Since the first online sales back in 1982, the ecommerce industry has significantly grown and changed—and the future of ecommerce is no different. Every day, people are developing new technologies that will shape the way businesses sell their products and services.
“Ecommerce leaders will have to keep with these changes (and others) to survive and stay ahead.”- Linda Bustos, Ecommerce Expert from Get Elastic
So what ecommerce trends should you follow for the next year? Which ones should you focus on? And how can you adapt your business to thrive?
That’s what we are going to tell you.
But first, let’s take a look at the current state of the ecommerce industry, and where the experts are predicting it to grow in the next few years.
Future of Ecommerce by the Numbers
There’s no denying that online shopping is one of the most popular activities everywhere in the world.
In fact, data from Statista shows that in 2019 worldwide retail ecommerce sales amounted to 3.53 trillion U.S. dollars. And by 2022, they are predicting that number to almost double to 6.54 trillion U.S. dollars.
Additionally, experts expect that by the year 2023, there will be 300 million online shoppers in the U.S.—which is 91% of the population.
Previously, the majority of ecommerce purchases were made on a desktop or laptop computer. But that’s no longer the case..
One of the most surprising trends is the rise of B2B ecommerce. In 2019, B2B accounted for 63.1% of ecommerce revenue and is expected to witness the fastest growth from 2020 to 2027.
12 Trends Shaping the Future of Ecommerce
As you can see, the future is bright and exciting for ecommerce. So now that we’ve looked at the big picture numbers, let’s dive deeper into 12 trends to keep an eye on for the next year and how you can use them to grow your business.
1. Global ecommerce grows outside the U.S.
According to a 2019 report from eMarketer, by 2023 retail ecommerce sales worldwide will reach $6.5 trillion and will account for 22% of total retail sales. Additionally, China represents 54.7% of the global ecommerce market—pushing the U.S. down to the number two spot.
However, when it comes to the fastest-growing global ecommerce marketplaces, the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America are coming up fast, specifically Mexico, India, and the Philippines.
So if you’re looking to move into one of these global markets, what should you do? First, you need to determine if it’s even a good move for your business. Gather market intelligence by taking advantage of government research tools and look into local buying trends.
Once you decide to move forward, ensure that you have the right tools and technology in place to cater to the local markets. For example, when BigCommerce customer LARQ wanted to take their self-cleaning water bottles international, they launched a website with multi-region and multicurrency capabilities.
3. Voice shopping will be prevalent.
Have you heard of voice commerce? It’s the next big thing for how people are going to search for and buy products. Already, 111.8 million people use voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple’s Siri monthly to accomplish a variety of tasks—including shopping.
If you’re not familiar with how it works, here’s a great example from RubyGarage on how customers can use voice assistants to make an online purchase.
Since many businesses are still behind on optimizing their websites for voice search and voice shopping, this is an excellent time to get ahead of the competition. When building your ecommerce site, make sure you account for voice, especially think about incorporating voice search in your SEO strategy.
5. Customer experience marketing.
A 2020 study by Adobe found that 61% of the 1,585 U.S. consumers surveyed said they would stop engaging with brands that offer frustrating experiences. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that customer experience is making its way to the top of every marketer’s priority list for 2020.
If you aren’t familiar with this emerging trend, ReviewTrackers offers a great definition of customer experience marketing: “Customer experience marketing is the strategy of focusing marketing efforts on the customer and improving how the customer experiences your product or services.”
So when it comes to developing a good relationship with your customers, three tactics really stand out.
Video is in demand
When it comes to the content that your customers want to consume, the written word is out and video is in. In the same Adobe study mentioned above, 48% of respondents stated that they were likely to stay engaged with a brand’s content if video is included as part of the experience.
Interactive product pages
One of the biggest downsides to shopping online is that you can’t touch the product. But with interactive product pages, you can help your customers get a better sense of what your products are like in real life. Here are some examples:
- Show a 360-degree view of the product.
- Allow customers to upload their own photos and videos of the product when leaving a review.
- Include a short video that demonstrates how to use your product.
