3 Interesting Takeaways From Q3 2015 E-Commerce

As we head into the holiday shopping season and Q4, columnist Jordan Elkind discusses some key trends in ecommerce and how you can your update your marketing plan accordingly.

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ecommerce-shopping-cart-keyboard-ss-1920It was yet another great quarter in the world of US retail ecommerce. Revenue was up by 11.8 percent year over year, and transactions increased nearly the same amount (11.6 percent) over Q3 2014.

As the leaves begin to change color and the sun begins to set on 2015, let’s take a look at some of the trends leading the way into Q4 and this year’s holiday shopping season.

These finding below are based on the Custora Ecommerce Pulse, a free online dashboard tracking online transactions from more than 500 million shoppers, $100 billion in ecommerce revenue, and 200+ online retailers. (Full disclosure: Custora is my employer.)

Affiliate Marketing Is Key

Affiliate marketing is the star of the show this year, jumping from 12.1 percent of transactions in Q3 2014 up to 16.7 percent in 2015.

This growth comes at the expense of some other major marketing channels; compared with Q3 2014, orders from organic search have declined by 0.7 percent, and orders from email by 1.9 percent. Orders fueled by direct traffic got the short end of the stick, with a drop of 3.8 percent.

For the non-number-crunchers out there, this means that marketers should be aware of the growing power of affiliate marketing to drive orders. Focus on building out a strong network of partners whose audience aligns with your target customer.

While affiliate ads can be costly, they can be a great acquisition tool, especially around the holidays. Of course, email is still an essential marketing tool, and special attention should be paid to ensure those efforts are as strategic as possible across messaging, imagery and segmentation.

Of course, some tried and true channels maintained steady growth: Organic search was once again the leading driver of ecommerce purchases, bringing in 22.5 percent of orders.

Given this, competition will likely be fiercer than ever for organic search traffic. While I’m sure you’ve heard it before, the standard advice to optimize SEO keywords still rings true.

Paid search saw a slight gain in transaction share, moving up from 16.4 percent to 19.3 percent. While social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest) is still an important brand awareness tool, orders contributed to social media continue to putter along at just 1.5 percent.

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Phones Lead The Mobile Takeover

It goes without saying that shoppers have increasingly been turning to mobile devices to make purchases. While you might speculate an even split between phone and tablets, mobile phones have actually been gaining ground as the screen of choice for mobile shoppers.

In fact, 18.7 percent of all ecommerce orders in Q3 2015 were placed on phones — up from 12.2 percent during the same quarter last year. While the share of transactions made on tablets has dipped slightly, the shift in behavior comes primarily at the expense of desktop computers.

While becoming mobile-friendly is a great first step, increased competition on mobile has raised the bar for retailers. Now is the chance to improve the more granular aspects of the mobile shopping experience.

Focus on decreasing load times, optimizing the checkout process to prevent cart abandonment and adapting web page real estate for different screen sizes. As the average phone screen continues to grow in size, we may see even more shoppers turning to their phones for everyday purchases.

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Google’s Android Nibbles Away At Apple’s iOS

Android continues to slowly chip away at iOS’s dominance in the realm of mobile shopping, gradually climbing from 20 percent up to 22.7 percent of online orders over the course of the year. Most consumers still choose Apple products as their device of choice (76.9 percent in recent months), but there has been a steady decrease compared to the beginning of last year, when Apple held 80 percent of the platform pie.

This trend is likely to continue, given the plethora of Android offerings made available by manufacturers and mobile carriers. It will be increasingly important to be aware of the nuances in each operating system’s browser and how to make those differences work for you.

Especially for retailers with deep linking in their emails, developing an Android app should be a priority in 2016.

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Final Thoughts

As the temperature goes down and the holiday decorations go up, think about how these trends may have an impact on your online store, and consider tweaking your upcoming marketing plan accordingly. You’ll want to optimize your affiliate ad spend and seek out partnerships that will have the highest impact.

Mobile web stores are the now the norm, and the upcoming holiday shopping season is the perfect excuse to take your site up a notch — get into the nitty-gritty, and test your site out on different phone sizes and operating systems.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jordan Elkind
Jordan Elkind heads the product team at Custora, an advanced customer analytics platform for ecommerce retailers. Prior to joining Custora, he earned an MBA from Wharton and worked in marketing analytics at Citi Cards.

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