A decade or so ago, when eCommerce was just starting its global invasion, we all foolishly believed that by 2020 the old school brick-and-mortar shops would be abandoned buildings overgrown with weeds. And yet, we saw that in 2018 only a bit over 11% of all retail transactions comprised of eCommerce purchases. This means that physical stores are still predominant and that perhaps the time has come for eCommerce and traditional retail to merge, for the sake of mutual benefit.
This, however, is not the only likely trend for the year 2020. Experts are predicting an exciting year, so let’s take a look at what it has in store for merchants and shoppers.
M-commerce Continues Rising
The smartphone revolution that has been going on for years has slowly but surely reached even the most remote parts of the world. As developing countries are witnessing a sharp rise in the use of smartphones and tablets, it is certain that eCommerce merchants have to reexamine their relationship with this technology and ask themselves one simple question – is my shop mobile-ready?
What this means is that unless an online store is completely responsive and mobile-friendly, it will lose its spot among its competition. People are using mobile phones and tablets to shop more and more, as this method is definitely more convenient than shopping from desktop computers and laptops.
In addition to making sure all shop pages are fully responsive (i.e. fitting any screen size perfectly), it is also necessary to eliminate all unnecessary steps in the purchase process. From viewing a product to completing checkout, the mobile commerce experience has to be smooth and straightforward.
Another thing to keep in mind, in terms of a global expansion of smartphones, is that eCommerce developers should focus more on offering apps that are light and easy to download, since high-speed internet is still a luxury in many parts of the world that do, however, have significant eCommerce potential.
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Even before so-called “social commerce” officially became a thing, it was clear that eCommerce and social media made a perfect couple. We all know that people spend hours and hours each day on social media, and we also know that a lot of them are using that time to browse through brand lookbooks, products, and reviews. The natural step was to add a “Buy” or “Shop” button to that content, allowing for a direct shopping experience and reducing the chance of customers changing their minds due to there being too many steps in the purchase process. This native social selling has proven to be very efficient by early adopters. Today, almost all larger social platforms offer some form of direct selling.
But it’s not just that. In addition to offering direct shopping from social platforms, brands are also leveraging the fact that social media is a bottomless well of consumer data, which can be used to target customers with specific products.
Finally, let’s not forget the importance of user-generated data. Reviews and ratings are crucial factors in helping people decide what to buy. Social media is just that – a platform for people to exchange opinions, including opinions on various products and services.
For now, it appears that social commerce will not stop at streamlining the purchases and making the process easier for customers. Big data and targeted advertising are definitely going to be huge drivers of eCommerce in the years to come.
A lot of eCommerce consumers, especially those that fall in the 18-34-year-old age bracket, tend to complete their purchases through more than just one platform or channel. With the advent of social commerce, this is becoming clearer than ever. The same brand can offer the same product or line of products on their website or online shop, or on their social media pages, like Facebook’s recently introduced “Shop” tab.
But this multi-channel behaviour extends beyond that. A person may see someone they know posting a photo on, say, Instagram (cool shoes or a brand new bike) and ask the person for an opinion, recommendation, price, etc.. After learning this essential information, he or she will be more likely to look for the brand’s shop and make a purchase. If the brand has pages on that particular social platform, in this case, Instagram, the whole process is made simpler and the person is even more likely to complete the purchase.
Therefore, it is no longer enough to focus all the efforts on just one channel. Brands and shops need to maintain a constant multi-channel presence and engage with people on more than one front. Ideally, this could lead to a maximized use of big data that comes from certain platforms, resulting in finely tuned personalized advertising and product offerings.
Although automation is not a new trend in eCommerce, in 2020 and beyond, it will become even more prominent, as merchants find new ways to automate their processes. Most online shops adopted automated email campaigns years ago, but in the coming year, it will be more about using automation to simplify some strictly commerce-related processes. This means everything from inventory management and the processing of orders to creating invoices, billing, scheduling deliveries, and managing returns and refunds.
This is especially important if we consider the trends we discussed above – multi-channel engagement and social commerce. If a merchant is unable to get real-time info on inventory and shipping schedules, there will be too much room for mistakes that can cause significant damage. Popular products will run out of stock while the shop continues to accept new orders. This amount of possible errors that can anger customers is something no eCommerce website can afford. Negative word of mouth travels fast and a shop that doesn’t rely on automation for these vital processes can suffer a serious blow to its reputation.
Bringing Together Online and Offline Shopping
Remember how we talked about a relatively low share of eCommerce in global retail statistics? In addition to signalling that brick-and-mortar stores are still alive and kicking, it is also an indicator that online stores should try and leverage the potential of physical stores to increase their revenue.
In 2020, we will see more and more brands offering their customers a combination of online and offline shopping options, for instance, providing information about in-store availability of certain products. While it is true that people generally prefer having the items delivered to their doorstep instead of going to the mall to buy them, sometimes it’s actually simpler and quicker to get a product from a physical store.
In addition, we often feel the need to physically interact with the products we’re interested in – feel them, try them out, see how they fit. That’s precisely why some strictly online companies, such as Amazon, are opening up (or planning to open) physical stores, offering their customers offline shopping experience. Conversely, many brands that have not opened online stores are setting them up right now, tapping into the potential of a large demographic that spends a lot of time on the web and prefers completing their purchases in online shops.