Online retailers went out on a higher than a high note in 2017. These retailers racked up $5 billion in sales on “Black Friday” alone. Granted that, sales figures were active in the retail industry throughout the holiday season, but the most significant areas of growth we saw online. The year 2018 promises to be even more amazing for ecommerce, with new transactions shifting to the ‘net and additional categories of goods seeing online sales growth. There are opportunities for all retailers, but making early plans and preparations will be vital to being successful. Here are several predictions of what’s next for ecommerce in 2018. Email Becomes a More Powerful Sales Channel It’s an essential but unacknowledged fact that email drives more online sales than all of the social media. Email advertising makes it easy to deliver bold, customized, highly targeted messages and drive a lot of traffic to the intended landing page. Brands will rely more heavily on this channel in 2018 and turn emails into “mini-stores” of their own. Customers will be able to complete purchases within the email and engage with other interactive elements, a strategy already being used by online clothing retailer Rebel. Customer Experience Dominates The quality of the customer experience is central to success in online sales, but retailers often struggle to present a synthesized and consistent message. Departments will increasingly work together to ensure their messaging, interfaces, prices, and sales strategies are aligned online, on mobile, and in brick and mortar stores. Taking an integrated approach is becoming increasingly vital to delivering the consistency and customization online shoppers expect. Augmented Reality Becomes A Sales Tool Augmented reality technologies, blending inputs from the real and digital worlds are becoming more advanced and increasingly popular. The potential of these tools to drive sales is very real in 2018. Users will soon have the ability to find a couch online and drop it into a digital image of their living room to see how it works. Relying on tools like cloud ecommerce software and multi-channel/multi-device platforms incorporating this technology will give retailers the freedom and flexibility to thrive in this regard in 2018. Engagement is a Priority in 2018 The cost of advertising is going to increase in 2018. With that development, customer acquisition costs will rise. It means it will become increasingly difficult to base a business model upon merely recruiting new customers because attracting them costs so much. The focus is going to be on retaining existing customers and keeping them engaged through regular points of contact. With all the exciting changes coming to ecommerce, it’s important to maintain flexibility. Connected Homes Create New Sales Opportunities Digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are becoming ubiquitous. Amazon’s device already offers streamlined ordering using voice commands. It presents exciting opportunities for online retailers to capture more impulse buys, as well as regular orders. Digital assistants with voice commands are also changing how users search, requiring ecommerce companies to rethink SEO strategies in 2018. Chatbots Become the Norm Chatbots promise to lower the cost of customer service while providing a higher caliber of service overall. After all, chatbots are available 24/7 to provide answers when most other companies are unavailable. Bots and other forms of automated communications will play a more significant role in 2018, as online retailers optimize and digitize more of their operations. Animation and Motion Will Become Mainstream Today animation is in most cases too expensive and time-consuming in production for small businesses to actively use it. However, the emergence of tools like Spirit makes creation of simple animated sequences achievable even for the people without any experience in this area whatsoever. Motion can attract attention (both on the website and in emails) to the essential parts of the page, help express brand identity and provide intuitively understandable notifications for the visitors. Performance Will Be Even More Crucial As the average bandwidth of connections grows and more people get access to fast Internet, users get progressively less and less patient, and it is especially noticeable in ecommerce. The difference in 500 milliseconds in loading speed can mean the difference between gaining a client and losing him. Keeping your website online and maintaining high performance is mush it 2018. You may find resources like Performance Tooling to be of help. Machine Learning Is Reaching Maturity Machine learning became a buzzword in a commercial sphere a few years ago, and over this short span of time it developed at breakneck speed, and many applications have already become possible. For example, the order system used by the store can remember the client’s usual buying patterns and react to changes in his behavior. E.g., if he has been buying a particular item every two months, the system will make this connection, and when the time comes when he is typically supposed to make the next order, it will send the client an email inquiring if he wants to reorder this item. And it is just one example of potential application and a very simple at that. Ubiquitous Automation Automation is the most efficient way for ecommerce enterprises to scale. Quite often, these businesses are run by only a handful of people, and normally scaling means hiring assistants, which may be inconvenient and too expensive, especially at early stages. However, even today many routine tasks can be automated: for example, email marketing, social media campaigns, and more. One-Click Checkout Is Becoming a Norm People today are always in a hurry, and dealing with traditional multi-step checkout forms is too much of a hassle, especially if you are on the move. One-click purchases that you can make without getting distracted by your other current activities will give potential customers fewer opportunities to change their mind and require less determination to complete. Ultimately, when it comes to predictions of what’s next for ecommerce in 2018, some things considered old will be new again, while indeed more modern things will improve upon past opportunities. Email, customer experience, and customer engagement will remain integral to achieving success, even as augmented reality, smart home technology, and chatbots introduce better ways of solving old problems. It’s going to be another exciting year.