Ecommerce in 2016: everything I missed

orange firecracker lights against black signifying ecommerce in 2016

One of the benefits of publishing a year-in-review-style post on December 30th is that you get to see how everyone else tackled their “year in review.” One of the drawbacks of looking at everyone else’s posts, especially if, like me, you’ve been at your new ecommerce job for all of a month, is coming to the creeping, inevitable realization that the other guys have unfair advantages.

Advantages like experience and domain expertise, as wholly showcased in Andrea Wahbe’s piece on Shopify. Yeah. I’m not going to write something better than that. It would also help if you were paying close attention to ecommerce from January 2016 all the way through the end of the December. That way you have the luxury of following-up on the predictions you made in January and see how accurate you were. Jaz Frederick & Kate Mougey did that. Lucky. Barring time travel, I’m not going to make that happen either.So here’s what I am going to do. I’m going to comb through ecommerce news throughout the year and give you highlights, snarky commentary, and if I’m lucky, spot a few trends of my own. Cool? Cool. Here we go.


Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find actual news in January that’s not tied to some sort of prognostication? You probably don’t (or don’t care), but I just wanted you to know how hard it was.

India was on everyone’s minds

No seriously. Baidu was considering investing in Indian ecommerce startups like Zomato, BookMyShow, and BigBasket. If I had to guess, this projection is why everyone was focused on India:

“The e-commerce market could grow in terms of the value of goods sold to $220 billion by 2025 from $11 billion in 2015, Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated.”

What’s $199B among friends?

So, Walmart was thinking long and hard about India. And analysts were calling India “the next battleground.” Flipkart, Snapdeal, and Amazon’s subsidiary controlled the market in January.

Cross-border is going to get pretty real

But why should you care if you don’t have a business in India, selling to Indians? Check this out. Essentially the idea here is that growing ecommerce markets plus increased [internet] connectivity equals growth. Here’s the relevant quote:

“A recent report suggests the global business-to-consumer cross-border e-commerce market will reach $1 trillion in 2020.”

I’d like to see the actual report but I don’t see a link. Maybe tweet the author, Nielsen CEO @MitchBarns, and ask him for it? I’m sure he’ll get right back to you.


The environment

I wrestled with my conscience after reading this NYT article about ecommerce’s environmental impact (cardboard, cost of recycling, shipping, etc.). Seems kind of intellectually dishonest to ignore it.


Aside from making me feel really bad, it does add some context to a ton of articles in February about shipping’s importance to consumers. People want stuff faster and are willing to pay for it, according to a study just a month earlier.

Long block quote coming your way.

While 71% of all retailers offer more than one shipping option at checkout, the survey revealed that many retailers do not offer the range of shipping options that consumers now expect. The vast majority of consumers (77%) polled have used or would like to use guaranteed weekend or after hours shipping, and 42% are willing to pay a premium for this shipping option. But only 34% of all retailers surveyed offer this shipping option.

Consumers (61%) also want 1–3 hour shipping, and 31% are willing to pay a premium for it. But only 20% of all retailers surveyed offer this option, including just 19% of enterprise retailers. Consumers (80%) want same day shipping, and 55% are willing to pay a premium for it. But 47% of all retailers do not offer same day shipping.

And wouldn’t you know it, the “shipping stocks” were worth more than Amazon in February.

Nobody will ever beat Amazon, stop trying

I had to chuckle at the number of articles that said a slightly more diplomatic version of the heading above. I don’t know, maybe they’re all right. But that story was everywhere.

See for yourself:

Here’s the Problem With Trendy E-Commerce Businesses

Amazon will continue devouring US e-commerce

Walmart’s so-far futile pursuit of Amazon


March wasn’t super exciting for ecommerce news. Somehow there are still a ton of “trends to look out for in 2016” posts, which feels like cheating a bit when you’re publishing at the end of Q1. But I digress.

If I had to pick one “trend roundup,” in March, I’d probably go with Ian Gordon’s 5 Trends Worth Watching in B2B Ecommerce, chiefly because I like the focus on B2B finally coming in line with B2C ecommerce. Was he right? I demand a follow-up.

Rounding out the month, we see our first mention of ecommerce virtual reality (AI & machine learning come later).

And some encouragement from MIT if you’re bummed about not being able to crush Amazon

Read this article. It’s quite good.

