This won’t be just another trends article that brushes on speculations.
I've read those too. And I agree- most of them make you wonder about how fast the industry is progressing.
In this post, the focus won't be just on predicting trends that may/may not happen. The focus will be on showing you what trends will sweep over the eCommerce industry in 2018, and how you can take advantage of them today.
I'll be covering three areas of each trend:
- What the trend is
- The data backing it, and
- How ecommerce marketers can take advantage of them
Let's dive right in:
- Voice Search Share Will Increase
- Augmented Reality for Improved Ecommerce UX
- Video Will Go Into Mainstream Content Strategies of Ecommerce Brands
- Amazon will become a big player in digital advertising
- Widespread Adoption of Crypto Payment Processors
1.Voice Search Share Will Increase
Voice search is growing at an alarming rate, and there are several stats pointing this out:
ComScore reported that 50% of search will be via voice by 2020. And FYI- that's just two years ahead. We're looking at a drastic change in how we use the internet and consume and interact with content.
And the growth of voice search proves this stat- Deloitte reports that 11% of smartphone users use voice search regularly, and more than half of them started using them a year back. And Google's stats show that 20% of searches within the US al=re already via voice.
The argument that the tech to support voice search isn't ready yet isn't true either.
Usage of voice assistants is rapidly growing. HubSpot, in their State of Inbound 2017 report, says that 37% use Siri, 23% use Microsoft’s Cortana AI, and 19% use Amazon’s Alexa AI at least monthly.
And about voice assistants- CIRP reports that 5.1 million units of smart speakers have been sold by Amazon since their launch in 2014. Half a million units of Google Home were shipped in 2016 alone.
And now you might be wondering:
The tech is coming, and the tech is selling, but will people actually switch to voice?
I thought so too until I came across this post from Geomarketing that showed how 65 percent of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine to going back to the days before they had a smart speaker. 42 percent of the same group say the voice-activated devices have quickly become “essential” to their lives.
It isn't surprising. The average typing speed is 40 words a minute. The average speech rate is 150 words per minute. You can get your question answered way faster by voice.
The only issue in the past was nasty errors and inability of the voice assistants to understand complex terms and phrases. And that's changing too:
Google is now reporting an almost human level accuracy for their AI- 95%.
Now, onto how this affects us marketers.
And here's an interesting fact:
Voice search is 3x more likely to have a local focus than normal text searches. Attention local businesses!
And guess what?
Voice search doesn't really exist.
What we all see and use as voice text today is simple voice-text search where our voice is converted into text and then processed the same way as any text search.
And this is exactly how we marketers can capitalize on this trend:
Ever wondered where Google pulls all that data when someone asks a question to the Google Voice Assistant? It's mostly from search snippets.
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) October 4, 2016
If Google's doing it that way, I can guarantee that Amazon and Apple are doing it that way too with Echo and Siri.
But first, what is a featured snippet?
A featured snippet is simply a block of text that answers a user's query right from the SERP. This data or text is pulled from websites that are optimized for that query (mostly already ranking in the top 10).
Take a look at the below example when we search for “what is matcha good for”
Notice how the Featured Snippet of Natural Living Ideas is ranking above the #1 listing? Studies show that a featured snippet listing can capture anywhere upto 50% of the clicks for a keyword. To put that into perspective, the #1 position receives 33% of clicks on average for a search.
It's estimated that Google shows featured snippets for about one-third of all searches. High-time to start capturing those snippets don't you think?
You guessed right.
Optimising for search snippets and questions is the best thing you can do right now to capitalize on the voice search trend.
And here's how you do it:
How to Find and Get Featured Snippets
Let's start with the structuring.
There are three types of featured snippets.
- Paragraph snippets, where the answer to the searched query is presented in a box with or without an image. The above screenshot shows a paragraph snippet.
- List snippets that are mostly used to answer DIY processes or steps to do something
- Table snippets that display data as a table.
