The strategist's view: Ecommerce trends for 2014


By: Danny Meadows-Klue

From Amazon's upcoming 'pantry' food deliveries to Apple's iBeacons steering shoppers around stores - 2014 will mark a major leap forward for ecommerce. In this sector report, we summarise the biggest trends, research and stories that will shape online shopping in 2014.

Danny Meadows-KlueNeed to know what the future looks like in your market? Simply look at the recent collapse of movie rental firm Blockbuster: the world's shoppers are going digital fast, and it's services like travel and digital content that simply feel it first.

On the high street, revenues are shrinking, and online the retail powerhouses of Amazon and eBay have cemented their positions: revamping their technology and ad platforms for smarter targeting; implementing predictive modelling; reducing abandoned shopping carts; and increasing their ranges. The speed they move terrifies traditional retailers, and even the traditional stores who were first with simple ecommerce sites have much to be scared of.

Thinking like a digital specialist means designing your organisation around the ecommerce model, with teams of experts working on cost-effective customer acquisition to pull people into the store, and others working on retention strategies to bring them back. Engineering is almost always in-house, and that gives agility and flexibility to be constantly (daily) trying out new ways to optimise the platform and boost sales or margins.

Google's latest mobile tracking is unlocking the vital link between browsing online and shopping in-store, and in 2014 this will unlock a stepchange in shopper attribution. Did those banners or paid search really drive the person to buy? You'll finally know.

Across many developed markets, multi-channel shopping is also living up to the hype, with consumers using stores as showrooms to buy products cheaper online. Smart retailers will see this as an opportunity rather than a threat, locking in their shoppers with loyalty schemes, integrated online and offline offerings, and added value web content and services that aid the buying experience.

In the US, Apple's iBeacon is starting to take off. It's one of the technologies to watch, because whenever tech firms with the footprint of Apple open up a new approach, the scalability is guaranteed. It's not yet clear whether consumers and marketers will really want and use the technology, but US retailers using this alternative to near-field communication will learn fast. Our take is that if the consumer offer is smart - valuable rewards for users for browsing items in-store, big discounts, and genuinely useful information - then it will become mainstream in the US by mid-2015 with other markets following.

In 2014, global e-commerce sales should top $1.4 trillion. It's a massive number, but it's the geography that tells a more interesting story. The growth is coming from across Asia, where consumers are changing their shopping habits much faster than European consumers did in the first wave of ecommerce over 10 years ago. Expect dramatic shifts in market share, and some big casualties along the way.

Shoppers today are looking for rich, personalised shopping experiences, and retailers must reassess both how they sell and what they sell if they are to be the ones that thrive. This means adding content to the retail opportunity that builds stronger value in the consumer's mind, as well as having brilliant functionality to make it easy to build lists of useful items, plan activities, and make the purchase. Multi-channel retailers could still have a competitive edge if they (and their shareholders) are able to take a longer term view.

And the biggest battle ground of all in 2014? Just the same as last year - it's all about making smarter use of consumer data: without a data strategy there is no ecommerce strategy.

Danny Meadows-Klue is the founder of the Digital Strategy Consulting group that advises brands and companies on their social media strategy. He is a Commissioner for the regulation of marketing in the UK, and President of the Digital Training Academy where his team train marketers on best practice for digital marketing, and design processes for organisations using digital channels. You can reach him at

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