Why the New Crop of E-commerce Brands Should Really Scare Traditional Retailers 

Data and social media are changing the game

“It sucks to be an incumbent if you’re in retail,” said Michael Schrage, research fellow for the MIT Center of Digital Business.


Remember India? Still important. Although this time we’re talking about Rakuten’s interest, not Baidu’s.

I can’t possibly leave this out. Ohio is the ecommerce capital. You know what was inescapable in the first four months of 2015? Distribution and logistics. Go figure.


Ecommerce minded content is a thing, and something Klaviyo customers struggle with (sit tight for more posts on our customer survey results).

The newest rainmaker at publishers: E-commerce editors

And guess what Practical Ecommerce considered the number one ecommerce marketing skill set that drives success was? Writing & content marketing. Saved you a click.


China? Also important. And remember when I said cross-border commerce was going to be big in 2016? Guess who doesn’t collect sales tax in cross-border commerce? China.

Grocery battleground

You know what you notice when you read enough ecommerce news articles? Everything is a battleground. This time it’s groceries. Still, whether you like the phraseology or not, grocery shopping online was for sure a big deal in 2016.

And what was Facebook up to? A lot.

4 key Facebook trends e-commerce advertisers need to know in 2016

  1. Facebook mobile, not desktop, now a primary channel for e-commerce
  2. Dynamic product ads helping to drive increased returns
  3. FAN expansion creates opportunity for e-commerce advertisers
  4. Video continuing to make inroads


So what was Google doing for the first half of 2016? Great question. 

Here’s How Google Is Increasing Its Focus On E-Commerce

Remember in February when someone said UPS & FedEx were kind of important? Still important, this time with a little more detail.

In what by now I’ve decided is the laziest of all ecommerce articles, Amazon is killing BUSINESS_NAME. Cool charts, though.

Ecommerce? Still growing.


Will Brexit affect my ecommerce business? Yes. Except if you live in Britain and sell to Brits. 

For U.S. retailers, however, it will presumably become harder to sell in the U.K. when we leave the E.U. It is too early to say. It is certainly not the time for to plan expanded sales into the U.K.

In June, you could start buying and selling things on Pinterest. And Salesforce bought Demandware for $2.8B.


DHL gets the whole cross-border commerce thing.

DHL Investing $137 Million in U.S. Cross-Border Infrastructure and Services

A very handy recap of 2016 trends up until July 14, 2016. I’m feeling pretty smug about getting China, India, mobile, social, and cross-border commerce right. Who says I’m not an expert? (Me. I’m saying that. I don’t know everything yet.)

9 Trends Shaping Retail Ecommerce in 2016

In July, it became officially official.

Smartphones Overtake Computers as Top E-Commerce Traffic Source


At this point I’m ready to declare 2016 the year of India.

Worth noting, ecommerce hit a two-year high.


Amazon. Still pretty good at crushing hopes and dreams.

Why Amazon Will Dominate Holiday Season Shopping … Again

In what, to me, feels like some combination of shipping and environmental costs I mentioned earlier, here’s an article about the difficulties associated with ecommerce and rural areas.

E-Commerce Is a Boon for Rural America, but It Comes With a Price


I was going to maybe skip over Shop BuzzFeed (made public in June), but this is a pretty in-depth and useful interview.

I told you we’d get to machine learning.

6 Ways Machine Learning Will Impact Ecommerce


Instagram gets even more serious about ecommerce.

Matt Kapko explains why ecommerce “hasn’t taken off on social media.”

Another solid BuzzFeed interview. This time on BuzzFeed product lab, not to be confused with last month’s Shop BuzzFeed.

Cyber Monday beats Black Friday. $345B.


Even more content marketing!

5 Ecommerce Content Marketing Trends for 2017

Forward looking starts up again with a very dense infographic from Villanova.

Because I can’t help myself, here’s Armando Roggio telling you that your small business definitely can’t compete with Amazon.

And I’ll close with what to watch for in 2017. What I lack in expertise, I hope I made up in volume. Catch you next year.

So, TL;DR – Here’s what 2016 in ecommerce was about:

  1. India
  2. Cross-border commerce
  3. Shipping
  4. Social
  5. mobile
  6. Amazon rules
  7. VR, AI, & machine learning
  8. Everything Andrea, Jaz, and Kate said

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