Category: Sales Trends


16 Technology Trends Shaping eCommerce in 2020

If the first few months of 2020 have taught us anything, it’s that uncertain times can call for quick pivots to sales and marketing plans.

Businesses have had to evolve quickly with trade shows, events, and in-person sales meetings being canceled for the foreseeable future, likely throwing a wrench in many 2020 sales and marketing strategies.

But even as we are navigating our new normal, there is one place that is experiencing an incredible boom in traffic: eCommerce websites. Consumers are turning to online shopping to gather the essentials as well as other items they can’t get from temporarily closed stores.

In other words, if you don’t have an eCommerce store, now is probably the perfect time to make the investment. And if you do have an eCommerce presence, you need to make sure you’re equipped to keep up with the influx of shoppers and incredible amount of competition.

Let’s review the latest eCommerce technology trends to focus on as we move through 2020.

1. Mobile dominates online sales.

U.S. mobile retail revenue is expected to be $339 billion in 2020, up from $207 billion in 2018. This comes as no surprise considering that 125 million Americans own and use smartphones. It’s interesting to note that consumers use mobile to research products they are considering buying and not just to make purchases.

In fact, a third of consumers’ decision to purchase a product is impacted by research done conducted on a mobile device. However, just because websites are accessible from mobile devices, doesn’t mean businesses are prepared to succeed at mobile commerce. For example, only 12% of consumers find mobile commerce convenient, which means there is significant room for improvement.

2. eWallet technology is a must.

Enabling your customers to use eWallet functionality, commonly known as mobile wallet, is no longer optional. While mobile wallet payments only accounted for $75 billion in 2016, they are projected to reach $500 billion by 2020.

In addition to boosting sales and conversion rates for merchants, eWallet usage provides customers with ease of use and increased security. They no longer need to enter credit card information on websites or give their credit cards to cashiers; plus many eWallets offer or require dual authentication prior to use.

3. eCommerce subscription services gain traction.

Subscriptions are an increasingly common way to buy products and services online. Over the past year alone, 15% of online shoppers have subscribed to an eCommerce service to receive products on a recurring basis.

There are three types of eCommerce subscription services: replenishment (automates purchases), curation (provides personalized experiences), and access (provides lower prices or members-only perks).

Curation services account for 55% of total subscriptions, replenishment accounts for 32% and access subscriptions for 13%. These figures reflect the high demand for personalized services.

4. Customization makes products highly personal.

Consumers increasingly expect customized products and, thanks to advances in digital and manufacturing technology, brands can enable them to personalize or customize products they want online. By empowering customers to become partners in the product creation process, brands strengthen the user experience, which increases customer satisfaction and loyalty and leads to higher profits.

5. Upselling and cross-selling fueled by personalized product recommendations.

Through personalizing product recommendations to the tastes and interests of customers already on your site, the likelihood of their making a purchase is greatly increased. In fact, 45% of consumers are more likely to shop on a site that offers personalized recommendations, and 56% of online shoppers are more likely to return to a site that offers product recommendations.

In order to make personalized product recommendations, you must leverage the details of users’ previous purchases and on-site searches to help recommend relevant products.

6. Augmented and virtual reality are making online shopping interactive.

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are helping eCommerce retailers overcome one of their biggest challenges – the fact that their customers cannot try on or experience products before buying them. With AR and VR, customers can virtually try on products, place furniture within rooms of their homes and more.

This personalized and interactive online shopping experience has led to the augmented reality market being projected to generate $70 to $75 billion in revenue worldwide by 2023.

7. Customer experiences improve thanks to better CRM integration.

Online retailers connect with customers through a variety of channels including online marketplaces, eCommerce websites, chatbots, emailing, and social media, all of which must be carefully managed to ensure the best customer experience.

To keep up, online retailers are implementing integrated eCommerce CRM (customer relationship management) systems. In addition to resulting in a better customer experience, CRM eCommerce integration provides a central location for customer data that can be used to make marketing more effective. Sales data can also be used for improved inventory planning and forecasting. Automated, synchronized data increases overall business efficiency by improving order fulfillment and timely communication.

Next to built-in integrations and integrated eCommerce CRM systems, top online retailers often use third-party integrations to connect their eCommerce tool not only to CRMs, but to all the channels and systems that gather customer data. That way, they ensure a smooth customer experience across communications.