Now, before we get into the real optimisation process, let's take a look at the stats:
- Featured snippets are 45 words on average.
- Google shows featured snippets mostly for conversational what, why, when, how and long tail queries (and most voice queries fall into these categories too)
- Ahrefs reports that more than 99% of all featured snippets are from websites already ranking in the top 10
- There are certain types of queries that get the most feature snippets in the results:
- Mathematical Queries
- Finance or Economics Related
- Health Queries
How to Identify Opportunities
You can go about identifying opportunities for features snippets in your niche in three ways:
Find out low-hanging fruit
Remember the Ahrefs study that we talked about above stating only results in the top 10 getting featured snippet placements?
Well, you can always find ranking positions for your existing content from Google search console:
Let's take a look at the search console data for Ecommerce Platforms as an example:
Login to Google Search Console and open the Search Analytics tab in Search Traffic.
Check Clicks, Impressions, CTR, and Position:
You'll be able to see the queries for which you rank well, and the CTR and impressions data.
Let's export the whole thing:
And then import it into Google Sheets(or Excel). Let's also filter the impressions column for queries that have impressions greater than 1000. You can alternatively just sort the impressions column Z-A and delete all the rows that have impressions lower than 1000.
Now- why do we filter for impressions?
Impressions are the views a particular query gets. Note that even if a user doesn't ‘see' your result, it's counted as an impression if your search engine listing is somewhere on the SERP page for that query. So in essence, you can relate it to the search volume for that query.
Optimizing existing posts for feature snippets takes time, and we don't want to optimize for queries that get a low search volume, do we?
The next step is to filter/remove queries for which we have a CTR greater than 50%.
Because we may already have featured snippets for these queries.
We have featured snippets for all the three highlighted queries- notice how the CTRs are high for them?
Now, you have a
The ones at the bottom of the list are the queries where you're missing the most traffic out on. These are queries where you're at the top of the SERPs and have a feature snippet right above you just because someone ranking below you optimized their content for snippets.
2. Find out good queries and long tail keywords that have featured snippets in the SERPs.
We first gather a list of keywords that we can create content around and rank for.
And there are several ways to do this. But we're growth hackers, and we like to work smart, so I'll show you how we can steal keywords from our competitors. We've written about this in the past in our post on growing traffic to ecommerce stores using Semrush, and now I'll show to how to this with Ahrefs- step by step.
First, let's gather a list of our competitors:
Use the Competing domains section in Ahrefs Site Explorer to find your immediate competitors based on Ahrefs keyword data:
This pulls up a long list of all our competitors:
Go through each website one by one, take a look at the content on their blog, and decide if they're a valid competitor. Sometimes, some irrelevant sites (like Financesonline above) may creep into your list simply because you both rank for some keywords.
In case Ahrefs doesn't show a lot of competitors because you don't have a lot of content on your website, all you need to do is check the Competing domains section in Ahrefs Site Explorer for the websites that Ahrefs shows you, and you'll get relevant competing domains. Nifty, huh ?
You can also use the “Related:yourdomain.com” search engine operator to find related websites in your niche, but I prefer the Ahrefs way, because IMO it returns more relevant results.
I then add all the relevant competing domains to a list. Aim for alteast 50 competing domains.
The next step is to mine the relevant keywords that these domains are ranking for with content.
Head over to the Batch Analysis tool in the More tab at the top, and copy/paste the competitor list you just collected into the box, and click Start Analysis.
Now, look for domains with DRs (Domain Rating) with a value that is within the + 10 range of your own domain's Ahrefs DR value.
For example, Ecommerce Platforms has a DR of 59, so I'd look for any competitors in the 49-69 range.
And why do we do this?
Because just by finding a good keyword, we might not be able to rank for them. Many of our competitors may have very authoritative domains and backlink profiles. An example of such a competitor in our case would be Shopify.
By finding which competitors have keywords in the vicinity of ours, we have a good chance of ranking for those keywords is our content is good enough. And remember- we need to rank in the top 10 if we want to capture the features snippet.
