Until recently, the e-Commerce industry was developing and growing steadily. At the beginning of 2020-2021, the balance has shifted due to the dramatic surge in online shopping, so businesses have to adjust quickly to the new reality.
Some customer experience trends predicted for the online commerce market six months ago are still relevant, but some new opportunities are also emerging. Let’s try to see the near future of the digital customer experience and distinguish some key e-Commerce trends for this year and beyond.
Why Is It Crucial to Monitor and Embrace E-Commerce Trends?
A trend is always the reflection of customer needs and desires. Following the trend means understanding your customers better and addressing their needs.
E-Commerce companies need to keep their services relevant and adapt quickly to market changes; otherwise, consumers won’t stay. Monitoring the trends is the right way to keep tabs on the evolution of the industry.
Online businesses must know how to sell at a given period of time.
What are the appropriate methods and channels for selling your goods and promoting your brand in 2020-2021? To find out, let’s first try to clearly understand what customers need and expect from online brands today.
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Since the digital world lacks live communication, people need to feel that someone cares about them. Content personalization, customized offerings and 24/7 customer support can create such a feeling.
The consumer society we live in rejects limits and the absence of choice. To win a loyal audience, businesses, in addition to providing a wide choice of products, must offer omnichannel sales (both online and offline), payment, delivery and returns options.
The rapid pace of modern life makes users impatient, so that they expect instant interactions with companies, as well as to be able to quickly purchase what they want. Consequently, online retailers must implement integrated solutions such as SAP Commerce Cloud that help process orders quickly and seamlessly. Same-day delivery should also be available.
For users, it’s urgent to feel both physical and digital security while interacting with online stores. Digital security implies personal data protection and has become an unconditional principle of every e-Commerce company today.
Physical security has become a critical issue during the global health emergency caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The solution is seen in contactless delivery, which gives people the option of avoiding human contact and reducing the chance of infection.
Now, let’s specify the most prominent e-Commerce trends that businesses should focus on.
1. High Importance of Contactless Commerce
The adverse epidemiological situation coming about from the COVID-19 outbreak has significantly affected brick-and-mortar stores that are currently experiencing serious reductions in foot traffic.
However, the demand for shopping has not declined: people still (and will always) need to buy goods and services; the difference is that they will opt for remote purchasing and contactless delivery.
For shop owners, it means the necessity to readjust processes toward contactless commerce to support the flow of goods and services and to keep their business running.
Here is a strategy for merchants on how they can support sales at a high level and protect both retail workers and customers from infection by reducing the number of human interactions.
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It’s a well-known fact that cash, cards and payment terminals are extremely dirty in terms of microbes and infectious agents. Eliminating these sources of contamination results in preventing the spread of illnesses among staff and buyers. Here are some alternatives to traditional payment methods:
- Cashless payments — using cards instead of cash is preferable since touching one card means fewer risks than touching a number of bills and coins
- Contactless cards — the usage of RFID or NFC technologies means that a buyer applies a card to the terminal and doesn’t have to hand it to the cashier
- Self-service checkouts — special automated machines allow customers to process their purchases without a cashier, minimizing direct human interaction, as well as staff contact with cash or cards
- Online payments — buying via websites and mobile apps, users should have an option to pay online, thus completely eliminating human interaction
If customers can’t reach your store, you should reach customers in the safest way. That’s why contactless delivery is stepping up. There are two options:
- Couriers deliver orders and leave them at the door
- Drones deliver orders to the door (available for light-weighted goods only)
In addition to being safe, contactless commerce is rather convenient, so it’s definitely going to gain popularity in the near future.
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2. Free and Quick Delivery Wanted
However functional, convenient and appealing an online store is, it cannot survive without a fast and seamless delivery service. The majority of users agree that the availability of free and fast shipping plays a decisive role in completing a purchase.
When it comes to food delivery, one or two hours matter. What concerns other goods, same-day delivery is most welcome.
Unable to ignore this trend, e-Commerce stores should consider the optimization of logistics in order to find the fastest delivery ways and minimize their expenses. A good idea for large cities is using scooters or bicycles as alternative courier transport.
Offer free shipping if the total order exceeds a certain sum and consider offering convenient ways to return the goods.
3. Mobile Shopping Is Here to Stay
Available smartphones and the omnipresence of the internet are the core factors influencing the growing number of mobile internet users.
Mobile shopping is growing especially fast, as people use their handheld devices to search for goods, compare prices in various stores, seek out detailed descriptions, reviews and testimonials. Moreover, with the development of mobile technologies, mobile payments become more reliable, so it’s safer and more convenient to make purchases than ever before.
