailers who are leaders in mobile web maturity see 39 per cent more conversions than the late adopters. Being mobile responsive is no longer sufficient. With mobile becoming the primary digital channel to interact with consumers, retailers must make mobile the priority in their site designs.

Build capabilities to compete with and reduce dependency on digital giants

Invest in technologies that connect online and in-store customer touch points in order to retain their shares of manufacturers’ trade budgets.

In 2017, a growing number of independent companies will enable retailers to pool resources (e.g., share customer data) to better compete with Amazon and decrease dependence on Facebook and Google.

Retailers need to partner with technology companies that can make their products more discoverable online. This may involve sharing data and pooling resources with fellow retailers, but will also help in retaining healthy margins.

Seize the massive opportunity to find new customers through search

In 2017, retailers will invest more in Google Shopping (commonly known as Product Listing Ads, or PLAs) and expand their search capabilities to improve customer discovery and conversions. Retailers should invest in search channels, such as PLAs that primarily address users in the discovery phase, and in technologies that put data behind customer acquisition efforts.

Already marketers in the UK and US are shifting towards this model, with 34 per cent of UK marketers and 47 per cent of US marketers shifting to a PLA-only model.

It’s all about all about working smarter, not harder. This form of optimisation puts a focus on discovery while also putting continued pressure on efficiency, which will become a priority as paid searches get more competitive and advertisers get more sophisticated with segmentation and attribution.

While the world of digital marketing has seen an enormous overhaul in recent years, it appears that retailers are still playing catch up with the market, as consumers continue to demand more. The technology is ready and available, now it’s just time for those who are willing to reach out and grab it. Those that do will own the market in 2017.

Pressy Sankaran is Criteo’s ANZ commercial director. 

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