Ecommerce is getting better and better. The figures back it up too, with more people actively buying online than ever before. Technology is helping us navigate and avoid the old pitfalls of buying clothes, food, electronics etc online – and the better it gets, the more we buy.

So, we’ve taken a look at some of the main changes affecting marketers and their ecommerce stores this year:

1. Ad costs keep on rising – Rhys Jones, Paid Search Account Manager

“This is mainly due to competition of course, but what can we do about it? Dependence on Google Ads is prevalent across all industries and finding smarter ways to spend is important.

Average costs per click are rising across all campaign types year on year, even branded traffic hasn’t been untouched by this in recent years with the majority of companies seeing this traffic rise between 20 and 60 percent in the last five years.

There are many factors that could be affecting your average cost per click including:

  • Increased competition from current competitors
  • New competitors entering the market
  • Changes to your website
  • Issues with your shopping feeds
  • Changes to your audience lists
  • Changes to your ads or competitors’ ads
  • Changes in quality score

While some of these can be hard to combat, there are a number of effective strategies that can be implemented by an experienced account manager to counteract the increasing costs and maintain a solid return on investment for your campaigns.”

2. Checkouts – Alex Gregory, Senior Ecommerce Consultant

“Everyone knows that reducing friction in the checkout process is key. Having 5 pages of personal information to fill out is likely to encourage anybody to look somewhere else.

Research from the Baynard Institute back in 2017 claimed that 37% of shoppers abandoned purchases during the checkout because the website was forcing them to create an account.

If this was the figure on your site, you’d probably consider installing a guest checkout. But the reason a lot of stores don’t is because of the potential value of people who sign up. Losing those cart abandoners is a worthy trade off compared to the chance to gain a regular customer – or at least someone who buys more than once.

A feature that has become popular is the one-click checkout, with Magento and Shopify both now having solutions to speed up purchases.

Amazon perfected the one-click checkout – providing you sign up for an account – which is an effective way of encouraging people to commit to them and not use guest checkouts. So if we can provide new features and make purchasing easier by creating an account, providing personal information becomes beneficial and not a chore – as it can be with a lot of checkouts.”

3. Comparison Shopping (CSS, GSD) – Rhys Jones, Paid Search Account Manager

“Last year this really took off among large retailers, excited by the prospect of saving up to 20% on Google Shopping fees thanks to the EU anti competition rulings. But 2019 will see this service not only reach mid to smaller retailers but we’ll also see a big improvement in these websites as a platform.

Currently these platforms are saving retailers money, but from a UX perspective they lack in functionality and are difficult to use outside of the Google Shopping view.

Expect Google to sit back and let these platforms devour ad revenue? No, we don’t either. Ever since Google turned the Shopping channel out into its own marketplace to compete with Amazon et al, the offering has been improving. The current version will see a lot of iterations this year, that’s for sure. The interface is pretty basic right now, especially when you click through from results pages to see further options. But Google will certainly do something to combat this loss in revenue. Whether that’s by reducing the influence of CSS platforms in the initial results pages (risky), or by investing more in the Shopping platform to take more of the market share from Amazon (more likely) it remains to be seen.”

4. SEO or SXO? – Alex Gregory, Senior Ecommerce Consultant

“Google’s big focus is on improving websites for users and not for search engines. SXO – or Search Experience Optimization – is the term that has been coined by SEOs off the back of that. In short, it’s worth remembering that Google is rewarding sites that offer a great user experience, and penalizing sites that offer a poor one. But in reality, all the data they have is on their own site and despite your Analytics tracking, they don’t use on-site data to decide whether it’s been a successful search or not. The quality of a search result starts and ends with Google. So, if someone clicks your result but bounces straight back to Google to search again, that’s probably not a good sign. If they refine their search however, it will probably not have a particularly negative impact.