Based on the number of competitor domains you've collected you can manually eliminate domains from your list based on the above DR criteria. Since I plan content for several months in advance (and because I'm super lazy), I collect large lists of competitors and use the ‘Export' feature in the Batch Analysis section to export the DRs of all my competitors and just sort and delete the high DR or low DR ones using Google Sheets.
Now that we have a good list of competitors, let's snipe keywords of these competitors one by one. Let's try to snipe the keywords of Shopify for this example:
This pulls up all the top content for Shopify that drive a lot of traffic to their website. There are two things you need to do next:
- filter for traffic: As long as your niche doesn't sell super-high ticket products, you don't want keywords/queries that have below say, 50 searches per month at least (the low search volume ranges in between 100-300 will have a lot of long-tail keyword variations in them)
- export the data
For example, for the Ecommerce Platforms blog, this is how I would filter, and export:
After you're done exporting, import it again into Google sheets (or open it in Excel):
You seeing what I'm seeing?
Ahrefs just handed you all the keywords that Shopify has a featured snippet for on a silver platter. If you sort that column- Page URL inside A-Z, you can get a list of all the keywords for which Shopify has a featured snippet for.
Imagine the number of keywords you'll have when you comb through the Top pages report for all the competitors in your list!
Now, we have a huge list of keywords and queries that have feature snippets, let's take a look at some killer optimization strategies that you can use to get those featured snippets:
How to Optimize Your Content for Featured Snippets
Here's how you should optimize your content:
Format them the right way( as paragraphs, lists or tables)
The first step in optimizing your content for all those featured snippets is to format it the right way.
Remember when I told you there are three types of snippets?
They're paragraph, list, and table.
If you're optimizing for, say, paragraph snippets, your answer (which is what'll appear in the featured snippet box) will obviously have to be within a <p> tag.
Paragraph snippets would usually only contain text that answers the query, but in paragraph containers (<p>) only.
So go ahead and add a relevant question/query to your content, and answer the question in a paragraph right below it in <p> tags. Simple.
In the same way, you need to format your content as bulleted lists or tables below a relevant question/query respectively for list snippets or table snippets.
2. Use H2 and H3 header tags properly
This is a problem that I have too, consistently. At times, I feel too lazy to go through a lengthy post and structure the headers correctly.
The thing is- h2 and h3 headers are super important for SEO. Google uses them to understand your content more, and now they're also using them for featured snippets.
If you're optimizing a list post, make sure all the points on the list are H2 or H3 tags. This can get you a featured snippet with the header tags as the points in a list snippet.
3. Add summary sections at the top of blog posts
You can capture a lot of featured snippets simply by adding a short summary section at the topic that summarizes the content of the entire posts in lists or paragraphs.
Have you noticed how most skyscraper list posts that are well over 3000 words have summary sections at the top with anchor links to each list item?
These aren't just to make it easier to navigate. They're also for getting a featured snippet.
Add a summary section at the top of all your long-form posts, period.
4. Create Youtube videos with descriptions.
Seems Google loves to pull video descriptions for featured snippets.
Ahrefs found that YouTube is the #7 most “featured” website:
And these aren't the big knowledge graph panels when you search for Bieber videos (no offense), Youtube has featured snippets for keywords like these:
Guess where the paragraph is from?
You're right- the video description:
So create videos (more on this later), upload them on Youtube, and write descriptions that answer the query!
Wow- now that was actionable wasn't it? The best part of the above strategy is that you can use them to identify and capture voice search traffic for transactional queries with high buyer intent 🙂
Let's move on to the next trend that'll shape ecommerce in 2018:
2. Augmented Reality for Improved Ecommerce UX
I agree- there's been a lot of hype around AR and Augmented Reality ever since the technology was introduced to the market a few years back.
But imagine this:
What if you could give your customers a storelike shopping experience with virtual reality?