8. Magento emerges as the top global eCommerce platform.

The reliability and scalability of Magento has made it the most popular eCommerce platform in the world, powering over 250,000 businesses. Its customers are typically enterprise level online stores with a high volume of products and the budget to invest in certified third-party design, development and programming services.

Magento’s main competitors include Shopify, Yo!Kart, BigCommerce, VTEX, WooCommerce and Tictail, some of which better meet the needs of smaller eCommerce retailers.

9. Actionable content is driving business.

Relevant and helpful content helps drive business by attracting potential shoppers, guiding them to purchasing opportunities and boosting conversions. There are several forms of content that can be effectively mixed and matched. They include interactive, lifestyle storytelling, stance-taking and email.

Typically the most effective content involves storytelling and creating memorable experiences. It’s also crucial whenever possible to ensure that any offers, ads and promotions are tailored and unique to each customer’s interests. Over 74% of online consumers get frustrated with website content when this does not happen.

10. PWAs help shoppers quickly complete tasks.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are websites accessed directly in a browser that provide the high-converting features of a native app. These apps are not downloaded from an app store platform.

While websites are optimized for users to get informational content, PWAs are designed to help shoppers accomplish tasks quickly. They have fast and reliable features and functionalities that create a highly engaging shopping experience.

11. Social media is a driving force behind mobile sales.

Platforms enabling eCommerce stores to sell directly through their social pages are increasingly driving sales. In fact, brands’ social posts have led 55% of online shoppers to purchase products. With a simple click on a product link within a social post, consumers are immediately taken to a product page where they can make a purchase.

12. Cognitive supply chain management gains momentum.

eCommerce companies are increasingly seeking distribution and inventory management systems that are self-learning, predictive, adaptive and intelligent, which are known as cognitive supply chains. They result in improved, personalized customer service and decreased inventory. These systems can also help to mitigate risk, improve insight and performance and increase transparency.

13. Video continues capturing consumer attention.

Using product videos on eCommerce sites improves conversions by 85%, boosts SEO, increases email click-through rates by 96% and decreases product returns.

This is because customers have more confidence in products when they see a video about them. When done right, product videos are educational, encourage consumers to make a purchase, popular with mobile users and shared via social media.

14. Gamification is making online shopping more fun.

For some, shopping online can lack the interactive experience of shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. Gamification injects fun into online shopping by motivating customers to behave in a certain manner in exchange for additional benefits. Three common gamification platforms include promotional contests, spin-to-win opportunities and tiered VIP loyalty programs.

15. Chatbots are personalizing eCommerce.

Currently 47% of consumers are open to purchasing items through a chatbot and this number is projected to grow. A chatbot is a computer program that simulates a human conversation. It instantly communicates with customers and can resolve their challenges among multiple platforms 24/7. Chatbots use artificial intelligence to infer customers’ preferences and create a personalized online shopping experience.

16. Voice search is growing in popularity.

Mobile users and owners of devices such as the Amazon Echo or similar technology are increasingly comfortable with speaking their queries. In 2020, 50 percent of all internet searches will be done using voice search and voice shopping is predicted to grow to $40 billion in 2022.

Successful voice search strategies for eCommerce retailers include solid SEO, building brand affinity with informational skills and actions, product-feature and review videos, and staying focused on delivering a superior customer experience.

Your toughest competitors are inevitably planning to implement some of these eCommerce trends to gain an advantage in 2020 and beyond. Which ones do you intend to act upon in order to become a dominant eCommerce player?


7 Trends Sales Leaders are Predicting for 2021

2020 is (blessedly) wrapping up, and a new year is almost upon us. And just like every year before it, 2021 will come with its unique challenges and changes — and the sales landscape isn’t exempt from those kinds of shifts.

The sales game won’t look the same as it does a year from now, and it can be a big help to get ahead of those transitions early on. To help you get there, we reached out to some sales leaders to hear their takes on what salespeople can expect to see in the coming year.

So without further ado, here are some of the most pressing, prominent sales trends to keep an eye out for in 2021.

1. Video for sales outreach will have a much greater presence.

It’s no secret that video was a mainstay of sales outreach in 2020. Frankly, it was a matter of necessity — so it might be easy to write off its popularity as a product of special circumstances. But HubSpot Sales Director Dan Tyre doesn’t think so.