Search Engine Land have broken down a list of the main factors to be aware of:

  • Short click – A “short click” is a quick return from a website to Google. Clearly, a very quick return is not a good signal.
  • Long click – This refers to a long delay before the user returns to Google. Longer is better.
  • Pogosticking – This is when a searcher bounces back and forth between several search results.
  • Click-through rate – How often users click on a given result compared with how often it is displayed (expressed as a percentage).
  • Next click – What a user clicks on after “pogosticking” back to Google (Either they click on an existing search listing or perform a new search).
  • Next search – When a user moves on to a new search.
  • Click rate on second search –  When a previous page is elevated due to a personalized search and/or a previous click.

These are points often discussed under SXO and it’s important to be aware of these in the future as they become more important.

Currently SXO plays a relatively small part in SEO performance but with it being a key drive for Google, it will inevitably become more of a determining factor in performance. We’ve already seen mobile indexing and page speeds become huge ranking factors in 2018 after multiple warnings, so it’ll only be a matter of time before we hear more about SXO. It probably won’t be the source of a ground-breaking algorithm shift, but it will certainly get more significant.”

5. Chat functionality – Alex Gregory, Senior Ecommerce Consultant

“Chat bots have been around for a while now – but their purpose is changing. Their basic purpose to help with issues still stands, but that’s now a very small reason why people interact with them.

Marketers have now realised that they improve all sorts of baseline metrics that bosses care about, such as conversion rates and customer satisfaction ratings.

Research suggestions that online chat functionality is vital for any business moving forward, on average 42% of modern consumers prefer to use online chat as their first point of contact with a company and figures suggest this will continue to rise dramatically in 2019.

There’s a whole range of options now that allow you to talk to customers, with Facebook messenger even adding functionality to integrate their data and use their platform.

Facebook Messenger integration on website homepage
Facebook Messenger integration example

This year will see further integrations to chat box functionality. Many of our clients use Magento, so having a huge inventory of different products and styles inevitably causes issues for consumers when buying online. It would be so cool if these chat boxes could recommend products or even just integrate inventories for agents to tap into.

But until then we can already do a lot. As with all marketing tools, ‘automation’ is the flavour of the month at the moment and the use of automation and triggered messages to capture customers before they bounce is key. They are easy to set-up but the difficulty is making them sound like a real person. Through 2019 we’ll hopefully see the improvement of natural language, effective automation, and the back of strange robot talk like this:

Robot-talk Facebook Messenger example

6. Email marketing automation – Jordon Goodman, Account Analyst

“Automated campaigns and triggered content have been popular over the recent years, but we know it is going to blow up in 2019.

Triggered content is an essential part of any email marketing strategy for 2019. For those who are unaware what automated campaigns are, it is the process of your email marketing platform automatically sending out emails depending on the actions, or behaviour of a customer.

One example of a great triggered campaign strategy would be to implement an abandoned cart flow. An example of this would be a customer browsing your site, adding items to their basket but deciding to leave the webpage; automated campaigns will send out a tailored email (that you must design and create) to let them know that they have a limited time before their cart expires, therefore increasing the chances of a conversion.”

7. Customer lifetime value importance within email marketing strategies – Jordon Goodman, Account Analyst

“CLTV (Customer Lifetime Value) has become an important metric in relation to email marketing. Predictive analytics are a great way to segment and target customers to tailor emails to different groups. For example, using certain email marketing platforms, you can segment a list for those customers with a high CLTV, and that way you know that they are loyal customers and are able to send them more relevant content. On the flip side, you can also segment customers who have a low CLTV and target campaigns that are more suitable for them.”

8. Voice search – Alex Gregory, Senior Ecommerce Consultant

“This has been a bit of a buzz word in the past few years but with sales of the Echo Dot topping the sales charts on for the third year running it’s now impossible to ignore the growing impact of voice search.

“Isn’t it just the same as normal search?”

