The structure and marketing methods within eCommerce are constantly changing and they are happening quicker with every year that goes by. This is good news for eCommerce stores as it means that online business is growing fast enough to be shifting and expanding at this rate. More businesses are joining the market and more customers are shopping within it. But with these quick changes and new minds entering the industry many businesses are finding themselves left behind, unable to keep up with the fast pace. Changes aren’t being made quick enough within a brand to accommodate new trends and ways of thinking, so they are simply forgotten about, nothing more than old stores who have had their time in the limelight but were forced to step back and let more flexible companies take their place. It is possible to keep up with these new trends in the industry but it does require time and research, things you may not be able to achieve personally but as a collective or by creating new positions in your company information can be gathered and utilised effectively. But to be successful you need to be up to date and have a solid plan for data collection, there are a few good starting points worth working through before you figure out what is best for you as a brand.
Blogs / news
Keeping an eye on blog posts from respected or influential people within your industry and the industry you cater for can tell you a lot about the current state of the market. Unless backed with evidence or widely agreed with try to take conclusions and bold statements lightly as many blogs are opinionated and cannot always be held as fact. However many of them can and do hold useful information obtained from experienced reviews and hours spent researching their particular topic. Follow the latest blogs and keep up to date with their posts and you should be left with decent knowledge about the present industry. Fresh news may take a little time to appear on these blogs as many blog writers pride themselves on the quality of the content they let out, not how fast they can get it out. For immediate news it may be better to consider other sources. Similar to blogs keep an eye on trustworthy news sources relevant to your industry, as their information is likely to be reliable and up to date at all times.
Get on LinkedIn
Connect with other businesses, make connections with people in every aspect of your industry and simply observe where their focus is. This may not be the most reliable way to gather information as these people may be as lost as you when it comes to new trends, but it never hurts to keep your eye out for anything that is picking up some notice. Also join groups on the platform, a gathering for informational profiles that provoke discussion, see what others are finding and how you can adapt this information to make changes in your business if it requires them. Ask questions about things you are unsure of and see if you can contribute any information that can be built upon to give you and others a more comprehensive overview of your thought process and findings. Again, keep an eye out for frequent or recurring topics, products or forms of service that are doing particularly well and are gaining good feedback from customers on a regular basis.
It never hurts to know what everyone else is doing. Without competitor research you could find yourself being left behind as everyone in your industry rushes forward with the next big thing for their business. This in no way means that you should do everything that they do, don’t steal their products or copy their marketing campaign to the last detail, just take note of what’s working for them and what is not. Take what’s working well and look into it further, see if there is any noticeable trend for it or whether it is just a lucky break on your competitors part. If it turns out to be a widespread interest of your customers, it may be worth finding a way your business can get in on it. Be careful to also note what is not working for them, pay special attention to where their efforts are being wasted so you don’t make the same mistakes, unless of course their efforts in this particular topic are wasted because yours are paying off greatly and stealing the limelight, in this case keep doing what you are. Keeping note of your competitors actions is a great way to see methods or campaigns in practice without having to trail them yourself, learning from their successes and failures can be helpful, just don’t forget you will still have to be innovative yourself on occasion.
Speak to your customers
Talk to the people who matter, ask their opinion on your services and how you could improve. There is no shame in outright asking your customers what they want as long as it is done in the right way, it may even make them feel like you value their opinion, which you do. Take on their compliments and criticisms and make the most of the data you have collected. Separate the one time complaints from recurring issues and fix the most alarming ones, or as many as you can if you have the time and budget. This is a great way to keep up with trends as it gives your customers exactly what they’re looking for, whether it’s an improvement to the latest in checkout speed or a new product they would like to see you stock. No One knows what eCommerce stores are currently doing best than them, as all efforts for improvement are done for their benefit. They can even give you pointers on where your content has become outdated when the right questions are asked, for more energised engagement and better answers it may be worth offering something in return for their time reviewing you.
Set up alerts for industry
Although it may cast the net a little wide, try setting things like Google alerts to send you emails with the latest news about your chosen search terms. Set your terms as things to do with your industry that will likely give you new and helpful information. The emails you receive should fit the criteria of what you are looking for, and can be sent through whenever you want such as weekly or the moment some new news hits the headlines. If your search terms bring back some unhelpful results then flag them individually as irrelevant and over time you should build up a more specialised set of results each time. Be sure to only act upon alerts that are really necessary or game changing, as making changes due to one off articles can lead to a messy and confusing website, for both you and your customers.
Note changes as a company
Pay close attention to your own store, don’t just note the fact you are making sales instead note where those sales are coming from and what is being bought. Knowing what your most popular products are can help with your marketing plan, advertising the most sought after products of the moment can get you more sales from people who do and don’t know your store exists. As it is likely that a best selling product is so for more than your brand name. Doing this needs to be kept on top of, it is no use finding your most popular product and stay pushing sales of it for the next few years as that misses the point. Check statistics again as frequently as possible in order to keep up to date with the shift in demand from your industry. Also look at where your traffic is coming from, are your users coming in from desktop or mobile? Does your website offer suitable compatibility for both or are you in danger of losing shoppers from a certain device because your website is not up to modern fully responsive standards. Even looking at how your shoppers got to your site will tell you a lot about current trends, did they search for you specifically, find you through google search for a product or get to you through your social media? Adapt your strategies to suit whichever you see occurring more, or make accommodations for the lesser used options.
Attend conferences / events
Get yourself out there among people who know what they are talking about, get involved in your industries community. Shows and conferences specialised for your market directly inform you of the latest insight and innovations to break through, things you may have not found out alone. These kinds of events are usually held annually so will not give immediate results, but they will give a strong and reliable overview of the way your industry is changing and they will help your company to be informed enough to prepare yourself as best as you can for the year ahead. While you’re there make connections, that way you can start conversations or even keep an eye on these people between events and be less likely to miss out on important information. Becoming a well known and sociable company may also land you in direct line of fresh information depending on who you associate with. As your connections will be likely to help you out or happily discuss the current state of the industry with you over a phone call or in person chat, as long as you build up a friendly connection first. This will not work with your competitors however, as they have no reason to give you a helping hand that may lead to you doing better than they are.