By the end of 2019, the total value of eCommerce retail sales could reach $3.4 trillion, closing a decade of steady growth. The online shopping landscape has developed massively to provide a constantly better experience for shoppers. And with the ever-growing consumer demands, novel technologies, and fresh practices, maybe the best is yet to come.
The only way to stay ahead of the curve is by keeping an eye on the latest trends. So, what should eCommerce retailers focus on to welcome the new decade in all its glory?
1. Customization: The Key to Consumer’s Heart
Ensuring customer satisfaction is all about providing a uniquely tailored shopping experience. This kind of customization is prevalent across all industries, from vitamin subscription services to guided-DIY home decor and more niche needs in the cosmetics industry.
Products can be completely customized for the individual, and it’s here where interactive content really shines. Through intuitive quizzes and other data-gathering content, customization goes beyond what a customer might want into what they really and truly need, based on their preferences.
This personalization goes beyond offering customers more options for buying. When consumers can make their own choices, retailers have a stronger opportunity to segment their market, promoting offerings popular with like-minded brand loyalists. Instead of falling victim to overchoice, customers can look over a smaller range of products and buy the one that means the most to them.
If the customization is strong enough, customers may walk away with more than they ever thought they’d need. It’s this massive potential sales growth that will drive the trend toward customization in 2020.
2. Optimized Supply Chains for Better, Faster Shipping
Nine out of ten consumers consider free shipping their number one priority when shopping online. Most e-commerce stores offer free shipping for orders of $50 or more – an acceptable threshold for most shoppers, given the trillions brought in by online shopping.
With free shipping policies already in place, retailers looking ahead to the 2020s are exploring new ways to optimize supply chains. Next-day delivery, once exclusive to niche products only on Amazon, is now on offer for thousands of products sold by Walmart, the United States’ largest retailer, with similar options available at Target, Lowe’s, and other stores.
These giant brands are investing more and more money into their global supply chains, creating renewed speed and efficiency for their customers’ convenience. High-cost, low-efficiency shipping policies have no place in an increasingly competitive, next-decade market. Retailers of all sizes must learn to compete by leveraging their advantages.
While retailers have long struggled to meet Amazon’s offers of efficiency, smaller stores are adapting to the new market. Utilizing regional supplier networks to develop nimble logistics is one key to getting products to customers as effectively as possible.
Companies can build on the lessons learned in well-worn sourcing locations such as China to develop smart sourcing models in emerging hubs such as sub-Saharan Africa. These changes are a matter of cost, yet the investment in better shipping now ensures more sales – and more brand evangelists – well into the future.
3. The Growing Role of AR and VR
One major advantage of brick-and-mortar retail is having the products right there in front of the potential buyer. The ability to see a display model from all angles is lucrative – and, increasingly, feasible through the means of AR and VR tech.
VR technology can improve the experience and product reliability. Consumers can not only see the full view of the products but also can interact with the product. Sellers can also save energy and time on the photograph and PS once they use VR technology.
While VR and AR cannot reproduce the full tactility of some products, the latest tech allows consumers to try on makeup, clothing, and accessories in a useful way. Interior design, in particular, has become much more intuitive, helping people visualize how a piece of furniture would look in their room. These kinds of product tests are essential in making a buying decision.
It’s not just Sales that improve either. 25% of products purchased online are sent back; retailers like Lowe’s, Target, and Amazon are implementing AR to reduce this percentage. Augmented Reality could mean retailers keep more of their Sales because consumers more fully understand what they’re buying at the point of purchase.
Much of this tech depends on the power of a customer’s gadgets. Cutting-edge smartphones and wearables such as smartwatches offer more features than ever to make VR and AR shopping a consistent reality. What retailers do with that potential is up to them.
4. Social Media Shopping: The New Norm
Social media influencers’ advertising will still be a popular and effective Marketing strategy. Micro-influencers, who have a small but loyal following, are particularly impactful when it comes to influencing their fanbase. Identifying and working with these influencers is by no means an added bonus in marketing – more and more, it’s absolutely essential.
Consumers can buy straight from Instagram when a company’s social media strategy is done right In fact, 55% of online shoppers have bought a product directly through a brand’s social post. More and more, however, companies are looking toward other social networking apps like TikTok, taking advantage of live video streaming to create buzz and engage with new buyers. Social video streaming, as a result, is expected to be a major trend in marketing and engagement through the 2020s.
The popularity of these smartphone apps means mobile eCommerce is poised to grow substantially. Keeping one’s website optimized for screens of all sizes means more sales on more platforms; a poorly-optimized website, on the other hand, can stymy sales.
Engaging with customers across platforms has further benefits beyond direct sales. User-generated content like reviews, Q&As, and even memes can build social proof and help establish a brand. Video content – prioritized by Facebook’s algorithms – shows customers what the product in a more realistic setting, and allows for greater creativity on the part of the retailer.
On the whole, social media in eCommerce works the same way it does for our friends and family. When the content is engaging, interesting, and readily available, consumers react positively – and will go out of their way to share your content with their peers.
5. Transparency and Top-Notch Customer Service
A few years ago, it would have been impossible for many small-to-midsized retailers to offer 24/7 customer service. Yet the proliferation of AI-powered chatbots means nearly every website can quickly answer questions and provide support at any hour of the day. These chatbots are great for social media, such as Facebook messenger, and work in tandem with human agents to ensure a comprehensive customer service experience.
This level of customer service – both instant and highly-engaging – creates new expectations in consumers’ minds. Buyers now want to see where their product comes from and how it’s made, with an emphasis on sustainability, fair working conditions, zero animal testing, and other ethical causes. Some companies even send videos of the packaging process to consumers to build this additional level of connection and trust.
Retail’s 2020 Vision
It’s tempting to think of the state of eCommerce as something of an arms race. When one retailer implements chatbots on their Facebook page, a competitor can be tempted to go all-in on VR and AR to offer a different experience.
Monitoring one’s competitors is essential in any marketplace, however, it’s important not to lose track of what’s most important in 2020: customer experience.
Building out your brand in the 2020s means offering the best experience based on consumer demands. Same-day shipping, 24/7 support, and personalized recommendations all seemed out of reach just a few years ago. Now, we’re at the tipping point between increasingly outdated methods and a brighter future for both sellers and buyers.
It’s up to retailers to decide how they’ll implement this technology in their business – and where the next opportunities will lie in a transformative decade.