Is the normal response. But in fact, where typed searches, particularly on mobile, are typically 1-3 keywords – voice searches rise to 7-8 keywords. This means long tail key phrases are much more suitable for voice search. But redesigning whole pages around long tail phrases that users may or may not use would be a little impulsive.

Instead we can break down what a user typically looks for when using voice search and create new content to fit that. If we know that directions to physical stores, opening times and delivery times are often queried over voice search, maybe we can improve our FAQ section to address these questions, then answer them.

Structured data should be used to markup fields like your organization, telephone number and URL to make it easier for Google to establish who you are and what you do. Although it hasn’t been confirmed that structured data markup directly affects rankings, by helping Google organize data you could potentially be improving the chances of being found – or at least making your results more useful.”

Timeline for Voice = Gaining Search Share

9. The rise of the machines – Rhys Jones, Paid Search Account Manager

“Another key trend that has been gaining momentum in recent years and is looking to change the PPC landscape in 2019 is Google’s pushing of automated systems in ads campaigns and even the creation of a new team at Google who will be actively making changes to your PPC campaigns without expressed permission, removing more control of campaign management from businesses unless you actually notice the email sent by Google and choose to opt out.

Smart campaigns, smart bidding strategies, dynamic ads are all examples of Google’s willingness to take control of your ad campaigns, although the company remove themselves from any accountability as far as results are concerned they are happy to spend your money through their algorithms and machine learning, most of these systems currently operate on a spend more to get more model and have very limited concern or accountability for return on investment.

Granted for companies that lack the time or skillset to operate a comprehensive PPC campaign these systems do have their place but for growing companies a managed manual strategy built and optimised by an experienced account manager will always deliver better results in an increasingly competitive market.”

10. New to Facebook 2019 – Aisha Tindale, Social Media and Content Marketing Executive

“Dynamic Ads are going to be a massive part of advertising through Facebook this year. Giving advertisers the opportunity to upload full product catalogues with a select time schedule and then allowing Facebook to do the rest of the work for them. Facebook then goes on to advertise these products to users who have previously visited that site, through information gathered from the Facebook Pixel.

Senior Vice President, Media and Guest Engagement from Target, Kristi Argyilan says

“With dynamic ads, Target has been able to more easily engage consumers with highly relevant creative. The early results have exceeded expectations. Performance has been especially strong on mobile devices where we’re seeing two times the conversion rate.” This emphasises how easy it is to get the right products in front of the right people. Whether that’s through targeting users who have previously visited the Target site, or users who have similar interests to Target customers.

Example of Facebook Dynamic Ads

Image credit: Advertisemint

With this kind of targeting through advertising, it’s becoming easier for advertisers to promote their products in a unique way, ensuring they’re reaching the right people. With the style and setup of the dynamic ads, it’s clear and easy for the user to interact with. Sebastian Hasebrink, co-founder at Junique said “Dynamic Product ads combine the strengths of Facebook in one ad format—a highly targeted audience with highly relevant creative. Since each user sees unique creative with products, they’ve actually looked at enriched with recommendations, they are much more likely to convert at a cheaper CPA compared to other ad formats.” Through dynamic ads created on Facebook, you can easily show recommendations and customer reviews/opinions to enhance the product and encourage the user to make a purchase.”

11. Ad spends shifting from Facebook to Instagram – Aisha Tindale, Social Media and Content Marketing Executive

“With Instagram becoming increasingly popular, it’s becoming the perfect place for advertisers to reach their target audience. According to Socialbakers, a quarter of brands Instagram ad spend is spent on Stories, which is expected to grow rapidly throughout 2019. According to Iconosquare’s findings, 66% of Instagram marketers operate with a budget of anywhere from $100 to $1000 per month, that they spend on ads, boosted posts, and influencer collabs. This just goes to show how much potential there is on Instagram, and how much advertisers are willing to put into the platform in order to reach the right audience at the right time.”

Graph identifying movement spend on Facebook Placement vs Instagram for Q1 and Q2 2018


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