And Ikea is one of the first brands in the world to brilliantly employ this innovation:
They've used augmented reality to offer customers the ability to see what they're home would look like if they had the furniture in there. Genius.
And this is just the start.
Imagine the possible innovations in this area. I can think of hundreds of opportunities in the fashion industry alone.
You could see how that new pair of Rayban aviators would look on your face. You could quickly find out what size of clothing would fit you. You could see how those green chinos would blend in with that red blazer you just bought. The possibilities are endless.
How to Deliver an AR experience for your Customers
3. Video Will Go Into Mainstream Content Strategies of Ecommerce Brands
I actually wanted to use this as the #1 trend but decided not to for a simple reason: the trend has been constant for a few years now.
Video can't be ignored. CISCO, in their VNI Complete Forecast, predicts that 80% of all internet traffic will be video.
I'll repeat that: 80% of ALL internet traffic will be video. That trumps every other content type you can imagine.
The data is clear, and let me ask you a simple question:
How much video do you use in your content marketing strategy?
Well, the data shows that you should be doing this a lot.
How to Get Started With Video Content Marketing
Getting started is easy. There are tons of free tools out there that you can start using today?
Here's an example:
I created the above video using Lumen5. It allows you to create simple videos easily from existing blog posts for free. And guess what- several press biggies like Entrepreneur and Inc are using similar tools to automate video content creation.
Here's how you can use Lumen5 to create a video:
- Enter the URL of a post for which you'd like a video created:
After you add a URL, Lumen5 will pull up all the text from the post, and display it in a touch-to-select Storyboard editor screen that looks like this:
All you need to do is click on sentences from the left section, and Lumen5 will add it as a selector to the left Storyboard section where you'll have the option to edit it.
You'll also have the option to see how the video will look like during this by clicking on the “Preview” button at the top right.
After you create the Storyboard by selecting sentences from your post, click on Continue at the top, and Lumen5 will start generating the video:
After the video is generated, you'll have the option to add images to slides and add any music or branding:
You can add images from your posts, Lumen5's database of free images and icons or upload others to illustrate each slide in your video.
You also have the option to add music from their library, or upload your own:
After you're done, click on Continue at the top.
You can publish videos in two formats:
Without frame and with a frame as shown in the screenshot (now you know how all those captioned facebook videos were created):
Wasn't that pretty easy? You can use such videos for amplifying your reach on social and for repurposing your existing content for other channels.
Besides that, we've always been proponents of video descriptions for ecommerce stores. They're better for both UX and SEO, and the video will also provide another avenue for traffic.
The next trend, which IMO is a growing monopoly than a trend:
4. Amazon will become a big player in digital advertising
Spoiler: This isn't because Jeff Bezos recently became the World's richest man.
It's because over the past few years Amazon has expanded their product line to include more avenues for marketing than you can comprehend.
Google is the undisputed king in online advertising. No question with that.
But over the past few years with the introduction of logistic centers and Prime, Amazon has been able to build trust among its users- and not just in the US, but all over the world where they have a presence. Amazon offers hassle-free returns and has a very widespread logistics network that results in quick delivery times.
Google used to be at the top f the buying funnel in the past. Users would search in Google for product recommendations and reviews and then buy.
But Amazon has turned the tables by building trust and options over the years. Many users now search on Amazon first, and if they're unable to find good options, they use Google. This very trend worries Google a lot.
And in between all this, Amazon has been slowly building a digital advertising network behind the scenes far advanced than that of Google.
Think of Amazon's product line:
They've got Twitch TV, Audible, Prime, Kindle, Amazon Home Services, Alexa, Prime day (more on why this a product line later), Dash button, and Echo.
Most of us look at these as a product line up.
They're advertising channels that are targeted at each step of the sales funnel.
For the awareness level, they've got Twitch TV, Audible and the robust Amazon display network.
For the discovery level, they've got Kindle and Fire ads, Amazon Prime Now and Home Services.
