Any Other Business: 19 February 2021

Anna Thompson
Anna Thompson
Discover content team
3 min read
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This week’s AOB looks at the latest e-commerce news from around the world including TikTok’s latest advertising ambitions, and how China’s online shopping boom is making history.

China’s e-commerce sales to outperform bricks-and-mortar in global first

2021 is set to be a historic year for China’s e-commerce sector. Insider Intelligence1 forecasts that this year, as purchasing habits change and online shopping increases in popularity, e-commerce sales will account for a majority of the country’s total retail sales for the first time – 52.1% versus 44.8% in 20192. It will make China the first country in the world where this has happened. 

Insider Intelligence points to several cumulative reasons behind e-commerce’s rapid rise in the country, including its use of innovative digital payment systems, the popularity of online marketplace Alibaba, and a smartphone driven m-commerce culture.

If you’re not selling to China yet, you should be. Here’s what you need to know.  

UK shoppers hesitant to return items during pandemic

New research suggests that online shoppers in the UK are sitting on 2.4 billion pounds (3.34 billion dollars) of unreturned goods they have purchased through the internet3. 54% of them said that lockdown restrictions have made the process of returning them more difficult, whilst 45% believe that retailers should be doing more to make it easier to do so in the current circumstances. 

Returns have long been a pain for e-commerce sellers to deal with, but the survey pointed to how valuable the service can be for attracting and retaining customers. “Respondents say they are now more likely to check how long they have to send a parcel back to the retailer and how many options retailers offer for returning items when making purchases”, the research noted.

Follow our tips on how to make online returns as seamless as possible during these unprecedented times – for your business and your customers.

Watch out Facebook…TikTok eyes up advertising opportunities

TikTok4, the Chinese-owned viral app beloved of millennials and Gen Z-ers, is planning an aggressive expansion into e-commerce in the US. The company has briefed advertisers on a number of new features for 2021, including an affiliate-marketing tool that lets its most popular users share links to products and automatically earn commission on any sales.

TikTok is also said to be planning a roll out of livestream shopping, a feature Jack Smyth, creative technology officer at WPP’s Mindshare, believes is perfectly suited to the platform. “Culturally, TikTok is well placed for livestreamed commerce to capture the dissolving distinction between content and commerce because it doesn’t feel as polished as other platforms,” he said5.

New payment system speeds up social media purchases

As social buying becomes more popular, Shopify6 is rolling out an in-app purchasing method on Instagram and Facebook which it claims is 70% faster than other checkout systems.

Shopify’s Shop Pay automatically fills in consumers' details and allows them to pay Shopify merchants without leaving Facebook or Instagram. Users of the payment system will also be able to track their orders, receive updates, and see carbon emissions offset from their purchases, providing a good user journey for customers.

Shop Pay facilitated more than 137 million orders in 2020 and almost US$20 billion in gross merchandise value since it launched in 20177. The move onto Facebook and Instagram comes as brands are increasingly tapping into shoppable content to drive sales. "People are embracing social platforms not only for connection, but for commerce," Carl Rivera, general manager of shop at Shopify said in a press release8.

Amazon rides the COVID-19 wave in North America

In what has become a regular occurrence, Amazon has revealed more record-breaking sales figures. The e-commerce giant had a blockbuster 2020, with sales in North America rising more than 40% year-on-year, thanks, in part, to the pandemic9. The company also enjoyed a busy holiday season, where independent sellers on its Marketplace experienced 50% sales growth versus 2019. 

Are you selling on Amazon yet? Dive into our guide to the leading online marketplaces to discover which one is right for your business. 

1 - Insider Intelligence

2 - Insider Intelligence report, February 2021

3 - InPost survey, Ecommerce News Europe, February 2021

4 - TikTok

5 - Jack Smyth, Financial Times, February 2021

6 - Shopify

7 - Shop Pay, Retail Dive, February 2021

8 - Carl Rivera, Retail Dive, February 2021

9 - Amazon sales figures, Retail Dive, February 2021