Heap Blog

Mary Meeker: 6 Key Trends for E-Commerce in 2018

Our favorite data evangelist, futurist and dual-axis graph extraordinaire, Mary Meeker, recently came out with her annual Internet Trends report for 2018. There were a lot of interesting trends related to everything from crypto to tax rates to background checks, but here at Heap, we’re most interested in interpreting the data through the lens of web analytics. As e-commerce is a top vertical for web analytics usage, we decided to distill six e-commerce trends we saw in the data presented that anyone who spends the majority of their time thinking about websites should be aware of.

    1. We are still early in the e-commerce era
      Looking out from my San Francisco apartment to see drones delivering tacos and robots delivering pizza, it feels like e-commerce IS commerce. It’s hard to believe, but e-commerce only made up 13% of total retail sales in 2018. Yes, it’s up from 5% in 2008 but sheesh, I was sure it was higher! With 16% growth this past year, there is still a ton of room to climb. As you think about growth and especially growth relative to your competition, keep in mind that the overall pie is continuing to get larger.

    2. SaaS technologies can level the playing field
      One of the key levers of this e-commerce sales growth is SaaS offerings that enable even the smallest merchants to set up a best-in-class e-commerce experience. For example, Meeker calls out Shopify and Stripe for their impact in leveling the playing field for small businesses. At Heap – we offer
      a codeless integration with Shopify and with Stripe to enable any retailer to get real-time analytics on their funnel performance without any of the manual instrumentation work other tools require. To have an extremely successful e-commerce offering, you don’t need to be an expert in every facet of technology; you just need to be an expert in your core offering.

      GMV from Shopify has doubled in the past 2 years to reach almost 30 billion
    3. Data as an enabler of personalization
      At 3.6B, the number of Internet users has surpassed half the world’s population – but we can begin to imagine a world where every user segment is a segment of one. Availability and scale of data is enabling e-commerce to move from simply offering “massive product selection + 24/7 shopping moments” to “curated product discovery and 24×7 recommendations.” Data as a currency is going to drive a need for even more granular and comprehensive views of individual customers.
    4. Omnichannel
      Time spent on digital media has more than doubled since 2008. This presents a huge opportunity for getting your messaging in front of the right consumer at the right time, but that is difficult if you don’t know who they are. Never has the idea of a “session” seemed less interesting. The concept of a “user” taking a “journey” now extends not only across multiple sessions or across web and mobile platforms, but now even includes a category called “other connected devices” (i.e. IoT), where time spent has doubled over the past 2 years. Think about all that time you spend hanging out with Alexa or Siri!
    5. The multi-touch journey that leads to a purchase
      As the number of touchpoints that potentially influence a purchase increases, so does the complexity and effort required to accurately attribute each touchpoint and its influence on conversion. Whether it is a direct mail campaign, a banner on the side of a bus, or an Instagram campaign, understanding the return of each dollar spent is critical to deciding where to put the next dollar. For example, according to Meeker, if you only look at social media’s immediate impact on purchases you see that it influenced around 10% of respondents, but if you take into account those that make a purchase in the future the number of influenced respondents grows to 55%! At Heap, we are working with some of the most advanced e-commerce shops in the world to build multi-touch attribution models that take into account online and offline touchpoints as well as behavioral influences.
    6. The move to the cloud will level the data playing field
      As Meeker says in her report, “until now, a sophisticated and scalable data storage infrastructure has been beyond the reach of small developers.”  Welcome to the era of Amazon Web Services, where infrastructure can scale with your business and up-front costs are minimal. So whereas the trend in infrastructure spending used to look like this:With spending on mainframes growing consistently with shipments, the trend has now reversed itself in the cloud era with infrastructure costs declining each year:
      This shows that infrastructure is not the limiting factor that it used to be for small businesses. Now any business can spin up and deliver a world-class online presence with the data storage infrastructure to support it.

Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report is full of interesting data points and is worth spending some time diving into. E-commerce is an evolving space, and keeping up with trends is a great way to gain an edge and to validate the assumptions you’ve made for your business and marketing decisions. The benefits you can gain from understanding the market and having customer data that you can trust to support the speed of your business are crucial.

Jacob Makler

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