He believes the prevalence of video as a sales outreach tool will continue into 2021. He says, “I am offering this [prediction] sheepishly because I made it in 2017 and was wrong. So I made it again in 2018, only to be wrong again. I followed that up with the same prediction in 2019 and 2020 and we’re almost there.

“I’m confident that video will stick in 2021. The underlying statistics are undeniable — salespeople who use video will connect at three times the rate of those who don’t, reducing the inefficiency of the outreach process as a whole.”

2. Quick prospect surveys will take off.

Several sales organizations survey prospects as a means to generate leads, engage with and qualify prospects, conduct research, and communicate with potential customers.

And according to Dan Tyre, that practice should become even more popular in the coming year — he also suggests the use of shorter surveys will lead the charge.

He says, “Using quick prospect surveys to get to the point quicker will be a trend. Most of our prospects hate long surveys, but most everyone is okay filling out a three or four question survey to better assist a sales professional to drill into the right area of interest to make the most effective use of their time.”

3. Chatbots are becoming an absolute must.

Chatbots are a valuable resource for both sales and service departments. Being able to reliably answer common questions and automatically point prospects and customers in the right direction can take tremendous strain off your real-life reps. Dan Tyre stressed that kind of technology’s value, importance, and significant place in the future of sales when we reached out to him.

He says, “Everyone needs a chatbot on their website. As much as I love humans, I don’t want them to answer transactional questions on order status, product availability, and shipping information. Chatbots work because I can get basic information quickly. Make sure you are playing into those trends.”

4. We’ll see companies trend away from onsite presentations.

It’s no secret that businesses have been trending towards remote work. For many — if not most — businesses, it shifted from a novelty to a necessity in 2020. A study from Gartner found that an estimated 88% of companies mandated or encouraged their employees to work from home this past year.

That same study also found that roughly 97% of organizations have canceled work-related travel. So, what does this mean for salespeople? Well, as Zach Drollinger, Head of Sales at Coursedog, points out, “Onsite presentation will become a thing of the past.”

Sales success in 2020 rested, in large part, on adaptability. Sales organizations had to shift their processes, strategies, and methodologies to fit a more remote, less immediate sales landscape.

That push away from in-person presentation probably won’t reverse itself overnight. Onsite presentation was largely phased out of sales this past year, and you should expect that trend to continue.

5. Building rapport and authentic relationships will become even more important.

The massive volume of sales outreach in 2020 has seasoned many prospects — they’re hip to the tricks, tactics, and demeanors salespeople approach their interactions with.

According to Founding Partner of Eternal Works Tim Jones, “Stakeholders are getting very efficient at spotting people trying to ‘fake it until they make it.'” He suggests that reps will “need to push past one or two conversations to build real rapport and trust in 2021, and building authentic relationships over time will be a requirement for all sales reps, going forward.”

Establishing rapport and forming meaningful relationships with prospects should always be a priority for sales reps. But it’s more important than ever under present circumstances and will continue to be as the new year comes.

6. Setting expectations with OKRs and Dashboards is going to matter to more people because of remote work.

Remote work comes with its share of challenges, roadblocks, and distractions. It can be harder for businesses and individual salespeople to remain on the same page and work efficiently.

So, going into 2021, sales organizations will need to do what they can to keep reps on track. Setting expectations through OKRs and supporting those efforts with the right tools will be key.

Alysha Dominico, CEO of Tangible Words, says, “Big business has been managing Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) for years and SMEs have just not had the capacity. But with remote work, OKRs are the ultimate way to see that the tasks you’re doing each day and whether that work is ‘busy work’ or if that work is important to your overarching company goals.

“With remote work, companies are starting to use tools like Asana to see what everyone is doing. I believe with remote work that’s the best way now to help your team work more productively. When the directives are clear, everyone can achieve more.”

7. Empathy will be key.

Empathy should always have a place in sales, but given the events of this past year, it’s become absolutely vital. And HubSpot SMB Growth Specialist Vajra can attest to that.

He says, “With businesses closing at an unprecedented pace and many prospects sustaining significant personal trauma in 2020, incorporating empathy into your sales process became mandatory. You had to care — You had become as much of a consultant as a seller.

“Even as COVID becomes less of a factor, empathy will still be important — and the next 12 months will be defined by reality-based fear selling. And as ominous as that might sound, it doesn’t imply anything bad or evil.

“It means salespeople will have to focus on the things that a business owner should be scared of, including their competitors, lost time, and changing buyer psychology.”

