The global pandemic accelerated the shift from physical retail to e-commerce. According to Forbes1, in 2023, 20.8% of global retail purchases are expected to take place online.
Competition within the e-commerce sector has never been fiercer, so, to stay ahead, business owners need to be aware of the latest trends in e-commerce and integrate those that are relevant into their growth strategy.
One of the biggest emerging trends in e-commerce is the use of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality to enhance the online shopping experience.
AR integrates the real, physical world with computer-generated visuals, sound or both. VR puts the user in a computer-generated, but seemingly real, environment using a VR headset.
AR and VR can give customers a far more realistic idea of what a product is actually like – for example, how an item of clothing fits or how a shade of paint looks on a wall in a room. If the technologies are adopted as widely as some experts predict, shoppers will have even less reason to visit bricks-and-mortar stores.
Tessa Wuertz, Director of Marketing & Partnerships at efelle.com, predicts small and medium-sized businesses will increasingly use AR:
“We are expecting a lot more businesses to utilize AR for their products and businesses — so much so that it will become more standard in e-commerce and social media platforms. We’re seeing it put to use with larger companies, but I think we’re soon going to start seeing it become mainstream for businesses of all sizes.”2
Voice search is a fast-growing online shopping trend. Nearly half (47%) of shoppers have used voice command technology to make an online purchase and 58% were satisfied with the experience3.
Smart e-commerce business owners will need to optimize their e-commerce stores for voice search on Google, using keywords and phrases.
Visual search – allowing consumers to carry out searches using images – is a less developed e-commerce trend, with only 8% of brands offering it currently. However, with 62% of Millennials and Gen Z wanting to use visual search, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes mainstream.
Online customers have come to expect truly personalized experiences online – and that is where the new generation of AI-powered technologies is transformative. It can understand customer behavioral data on a deeper level to help businesses increase customer engagement and conversion rates.
The opportunities AI affords to e-commerce businesses are endless, but some of the ways it can improve operations include:
Data collected by AI allows businesses to deliver customers personalized experiences when shopping online – such as tailored product recommendations. This incentivizes shoppers to complete the purchase.
However, consumers are increasingly resistant to sharing their data. This will be especially true when that personalization expands out of shopping platforms and begins to appear elsewhere, on other gadgets in the home, thanks to the Internet of Things.
Research shows that free returns are a huge draw for consumers, yet around 30% of all online orders are returned, making it an expensive feature for businesses to offer.
One of the emerging e-commerce trends is businesses charging a fee for returns – with retail giants like Zara and Uniqlo introducing the policy last year. So, what should your business do?
Chatbots will increasingly be used for customer support in e-commerce, with the global market expected to be worth US$3.99 billion by 20304.
As the e-commerce market becomes ever more competitive, efficient customer service from a chatbot can be the difference between a frustrated customer leaving your webstore to shop elsewhere, and staying to make a purchase.
The most sophisticated chatbots can even use a customer’s previous data to anticipate which products will appeal to them or suggest a product that complements a recent purchase – boosting sales further.
Mobile commerce, or m-commerce, can be defined as the buying and selling of goods and services using wireless handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Customers can shop anytime, anywhere – meaning lucrative opportunities for your business.
According to Statista5, smartphone retail commerce sales are projected to top US$400 billion by 2024, nearly double the amount forecast for 2021.
With more and more social platforms enabling consumers to buy directly from businesses without leaving the app, social sales are expected to triple to US$1.2 trillion by 2025, according to a study by Accenture7.
For smaller e-commerce businesses in particular, social media commerce represents a cost-effective sales route.
Online payment solutions are constantly evolving, with “Buy Now Pay Later” services currently in the spotlight. These allow online customers to pay for their purchases in installments, and is offered by companies such as Klarna, PayPal and Afterpay. According to Mastercard, which has recently introduced Mastercard Installments, it reduces online cart abandonment rates by 35%8.
In a recent survey by Salesforce9, 80% of business leaders said they plan to switch to headless commerce. So, what is it and why is it one of the most popular e-commerce trends?
Put simply, headless commerce is a next generation e-commerce solution that decouples a website or application’s front and back ends. It uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to deliver content to any front-end framework.
As a result, customers will be able to shop online via Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart speakers, smart fitness devices, or even smart fridges – not just the usual PCs, laptops and smartphones. By bringing together all these online shopping routes, headless commerce increases flexibility, and adds new sales opportunities. And because it can quickly incorporate new sales channels, it can also streamline omnichannel selling.
All these benefits will make headless commerce one of the most future-proof trends in e-commerce.
Video can give customers a much better picture of a product than even the most detailed description, so it’s no wonder it’s a growing trend in online shopping.
You can use video to show the size of a product, how it works, and how it looks. And the more a customer knows about a product before buying, the less likely they are to return it – saving you money in the long run.
Online subscriptions meet the need for both customer convenience and predictable, regular revenue for businesses.
Subscriptions can be used for everything from streaming services like Netflix, to regular deliveries of food and other essentials. The model is also growing in popularity amongst Millennials, so it looks like it’s here to stay. In fact, it’s expected to be worth $2419.69 billion10 by 2028.
Eco-conscious consumers are increasingly choosing to shop with sustainable brands. As well as minimizing packaging and using recycled materials for your products wherever possible, you need to be mindful of who you choose as a logistics partner.
In an economic climate where people are spending less, it’s vital to convert visitors to your webshop into purchasers. Using conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools can help you achieve this. They include behavior analytics tools, web analytics tools and CRO testing tools.
According to Verfacto10, the average return on investment of using CRO tools is more than 223%. Using the right combination will help you provide the very best user experience and convert traffic into sales.
Alongside B2C e-commerce, B2B e-commerce was also boosted by COVID, as traditional B2B transactions were forced online. Furthermore, the change is being driven by an increase in Millennials in key B2B decision-making roles. This generation, which has grown up with the internet, prefers to research products online to dealing with sales people over the phone or in person. All things considered, the growth of B2B appears to be an e-commerce trend that will accelerate rather than reverse.
Of course, not all the trends discussed above will be relevant to your business, but there are a few good indicators you can follow. For a start, keep a close eye on what’s being talked about in your industry. If a respected industry blogger is writing about one of the trends, it’s probably worth looking into it further. Likewise, make sure you’re up-to-date with the latest research and industry trend reports.
Another good indicator is your own customers. Use analytics to track their behavior and gain insights. By using the data, you may well be able to decide whether a particular online shopping trend will work for your customers. And of course, you can always ask them directly for feedback – always a good source of insights.
Finally, look at your competitors. What are they doing and is it working for them? Then draw your own conclusions.