In just a few months, Amazon will celebrate its 25th birthday. As the grandfather of ecommerce, it’s a momentous occasion. In reflecting how far ecommerce has come, it’s also a time to look at where it’s headed in 2019 and beyond. We explore some of the top trends to anticipate this year—and perhaps for the next few years to come.
While ecommerce is rapidly growing, brick-and-mortar still has a hold of the majority of retail sales. In fact, physical stores are still accounting for roughly 90% of all sales, relegating ecommerce to account for just 10%. However, that percentage varies widely when drilling down into different industries. For example, ecommerce drives closer to 20% of sales for the apparel industry. That percentage shoots up dramatically for products and services that live in the digital realm and can be delivered digitally.
Merchants with both a physical and online presence should ensure their experience is optimized across all channels. Consumers should have the same, optimized experience across brick-and-mortar stores, online shops, and mobile apps. Payment options should be broad yet targeted to the consumer base a merchant is selling to. As contextual commerce gains momentum, online merchants may also want to consider selling and payment options via social channels.
Ecommerce Automation is Growing
It’s no secret that the customer-facing and back-office workflows for an ecommerce site are a complex web of processes and tools. Fortunately, there are new, automated tools to help merchants better manage these processes.
The manual labor that goes into new product releases, flash or holiday sales, or other special occasions can be simplified through the use of triggers and conditions, automating a series of processes.
Ecommerce Automation Tip
Merchants should work with a specialized payment processor that can help them streamline workflows and processes through automation. This can optimize operations across several departments, including marketing, product development, and payments.
Consider creating a customized checkout experience for each consumer via automatic discounts, relevant payment options, and other tailored options that improves the customer experience and aids in retention.
Mobile Sets the Pace
Mobile traffic is quickly approaching or even bypassing traffic from desktops. In terms of ecommerce, mobile sales are breaking records. In 2018, online sales hit $6.22 billion on Black Friday, with over $2 billion from smartphone sales.
Overall mobile sales in 2018 were even more impressive; mobile commerce via smartphones accounted for an estimated $117 billion in the U.S. That’s roughly 23% of online retail sales and 3% of all retail sales, according to research firm Forrester.
For merchants, this means an optimized mobile shopping experience is essential. Not only should the mobile experience be on par with desktop, it should surpass it. Appearance of the site should be appropriate for smaller screens. Merchants need to consider how content, buttons, images, and forms translate to the mobile experience.
Mobile ecommerce payments should be frictionless. The checkout process should be seamless, requiring the minimum amount of effort on the part of the customer. Merchants should consider intelligent form fill, and shortening checkout pages as much as possible. Consumers turn to mobile as a convenient shopping option and merchants should cater to this need through a simplified shopping and checkout experience.
Contextual Commerce Goes Social
Contextual commerce is gaining widestream momentum as people prefer to shop and make purchases on their favorite digital platforms and channels. In many cases, these channels are social media. Native social selling—enabling consumers to buy products directly through social media—has become popular
Merchants are continually implementing opportunities to buy into everyday activities, devices and environments. One click of a button allows consumers to seamlessly make a purchase anytime and anywhere.
Contextual Commerce Tip
Pay attention to your consumers’ digital hangouts. If your target audience spends most of their time on Facebook, consider turning it into a sales channel. If your customers love voice activated assistants (Google Home, Alexa), consider how voice shopping may integrate into your current strategy.
The key is to collect data about your target customer and to adjust your ecommerce strategy to meet their needs and preferences. It’s also important to create a roadmap for expanding into new channels. While technology is advancing at a rapid rate, some ecommerce technologies are so nascent that it may make sense to plan now and launch later.
At the heart of all the upcoming ecommerce trends is the customer. Merchants should embrace a customer-centric selling strategy to see the greatest results in 2019 and beyond. Harnessing new technologies can be a step in the right direction—so long as a solid plan is in place. More ubiquitous trends like mobile commerce are here to stay, so merchants who are not quite up to speed may want to focus efforts on low-hanging fruit and branch out from there. As we move deeper into 2019, more trends are sure to emerge. Having a solid omnichannel strategy in place is a good foundation for any merchant to thrive this year.