Ecommerce Game Changers: A Retrospective of the Last 8 Years

8yrsAs we kick off 2016, many ecommerce and marketing blogs are rounding up their predictions for the next 12 months. But in this post, I’d like to take a #tbt throwback through the last 8 years. The digital world has changed a lot during this time, with some true game changing events and innovations that are responsible for how we buy and sell online today.

You may be aware that I recently left Elastic Path and have started an ecommerce advisory firm Edgacent, and am writing a book called Ecommerce Illustrated, tackling 52 ecommerce issues from home page through checkout. The chapters are currently being published weekly throughout 2016 at EcommerceIllustrated.com.

It’s truly been a great honor to trek with you for 8 years on GetElastic. I’ve interacted with many of you through comments, email, social media and even in person. If you’d like to stay in touch please connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. As for GetElastic, please stay subscribed to receive all upcoming ecommerce goodness from your friends at Elastic Path!

2007

This was the year social marketing for business became a thing, though social commerce in ’07 was a very different animal than today. Social media “gurus” were only just emerging, and Digg, StumbleUpon and Del.icio.us ruled the day (we even did a webinar on how online retailers can best leverage these platforms). Other heavy hitters included MySpace and SecondLife (at the time I could only find 3 of the IR500 using Twitter)!

Web design trends included using cascading style sheets instead of tables-based layouts, and Amazon radically redesigned its navigation in favor of hover mega-menus (which undoubtedly influenced many others to follow).

We also had a lot of fun on GetElastic, hiring a caricaturist to transform Larry and Sergey into the Ghoulgle for Halloween, while several other e-tailers dressed up as their favorite puns. (Say hello to my little friends, LL Cool Bean and NASCARface).

little-friends

Oh yeah, this little gadget called the iPhone launched…

2008

Before Elf on a Shelf there was Office Max’s Elf Yourself, one of the only truly viral successes for a commercial brand…ever. Though it died out after a couple seasons, it set the bar high for other branded social media campaigns.

This was also the year that digital gift certificates blew up — a great way for online retailers to keep the checkouts hot after the holiday shipping deadline, and a great way to capitalize on larger-sale redemptions (or no redemptions at all) in January.

2008 was the first year analysts started declaring “it’s the year of mobile!” (which continued to be proclaimed for the next several years), and marketers started questioning whether they should have a .mobi site or use another method.

2009

The iPhone and other touch screens really started becoming ubiquitous, and 2009 was touted as the “year of mobile” again!

Smartphones changed the game, rendering web pages better than WAP phones and eliminating the need for .mobi domains. Pinch, pinch. Zoom, zoom.

We also saw the first transaction happen with Facebook, and we broke the story right here on GetElastic when 1-800-Flowers claimed the first F-sale.

While Facebook Stores ultimately didn’t survive, this event was only one of many future ways to merchandise beyond the storefront.

2010

Thanks to Ethan Marcotte’s article at A List Apart, we have the concept (and application) of responsive design.

While Google launched Website Optimizer (A/B testing tool) in 2006, 2010 was the year it truly became mainstream, and not a luxury or novelty.

2011

One of the best industry innovations for improving conversion rates, email remarketing, started to gain traction 2011, along with display and search retargeting, with a number of vendors joining the party.

Facebook Connect emerged as an alternative to tedious account creation. It’s still effectively used today on top online retailers’ sites both for account creation and speedy checkout, and offers some advanced personalization opportunity as well.

Google entered the world of mobile payments with Google Wallet, innovating 3 years ahead of Apple Pay.

11/11/11 was Alibaba’s first Single’s Day event, pulling in $514 Million USD in its inagural year (the site did over $14 Billion on November 11 this year).

Fun fact, Target finally moved off Amazon’s platform in 2011.

2012

Year of the mobile (again). And the year responsive design really picked up. Ecommerce home pages started looking more and more like Pinterest, and online retailers began to adopt and discover the power of shopping APIs.

2013

This was the year digital really began to infiltrate the physical world. Online pure plays began to open up physical stores and pop-up shops, and beacons ushered in the age of omnichannel context.

On the social front, Pinterest introduced rich pins, a step towards buyable pins that would be introduced in 2015.

Other notables: Bitcoin emerged as a payment method to be embraced by the likes of O.co and BloomNation, and Jeff Bezos’ unveiled his Amazon drone plans.

2014

While retailers continued to battle showrooming, Google introduced a new way for retailers to capitalize on local search with local inventory ads (aka “proximity marketing”).

Social networks Facebook and Twitter continued to test native buy buttons, but Pinterest ultimately beat them to the roll-out punch in 2015.

Apple announced Apple Pay, allowing iPhone owners to store a picture of their credit card in Passbook, creating a PayPal-like don’t-share-financial-information-with-merchant system that may be a game changer if consumers and retailers alike fully embrace it (we’re yet to see a front-runner in mobile wallets).

Google wrapped up the year’s events by beginning to highlight mobile friendly sites in search, a step towards #Mobilegeddon in 2015.

2015

Google’s #Mobilegeddon, a search engine update that gives a bump to mobile friendly pages in mobile search was one of the biggest shake-ups to mobile commerce this year. Not sure your site is mobile friendly in Google’s eyes? Take the test.

We also saw the launch of Apple Watch. While I wouldn’t call it an ecommerce game changer across the board, it’s got potential for retailers like Zulily for which mobile-moment shopping experiences are appropriate.

Adobe introduced a cool email innovation called real-time inbox, dynamically updating email based on contextual factors.

Buyable pins were launched in July, ushering in a new age of native-social commerce, while Google’s buy buttons in mobile search pages are reported to be conducted with test retailers like Macy’s.

Facebook’s ad options continue to evolve – this year’s dynamic product ads connect your catalog to Facebook’s News Feed, serving up retargeted products and other contextual merchandising. From what I’ve heard from retailers, they perform quite well and rival Google Adwords.

One of my fondest memories of Elastic Path is playing Cards Against Humanity with our team. We loved it so much we created an ecommerce version (you can print and play!).

cartsagainst

Once again, it has been my absolute pleasure to be part of GetElastic. Wishing you all the best for a profitable 2016!


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