It’s no secret that the business landscape has changed — and will continue to change — no matter what. The sellers that win in 2021 will be up to date with the challenges their prospects face, empathetically articulate those challenges to their prospects, and present meaningful solutions for creating and sustaining growth.

As 2020 comes to a very welcome close, we need to start looking ahead at what’s to come. 2021 is bound to come with a change of pace and a host of new trends and challenges. Though this list isn’t exactly prophetic or set in stone, it’s a good place to start when hashing out what the sales landscape might look like over the next year.


4 Trends Putting the ‘Value’ Back in Value-Added Resellers

The market for value-added resellers is constantly changing and expanding — with virtually no signs of stopping either anytime soon.

And if you’re an IT reseller, a value-added reseller (VAR), or a channel partner advising clients on any part of the front office — like marketing, sales, or customer success — it’s important you keep tabs on this evolving landscape.

Front-office SaaS development is booming, software is getting cheaper and more intuitive, and CEOs are concerned more about growth than point solutions.

Plenty of new trends are coming with these shifts. Let’s take a look at four of them that value-added resellers and channel partners should watch.

Value-added resellers in the SaaS development and hardware spaces generally sell the products they enhance as either full-service solutions or value-added services like training or hands-on software installation and implementation.

One way or another, VARs take previously developed products or services and take necessary steps to augment and get more out of them. Let’s take a more in depth look at the value-added reseller business model.

The Value-Added Reseller Business Model

The premise of the value-added reseller business model is essentially covered by its name. It’s a model where a seller purchases a product from a supplier and adds additional features or services to boost its value. Then, that seller resells that “new” product at a premium.

One of the best ways to capture the principle behind the concept is to think of an automobile dealership. In this example, you can imagine a car dealership that purchases used vehicles and enhances them with custom parts, accessories, or extended warranties and resells them for more than it bought them for. 

That idea — selling augmented and enhanced products for more than they were purchased for — is the basis of the value-added reseller business model.

As previously mentioned, the model is now most commonly associated with the SaaS development and hardware spaces. In those industries, value-added resellers create integrations, products, and features to package with existing products or services. Those packages are then sold as full-service solutions or value-added services.

How to Become a Value-Added Reseller

The key to becoming a value-added reseller is rooted in the principle that value takes priority over profit. That means that the additional features or integrations you add to the products or services you augment have to legitimately improve them — not just make them more expensive.

Re-sold products need to be polished and ready for customers to use, straight off the bat. Getting there is often a matter of understanding the ins and outs of what those customers might need — and that generally takes a trained staff.

In many cases, you’ll need to tap solution architects to identify the challenges the companies you serve are facing and help pinpoint the augmentations and additions necessary to get the most out of the product you intend to resell. And if the process of adding-value to your product is labor-intensive, you’ll likely need to employ a broader, dedicated staff to expedite that process.

You also need to understand that being a value-added reseller is a dynamic game. You’ll have to constantly stay abreast of emerging trends in your field and consistently update your product catalogue accordingly.

Pricing is another key factor in becoming a value-added reseller. VARs typically operate on low margins, so if you want to become one, you’ll have to constantly keep tabs on deals from the distributors you purchase from. You’ll also need to sell at prices that strike a delicate balance between spurring consumer interest and keeping your outfit financially viable.

Successful value-added resellers must reach a broad base of potential customers, so if you’re interested in becoming one, you have to maintain an ecommerce presence.

If you’re going to be visible to consumers and keep pace with larger competitors, you need that kind of a readily accessible forum for consumer contact.

4 Trends Value-Added Resellers and Channel Partners Should Watch

1. Front-office SaaS development and spending is exploding

If you follow Chief Martec’s Scott Brinker, you already know the marketing technology landscape has seen explosive growth over the past ten years, growing from just 150 software businesses in 2011 to over 8,000 in 2020 . But did you know this happening in sales technology now too?

Over the last three years, the number of sales technologies grew from 715 in 2017 to 950 in 2019. And it’s not just happening across sales and marketing. SaaS spending across the entire business grew between 78% between 2017 and 2018, according to Blissfully’s 2019 Annual SMB SaaS Trends Report.

Image source: Blissfully 

2. Software is getting cheaper

The “freemium” model has been around forever (i.e., bars giving away salty snacks to sell more alcohol), but it has only recently been adopted by tech. The freemium debate has raged back and forth over the years as companies like Dropbox, Slack, MailChimp, and more have seen success with the model itself while more complex products have failed.

