The eCommerce realm is constantly changing. More merchants are opening or improving their online stores to find customers. A recent report shows that eCommerce will make up more than 20.4% of the total retail sales globally by 2022. This means the eCommerce world is increasingly becoming crowded.
The surge in eCommerce businesses can be attributed to many factors, with the preceding Covid pandemic being the major one. The uncertainties brought by the pandemic and lockdown measures have caused major changes in customer behavior, turning offline traffic into online retail stores.
Staying on top of changing customer behavior and other trends isn’t an option for eCommerce stores. It is a necessity. While many things surrounding eCommerce retail may be evolving, below are the biggest trends affecting businesses now and in the future.
1. Advancing Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality (AR) has completely changed eCommerce. With this technology, online shoppers can see and visualize products before purchasing. This helps them make better buying decisions. Augmented reality has improved the shopping experience for specific industries, particularly home décor and fashion businesses. It allows prospects and customers to experience products without physical presence.
A 2019 Gartner study predicted that more than 100 million customers would use AR to shop by 2020. While this became a reality, several polls have shown that 35% of online shoppers say they shop online more if they can try on products virtually before buying. Similarly, 22% will stop shopping from brick-and-mortar stores if their favorite online stores adopt augmented reality.
Augmented reality allows customers to view products in 3D and visualize themselves wearing them. With these benefits, more eCommerce stores are poised to embrace and make augmented reality a standard in their online stores and social media platforms. Some of the best brands that have succeeded with AR and VR include;
- Amazon – Through Amazon’s AR View App, this giant online retailer allows online customers to view various products before buying. Products are rendered to specific scales and sizes, which gives customers confidence that they are buying the right product.
- Zara – Customers can view holograms of various models wearing their intended purchases from their phones by hovering through these packages.
- IKEA – Their studio app allows customers to capture fully furnished room designs in 3D. Customers can change wall colors and furniture, add shelves and storage, and other decorations. The refreshed designs can be exported or saved in 2D and 2D.
- Sephora – Customers can try different makeup looks virtually and take pictures with their outfits.
While the current VR and AR concepts are mind-blowing, advancing technologies will likely bring along crazy developments. With these, it is expected that more than 57% of Gen Z will use AR to make purchases within the next five years.
2. Sustainable Packaging and Green Delivery
More businesses are becoming aware of the environment. The pandemic showed that eCommerce businesses are producing significant amounts of carbon footprints, with industry giants facing serious scrutiny for playing a role in this increase. Similarly, consumers are becoming aware of environmental changes, which affect their shopping decisions.
A survey found that more than 50% of consumers want sustainability practices adopted in fashion industries, with 75% of these respondents preferring less packaging. As a result, eCommerce stores should find ways to adopt eco-friendly packaging and deliveries. For instance, Amazon committed to various initiatives to reduce its carbon footprint to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2040.
Common measures used by eCommerce businesses to reduce carbon footprint include the use of biodegradable packaging, recyclable supplies, bicycle couriers, and battery-powered vehicles for deliveries.
3. Ecommerce Landscape is Becoming More Competitive
As mentioned, more merchants are bringing their offline businesses online. As a result, both new entrants in the field and incumbents race to attract customer’s attention and make sales. This leads to increased advertising costs and a significant reduction of campaign effectiveness or return on ad expenditure. For instance, the cost of advertising on Facebook is 47% more than last year.
Worsening this situation is the introduction of data and privacy regulations. For instance, the recent updates on iOS 14.5 include privacy restrictions, which prohibit data sharing between apps unless customers voluntarily opt-in. The ramifications of these changes are immediate. Marketing on social platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, has become less effective.
Ecommerce brands should ensure that they maximize customer lifetime value to customer acquisition cost ratio. To beat this backdrop, eCommerce retail stores should explore unsaturated or new marketing platforms, such as TikTok and Snapchat.
Improving customer retention efforts is the other solution to this challenging situation. With customer acquisition costs continually increasing, eCommerce stores should maximize customer lifetime value for better profit margins.
4. Social Commerce
An average user spends more than two hours on social media platforms every day. Ecommerce businesses should find ways of tapping into this time and place their products in front of potential customers. Social commerce has become a trend that online stores should embrace before being edged out by competitors.
Fortunately, several platforms have made it possible to capitalize on social e-commerce. For instance, Facebook and Instagram introduced live streamed shopping, allowing customers to interact with brands in real-time as they showcase different products. Customers can ask questions and buy products in the live stream without leaving the platform.
The use of social commerce has risen and continues to evolve. It is a powerful tool for eCommerce retailers as it shortens customer journeys, improves conversions, and boosts customer loyalty.
5. Conventional Financing Takes a Back Seat
Alternative financing methods are slowly becoming a popular source of capital for eCommerce stores. Instead of conventional loans or trading equity, eCommerce store owners currently prefer other methods of cash injection, such as inventory financing and revenue-based financing.
This paradigm shift in financing methods occurred for several reasons. Most online retailers cite the following reasons for switching from loans to alternative financing;
- Applying for bank loans is time-consuming
- Most online retailers don’t have assets that can be used as collateral, such as property or cars
- Fixed loan repayments exert pressure on the business’s cash flow
However, switching from conventional loans to alternative financing comes with many challenges. Online retailers should weigh the pros and cons of alternative loans deeply. Several financing options tailored to suit modern businesses have emerged in the last decade. Online business owners should take the time to study and understand these financing options.
Both conventional and alternative financing solutions have a catch. For instance, while there are no fixed monthly repayments for revenue-based financing, RBF platforms share a fixed percentage of your revenue until the principal amount is repaid. This means your business should have a recurring revenue stream to access revenue-based financing.
6. Alternative Payment Methods
Customers have reservations and preferences when choosing their payment gateways. Interestingly, their preference can abort potential sales if they can’t find their preferred payment method on your eCommerce platform. Offering various payment methods is a good way of increasing conversion rates from online shoppers. Additionally, once customers save their payment details on your site, they will easily checkout next time.
How to Choose Trends that Suit Your Business
Many other trends have revolutionized the eCommerce industry. However, not all trends are worth considering. Ecommerce store owners should evaluate and identify specific trends that deserve their time and effort. While some provide huge value addition, others might not align with your audience or are costly to implement and maintain.
Choosing a trend that suits your business comes down to understanding your customers, competitors, and market trends. Below are a few things that should guide your decision:
- Monitor industry influencers, journals, and publications – online retailers should closely follow blogs, influencers, and related news to stay abreast of recent developments.
- Check the latest industry research reports – while all industries change over time, checking recent reports and data insights can help you predict the future. You should only rely on original research studies and not street advice.
- Use digital tools and analytics to analyze and predict customer behavior – gathering and analyzing customer data can also help online retailers find the right trend. Any trend that works for another business won’t necessarily help your business. Use multiple data collection tools to gather customer trends from different sources.
- Gather customer feedback – you shouldn’t be afraid to ask your customers what they expect from your business. Customer feedback provides crucial business-specific insights. Your customers can suggest something that hasn’t broken into the market yet.
- Watch your competitors – you should also observe other competing businesses. Identify trends they adopted and how they worked out for them. However, you don’t have to implement all trends adopted by your competitors.
There are a lot of changes in the eCommerce space. Advancing technology and changing customer behavior have brought along paradigm shifts that eCommerce stores should adapt to remain competitive. Businesses should also watch out for big data, chatbots, video marketing, voice-based search, and on-site personalization. Online store owners should keep abreast of these and more changes and integrate the right tools to grow their businesses sustainably.