E-commerce is one of the most exciting industries out there — and it's constantly changing. Over the last year, a variety of different trends have emerged in this space. As you fine-tune your business plan for 2017, there are a few e-commerce trends that you should keep in mind. Even if you can't integrate all of these practices into your own business model, it's important for you to understand what others are doing to achieve success in this space.

1. Technology Makes It Easier Than Ever to Start an E-commerce Business

Whether you're just starting out or you already have an established company, it's important to realize that it's easier than ever to launch and run an e-commerce business. However, while the state of the industry makes it easier for you to try out new marketing tactics and tools, it also increases competition.

"I have found that there is a lot of available technology that really lowers the barrier to entry for e-commerce startups, such as Shopify, Square and Mailchimp," says Patricia Avila, founder of HolidayBox, an e-commerce shop that sells holiday decor. "The challenge becomes differentiating yourself and getting customers — this is where advertising and branding comes in. With an increase in competition, you need to set yourself apart by representing your brand and offering in a professional and appropriate way."

2. Increased Use of Personalization and Automation

As e-commerce businesses get more robust, they no longer need to rely on massive email blasts to get their messages across. When customers browse sites and make purchases, e-commerce shops can gather information about their interactions and then use it to send automated emails and personalized messages to encourage consumers to buy.

Consider what happens when you order something from Amazon. You get one email notifying you that your purchase went through, another message that provides your shipping information and perhaps another email that asks you to review the products you've received. In a few weeks, you might receive a fourth email from Amazon with suggestions on what you should buy next, based on what you bought in your past orders. You may want to keep this communication model in mind as you develop your own e-commerce site.

3. Success With Targeted Facebook Ads

When it comes to getting the word out about an e-commerce shop, marketers are increasingly turning to Facebook as their preferred social media platform. Not only is Facebook inexpensive, but it also allows you to target your desired audience. You can easily use Facebook to reach existing customers or new prospects.

"Facebook Advertising is a great platform for e-commerce," notes Avila. "It allows for easy testing of target markets and it's a quick and affordable way to build an audience to market to. Facebook's platform is really easy to use and flexible."

Evolving technology has opened up valuable e-commerce opportunities for small businesses, but it has also made the landscape even more competitive. Staying abreast of emerging e-commerce trends and leveraging smart strategies that work for your business can help you stay ahead of your competition and foster customer engagement.

Want more ideas to help you invigorate your e-commerce business? Check out E-Commerce Best Practices: 5 Things Small and Midsize Businesses Need to Know.

Tags: Marketing Campaigns E-Commerce