- Let customers customize the product and show them what those changes look like in real-time.
If you’re talking about the future of customer experience marketing and customer service, you have to mention chatbots. Not only are they great for businesses, but your customers love them too. For instance, data from Salesforce shows that 69% of consumers prefer to use chatbots because it’s much faster for communicating with a brand.
Additionally, a HubSpot survey indicates that chatbots can help customers when making a purchase by providing personalized recommendations. This is confirmed by the fact that 47% of respondents stated that they are open to buying items using a chatbot.
6. Sustainable ecommerce blooms.
It’s no longer enough to say you care about the environment. Today’s consumers expect that your company will operate in a way that actively reduces its environmental impact. Because if you don’t, they’ll take their shopping dollars elsewhere.
Source: The Conference Board® Global Consumer Confidence Survey, conducted in collaboration with Nielsen Q2 2017
Eco-friendly supply chain
One place to start making green-friendly changes is your supply chain. Here are some strategies from SupplyChainBrain that you can incorporate into your business practices:
- Focus on ethical sourcing and hold your suppliers accountable for meeting your standards.
- Use green materials that limit resource depletion and minimize carbon emissions.
- Start using just-in-time strategies to reduce excess inventory.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines sustainable manufacturing as, “The creation of manufactured products through economically-sound processes that minimize negative environmental impacts while conserving energy and natural resources.”
While there is too much to cover in one simple article, here are some tips from EcoEnclose that can help you think about ways to make your manufacturing processes more sustainable.
- Evaluate your workplace/labor conditions to ensure employees are safe and fairly compensated.
- Take steps to reduce your energy usage and introduce more renewable energy options.
- Look into ways you can reduce excess shipping costs and bring sourcing, manufacturing, and warehousing closer together.
- Assess your waste management processes to minimize landfill and hazardous waste while maximizing recycling and composting.
According to data from the LimeLoop:
- 165 billion packages and envelopes are shipped each year.
- 65 billion parcel packages are shipped worldwide.
- 178 million parcel packages are shipped daily.
And all of this combined equates to a daily consumption of 1.2 million trees, 242 million gallons of water, and 5 million gallons of oil.
Fortunately, companies like EcoEnclose are committing to making the shipping industry much more sustainable. One way they are changing things is through the concept of zero waste packaging, which means everything used for packaging can be used, reused, or recycled.
“The focus we have on sustainability is honestly infectious. We like to say we’re eco-geeks getting all excited about our biodegradable paper mailers and 100% recycled poly mailers—and we’re so proud of what we’re able to do not only for other businesses but the planet as well.” —Saloni Doshi, EcoEnclose Owner & Co-CEO
8. Fulfillment expectations rise.
Thanks to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, customers want their orders fast—if not right away. But, as eFulfillment Service notes in their report The State of Ecommerce Order Fulfillment & Shipping, very few customers are willing to pay for fast shipping. In fact, the most they are willing to pay is $3.00.
So if you can’t afford to eat the cost of shipping, think about what other solutions can you implement to meet customer fulfillment expectations. Here are some ideas:
- Implement free shipping thresholds to encourage customers to add more items to their carts.
- Use shipping options that allow for weekend delivery.
- Specify the expected time for delivery during the checkout process.
- Give customers the option to buy online and pick up in-store for free.
If you’re struggling to meet demand with in-house shipping, you can also look into outsourcing your fulfillment to a faster third-party logistics (3PL) company.
9. Measurements expand across all devices.
Did you know that U.S. households own an average of 11 connected devices, including seven with screens to view content? This has changed the way people shop in a big way. For instance, someone could see an ad on their T.V., research the product on their smartphone, and then log in to their laptop to complete the purchase.
However, it means you’ll need to get more sophisticated in the ways you collect and analyze data. Here’s an example of how BigCommerce customer Hickies has had success tracking sales since they’ve started running ads on T.V.