For the sales level, they've got Alexa Deals, Amazon coupons and discount codes, and events (Amazon Prime).
For retention, they've got options like subscribe and save, Echo skills and the dash button that growing in popularity.
Their network is still in infancy, but if you're in the ecommerce space, you need to get into Amazon's network asap.
The only way for this is to get super savvy about Amazon's budding marketing channels fast.
Here's an actionable checklist you can follow:
1. Get started with Amazon display advertising fast:
Head over to Amazon Marketing Services and register your brand/agency on the display ad platform.
You can then select a product, and set your bids and define target segments to start your ad campaign.
The Amazon Marketing Services platform essentially allows you to run pay-per-click ads right on Amazon.com. and this can be a good option if you sell physical products.
They offer two types of targeting:
- Keyword targeting: They'll give you suggestions for the best keywords to bid on based on the search and shopping history of customers.
- Product targeting: You can simply select products similar or related to your own and target that way.
They're also offering 100 USD in free credits for new advertisers.
2. Start using Amazon Advertising Solutions
While Amazon Marketing Services is primarily targeted at product sellers, AAS has options for advertising all types of brands.
Here are some examples on how you can use the platform to sell more:
a. Increase book sales:
This is one of the well-kept secrets among publishers, but Amazon provides a dizzying range of marketing options for books.
Here are some options the platform provides you if you want to sell more books:
1. Promote titles alongside similar books and authors
2. You can feature new releases to start driving sales as soon as they publish
3. You can run continuous blacklist campaigns so that you can attract new readers all the time ( this one is gold).
4. Targeting options based on keywords, genres, titles, and authors.
b. Increase app downloads:
I bet you didn't know you could advertise apps on Amazon. Well, I didn't.
They have two options for app advertising. You can either use self-serve ads that are displayed on Fire and Android devices:
Or opt for premium ads to boost your install rates. Premium ads cover additional channels like Amazon Prime, besides Android, Kindle and iOS devices:
c. Advertise external brands:
Besides allowing you to boost sales of products listed on the Amazon store, they also allow you to drive traffic outside to your own website for selling off of Amazon.
In addition to traditional display and video placements on Amazon like shown in the screenshot below, they also allow you to advertise on partner websites like IMDB, and also offer some unique offline options like lockers, boxes and more.
While the options are all available, you wouldn't want to get into this one just yet, because the entry fee is prohibitive.
External brand advertising campaigns are managed by an Amazon Advertising consultant and require a budget of $35,000 or more in the US. Besides they only offer advertising options in 8 countries as of now: US, Canada, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Japan.
Want to learn more right away? Here's the Webinar archive from Amazon where they walk you through the features and all the targeting.
5. Widespread Adoption of Crypto Payment Processors
At the time of writing this post, Bitcoin is all the rage, and usage of all cryptocurrencies are spiking at an alarming rate.
We've talked about why you need to start accepting Bitcoin payments on your store and how to do it, but let's set all that aside and look at the facts:
The blockchain is here to stay. Cryptocurrencies are going to survive as long as the blockchain survives. Never before has a decentralized ledger concept gained so much traction before.
Bitcoin may or may not be a bubble, but almost all the major cryptocurrencies are seeing explosive growth. It could be called a fad if it was something that crept up recently. But cryptocurrencies have been around for 8 years now, and they've only grown.
Its high time you capitalize on this trend.
And I'd like to emphasize on this: Crypto commerce may not be a trend in 2019. But it's sure is one of the top trends that will affect ecommerce as a whole in 2018.
Start accepting crypto payments on your store. I'd love to show you how to do it step by step, but I've already done that here:
That sums up the Ecommerce Platforms official ecommerce trends report for 2018. While we don't guarantee that these will be pathbreaking trends that transform the industry this year, we do guarantee that these trends will play a major role this year in shaping ecommerce for the better- more reach for us marketers, and more options for our customers.
What trends do you think will shape eCommerce in 2018? Share your opinions in the comments below!
Feature image by Dimitrii