The 5 Biggest Ecommerce Stories of 2013

Tis the season of reflection—and what better way to do that than geek out with the biggest ecommerce stories of the year? There were a lot of changes and shifts that reshaped the industry, and interestingly enough, there were some noteworthy game changers that didn’t happen. Join me for a quick trip down memory lane as we count down my picks for the top five ecommerce stories in 2013.

#5: Amazon has…drones?

Just when your small business found new ways to compete with Amazon, the retail giant shocked the world in early December when CEO Jeff Bezos announced that he’s planning to use drones to deliver orders within minutes. And while you shouldn’t expect to see these aerial robots anytime soon, the Federal Aviation Administration is set to issue new rules for commercial drones in 2015, which may clear the stage for Amazon and other shipping providers to send drones to your doorstep.

#4: Internet sales tax bill still stuck in Congress

I’ve been writing about the internet sales tax since 2010, and was sure that it would pass this year. But alas, it is still sitting in Congress, waiting to be signed (or not). And while the government continues to debate/ignore this legislation, online retailers are waiting with bated breath to see how passage will impact them. Beyond the sit and wait game, legislators have offered new ideas on the bill, one of which totally strips the $1M small seller exception. For several observers, no news is good news when it comes to this story.

#3: Social commerce more fizzle than sizzle

This headline was another story that was expected to happen, but didn’t have the earth-shattering impact we initially thought. Don’t get me wrong—social commerce is still important and should play a part in your overall strategy, but as IBM reported, social media sites only generated about 1% of purchases and traffic on ecommerce websites for Black Friday. This number remained relatively flat as a percentage as compared to the previous year, but as we saw increased online purchases on Black Friday, the net revenue from social commerce did increase a bit, with the majority of social commerce sales coming directly from Pinterest. Long story short, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ didn’t have the impact in 2013 to back up the hype.

#2: Tablet Commerce: Rise of the Machines

Bad Terminator joke aside, the landscape of how customers shop online experienced a drastic shift in 2013, with big shifts in purchases from desktops to tablet devices. In fact, back in February 2013, Adobe announced that tablet traffic surpassed smartphone traffic for the first time. This has big implications for retailers, as customer interaction with ecommerce sites is now different, ushering in a need for mobile-optimized stores. Interestingly enough, it was seen that shoppers are more likely to make purchases from their tablets than their smartphones, opting to use those devices for product research.

#1: Google lays the smackdown, leaves websites scrambling

Google has a way of making its power known, often hitting website owners and SEO professionals with major algorithm changes without notice. In fact, the search engine behemoth is said to have released 15 new updates in 2013 alone, including the notorious Hummingbird. This update reportedly impacts 90% of all search queries, all in an effort for the engine to better understand search terms as a whole in more “natural” language. Google also continued with their Penguin and Panda updates (cute names for some ugly consequences), continuing to penalize sites that offer low quality content and use old-school SEO techniques. Moving into 2014, this will be a continued headline that we should all keep our eyes on.

Final Thoughts

It’s been one big year for ecommerce. I hope you’ve had a fun and profitable ride, and wish you continued success moving into 2014. On a personal note, it’s been my and the Volusion team’s pleasure to keep you posted on the latest developments and to offer you ecommerce ideas and insights all year long. From us to you, congratulations on a successful 2013 and best of luck in a new year.