“We also started on a project this year with TV advertising which, as a traditional form of direct marketing, has proved to be a really interesting opportunity for us. Our partner Tatari basically set up a pixel on our site that measures traffic spikes following a TV ad compared to normal site traffic, which allows us to more precisely figure out what works, what doesn’t, and how to optimize our channel more than standard TV advertising could.” — Jonathan Segev, Hickies Director of Technology
So if you’re not capturing data across all devices, you’re already behind. Because going forward, companies are gathering and using data to reach their customers in new ways.
In Econsultancy’s 2019 Digital Trends report, 55% of marketers surveyed selected ‘better use of data for more effective audience segmentation and targeting’ as one of their three organizational priorities. Additionally, when businesses use data-driven personalization, they can deliver 5-8x the ROI on marketing spend.
Not only are marketers using data to decide who to market their products to, but they are also using data to determine what stage they’re at in the funnel. Then, they can serve them content or advertising that aligns with that specific stage.
Plus, with programmatic advertising, you have the ability to target customers on the screens they use the most in real-time.
Retargeting isn’t anything new, but companies are starting to think more about the strategy behind their retargeting campaigns. Even further, companies are using cross-device targeting to keep messaging consistent across every device the customer uses.
For example, when someone is signed into their Google account on their phone and their laptop, that becomes a unique identifier that you can use to track what areas of your website they’ve visited. And then you can serve then retargeting ads designed for either platform.
10. Product recognition.
At the moment product recognition is still in its infancy compared to many other trends we’ve talked about so far, but it has the potential to revolutionize the ecommerce industry.
LogoGrab shares an example of how this works with image classification. Basically, a customer takes a picture of an outfit on their phone. Then, they can search across several online marketplaces to find the exact outfit or something similar.
In fact, Facebook recently launched a new tool they’re calling a “universal product recognition model,” which uses artificial intelligence to identify consumer goods. Eventually, they hope to create an entire social-first shopping experience that combines product recognition, augmented reality, and digital assistants.
11. B2B ecommerce expands.
As more businesses are looking for new ways to grow sales, they will increasingly turn to ecommerce as the solution. We’ve been talking about this for years.
And it makes sense because even though they are buying for a business, people still want the ease and convenience of completing the transaction completely online.
What’s interesting is that many companies already sell B2B and B2C. They just have more cumbersome processes for B2B that involve different ways of applying discounts, communicating with customers, and sending manual invoices. With the right B2B ecommerce platform, this doesn’t have to be the case anymore.
When Jeep People wanted a solution for simplifying the order process for wholesalers and dealers, they started using an ecommerce platform, which made a big difference.
“Now on BigCommerce, our dealers and wholesalers can simply log into our store, access custom pricing that has been tailored specifically for them and order right through the site. It’s essentially a B2C shopping experience for a B2B customer, which they love. We simply couldn’t do this with our previous platform.” —Taylor Pierce, Co-Owner, jeeppeople.com
12. Social selling needs to be a priority.
Even though it’s last on the list, adapting how you sell your products on social media might be the most important thing you do in the next year.
More and more, social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook, are giving users options to buy your product right then and there inside the app—without the need to visit a separate website. This is a huge area for growth, considering that 74% of consumers rely on social networks to make purchasing decisions. Even though Instagram checkout just launched for large retailers in 2019, the data looks promising for ecommerce retailers.
But before you invest everything in social selling, remember that this is just another channel to use. Consumers are still getting used to the feature and haven’t completely adopted it just yet.
As you can see, the ecommerce industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon. There are tons of opportunities to grow your business in the coming years.
The best way to beat the competition is to stay informed of what’s coming and adopt the trends that will resonate most with your customers. This applies to every ecommerce business from Fortune 500 companies to small mom-and-pop shops.
Because if you can create success now, the future will only get brighter!
Shelley is a Content Marketing Manager at BigCommerce, where she specializes in content strategy, research and writing to educate brands on the ecommerce industry. Prior to joining BigCommerce, she worked on marketing teams spanning various industries from eLearning to millennial and Gen Z research. Outside of work, she loves exploring all things Texas BBQ and craft beer with her husband and two dogs.