While freemium might not be the right strategy for every software business, several have seen results by adopting it. The world has shifted to a “try-before-you-buy” mindset. In 2018, a study by Klarna North America found that 71% of indicated they would use that kind of payment method if it was offered. 

And that, coupled with freemium sales equaling a lower customer acquisition cost, makes it attractive to more businesses every year.

 3: Software is getting more intuitive and requires less technical expertise

Software is getting immensely simpler to use. You don’t need to look too far back in time to see that software has evolved into a faster, more elegant, and more intuitive tool for non-technical end users.

Take this example from HubSpot’s own UI (user interface) in 2010 versus 2018.

HubSpot Landing Page UI, 2010

Value-added reseller landing page 1

HubSpot Landing Page UI, 2018

Value-added reseller landing page 2

Which page would you rather spend time on? The needs and expectations of users has grown as well. Mobile apps and free technology make it easy for users to engage with once-complex platforms and tools.

This is great, but it also means your offering must follow suit. In 2020, you can’t release a clunky UI that isn’t responsive on mobile. As user experience and interface improves, user expectations rise and tolerance for poor UX/UI reduces.

4. SMB CEOs care about growth, not point solutions

The lines between sales, marketing, and customer success are blurred. Today, SMB CEOs care about growth, plain and simple. They no longer consider marketing separate from sales and customer success.

Instead, they understand the value of marketing generating leads for sales, sales engaging those leads, and customer success retaining, cross-selling and up-selling existing customers to fuel growth.

And as these front-office software tools proliferate, CEOs no longer consider “front-office” separate from, “back-office.” They view the entire ecosystem and brainstorm ways to create a beautiful, powerful, end-to-end customer experience. This is why SMBs today need more than marketing automation. They need a growth stack.

What Does This Mean for Value-Added Resellers?

In a world where there’s a free, beautifully designed point solution for everything, the role of the value-added reseller must change.

These are the opportunities I see for businesses like yours today:

Offering front-office growth services is your next big opportunity

SMB CEO’s need help. According to Blissfully, front office departments — including marketing, sales, customer support, and business operations — account for over 50% of the average business’s SaaS spending. 

Back-office spend has been shrinking since 2009, which suggests there’s more opportunity in the front office moving forward. You might have built your business on providing back-office solutions — and I’m not suggesting you give that up entirely — but transitioning some time to the front office represents a path towards sustainable growth.

Value-added reseller Saas speding by DepartmentImage source: Blissfully

An estimated 72% of salespeople spend up to one hour every day on data entry and connecting records from different sales tools. At minimum, your opportunity lies in helping customers understand the proliferating technology landscape and selecting the right technology to fuel future growth.

The opportunity lies in helping customers eliminate some point solutions, integrate the remaining software, develop coherent business-wide reporting — with tools like Data Box  —  and provide training and support to make it all work.

But there’s just one problem: It doesn’t create a scalable business. This brings me to the last big opportunity I see for businesses like yours today.

Offering front-office growth services is your next big opportunity

If you’re only offering services around technology selection, integration, reporting, and some basic training, you’ll struggle running a business with “lumpy” cash flow.

That’s because the nature of these traditional VAR services is project-based. You might win a consulting deal, do some work for three, six, or maybe even 12 months, but what happens after that? The client doesn’t need you anymore. They look at the hourly rate you’re charging for your work, decide you’re an opportunity to cut cost, and part ways.

But what if you didn’t have to replace your entire client base? What if you shifted from being a project-based, cost-center consulting firm to an ongoing, strategic partner driving revenue and profit for your clients? It would change the trajectory of your business, right?

Value-added reseller flywheelImage Source: HubSpot

This is the next frontier for businesses like yours, but it doesn’t come without investment in training to learn the types of services you could be providing to clients.

These are services like lead generation (outsourced content marketing and marketing automation), sales acceleration (automation, efficiency, enablement, and training solutions), and customer success enablement (connecting the pre-sale and post-sale experience, building customer support and chat experiences, designing the customer knowledge base).

Done well, this means your business can transition away from $25-$50K one-time consulting projects that aren’t in step with many of today’s SMBs and into long-term, recurring value-added service engagements worth $50-$100K+ per year.

Then, you’ve got to deliver. Provide these services well — all of them — and you’ll save clients from hiring an army of full-time employees.

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