Predicting eCommerce industry trends has never been an easy task. The rapid and relentless pace of technological change means making such predictions is a risky business, let alone when coupled with societal shifts as consumers and companies increasingly expect more from the digital platforms that already serve them.
Now, 2020 has thrown an entirely new factor into this heady mix, a global pandemic no one saw coming and has changed the consumer landscape forever. In Australia alone, a recent Australia Post report found eCommerce sales grew by 80% year-on-year in the eight weeks after the WHO pandemic declaration for COVID-19.
And while some will say that was to be expected during lockdowns, it has been interesting to see an unmistakable shift in consumer habits even as people around the globe are granted more freedoms. In the UK, 40% of people who returned to shopping found the experience less enjoyable compared to before the onset of the pandemic.
With COVID-19 likely to be an ongoing part of our lives into the future, millions of consumers are creating and reinforcing new online buying behaviors and habits. eCommerce and online retail orders are soaring across the globe and analysts from Bank of America Merrill Lynch are among the experts who believe we are set to see accelerated macro trends that would have normally taken years to play out.
Amid such revolution, specific eCommerce industry trends are coming to the fore, and it has never been more important for retailers to strategically plan for ways to compete for consumer dollars online.
AI is not a new trend, having slowly worked its way into many aspects of online retail operations. However, what is crucial for businesses to appreciate in 2020 is the rate of growth in the field. The ability to work with individual purchasers’ data to predict behaviours and desires and, in turn, recommend options or products is revolutionizing the online shopping experience, and businesses yet to embrace the concept risk being left behind.
AI is also playing a pivotal role in marketing by allowing merchants to utilize search histories and remind past customers of their website and products via digital advertising. Chatbots and their ability to utilize natural language recognition are another valuable addition to eCommerce sites that are providing the ability to answer customer queries 24/7.
While start-up eCommerce stores may feel such technology is out of reach, the joy of the online world is there are options to outsource to overseas web designers, data analysts and digital marketers at a fraction of the cost. The key is to get onboard because AI is definitely here to stay.
The day is fast approaching when consumers will expect they can shop on their phone just as easily as via a desktop. While mobile rates of conversion have been impacted by loading speeds, many online retailers are moving to progressive web applications (PWAs) that load faster, have the ability to work offline and give shoppers an app style of experience, along with other technical benefits. The mobile shopping trend is likely to become an ingrained part of our consumer psyche, with retailers benefiting as we increasingly shop during our commute or from the comfort of our lounge.
One of the enduring legacies of online retail will be the rise of manufacturers and brands selling direct to consumers – and the likely decline of traditional physical retailers. Where the likes of Bloomingdales and Macy’s were once synonymous with the shopping experience, today it is increasingly likely consumers will buy directly from the companies responsible for creating their favourite goods, a trend that has been accelerated by the global conditions of a pandemic. Cutting out the middleman is smart business for the manufacturers and brands as it can potentially increase their profit margins and allow them to compete with start-ups that are already digitally native.
While social platforms have previously rolled out features such as embedded links, clickable products in posts and paid advertising, shoppers still needed to be directed to a business’s eCommerce website. However, the recent launch of Checkout on Instagram and Facebook has changed the game by ensuring users can complete their entire purchase within their social media account. Such technology means it won’t be long before the number of online shoppers who have purchased via a social post starts to soar from its current mark of 55%, according to Avionos.
With the likes of voice commerce, virtual or augmented reality and omni-channel also making their mark on the eCommerce experience, it is essential businesses are strategic and resourceful when it comes to planning for their digital future. This includes exploring the potential for offshore outsourcing to deliver software and website development or more day-to-day operational tasks so local teams can be directed towards more high-value tasks.
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