Statista forecasts 73 percent of sales in electronic commerce will be on mobile devices by the end of 2021.
As a result, more and more e-Commerce websites are optimized for mobile use. There are two options to do this:
- Adaptive design — create a mobile version of a website with simplified navigation, fewer buttons and the most useful information about products. It will look good on the smaller screens of smartphones.
- Mobile application development — create a separate software solution that users will download to their mobile devices. As a rule, mobile applications provide more opportunities to both clients and companies.
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4. The Power of Content Appreciated
For a long time, e-Commerce marketing specialists have underestimated the power of content, considering it exclusively a selling tool.
However, the core function of good content is not to sell something but to establish a strong connection between a brand and its clients.
Today, investing in content creation is one of the priorities of advanced e-Commerce companies.
By means of qualitative content, you reveal the company’s principles and ideas to the audience, you get acquainted with your clients and earn their trust.
Useful and relevant content builds the company’s reputation. When people understand that you are really good at your job, they are inspired to buy from you.
Personalized content is currently the most powerful tool for attracting loyal audiences and establishing long-term trusting relationships, which results in increased sales.
Tips for creating good content:
- Diversity — don’t be boring: create texts, audio and video content so that customers could choose what they like more. These could be short stories and long white papers, interviews and podcasts, interactive infographics and tests — whatever your creativity can help you craft.
- Usefulness — your content should be informative and up-to-date. When customers learn something new, they are satisfied.
- No direct advertising — if you need to mention a product or company name in your piece of content, try to do so naturally.
What are the best places to share content?
- Social networks — LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook
- Publishing platforms — Medium, Quora
- Blogs — you can develop your own blog and create guest posts for other blogs
In any case, make sure you cover multiple content touchpoints, which you can do easily with the help of a headless CMS.
5. Online vs. Offline Interaction Choice
A popular opinion that brick-and-mortar shops are dying has nothing to do with reality. Numerous customers still want to discover and test out products in the real world.
Since buyers want to have a choice, the best e-Commerce strategy is to integrate online and offline sales channels. Each brand should implement both opportunities — for a customer to be able to buy the same product for the same price and under the same conditions, whether they do it online or at the store.
6. Omnichannel Sales and Marketing Approach
For attracting customer’s attention in a huge daily informational flow of news, advertisements and notifications, retailers should deliver relevant offerings and satisfy the needs of clients here and now.
An omnichannel sales and marketing approach is the best way to do so.
The omnichannel model of trading implies that a client has a variety of options for where to order, how to pay, how to pick up goods. In other words, a retailer integrates purchase channels such as a website, a mobile application, social networks, digital catalogs, offline stores into a cohesive ecosystem, and provides the same conditions (price, discounts, inventory, delivery, etc.) for each channel.
Omnichannel doesn’t mean multiple separate touchpoints; omnichannel is about multiple integrated touchpoints that track user’s behavior and exchange information for improving customer experience.
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7. Personal Touch Is the Basis of Everything
Traditional advertisements showing perfect products don’t work anymore.
Modern online shoppers value a more personalized approach that provides help in finding what they really need, not what the retailers want to sell.
How can you know the current needs of your clients? With the development of AI-powered search and recommendation technologies, you can track and analyze customer online interactions and previous orders, thus identifying their interests and preferences quite accurately.
Offering personalized communications, providing appropriate discounts and interacting with customers through relevant content, you can improve the quality of purchases and strengthen relationships.
8. Advanced Technologies Improve Customer Experience
A range of technologies based on artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms has become widely used in online shopping due to the opportunities they offer in improving the customer experience.
Voice commerce is evolving with the development of voice recognition technology. People find it more convenient to use their voice instead of typing out requests for internet searching, ordering, and completing the buying process.
Virtual digital assistants such as Google Assistant, Siri or Alexa help smoothly integrate the online shopping experience with everyday life: users can purchase something without stopping their routine tasks.
E-commerce companies definitely need to implement and optimize voice search functions in their online store websites and mobile applications.
Visual commerce is evolving with the development of image recognition technology. Here are some examples of how image-analysis solutions can improve shopping experiences:
- Image classification — users can arrange products in an online store by parameters such as color and style, which simplifies the search process
- Objects identification — users can take a photo of an object and find it on various online marketplaces
- Inappropriate content — users can set up parameters of content they don’t want to see, and the solution will remove it from search results
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One of the biggest problems that online stores have always faced is the fact that their customers cannot try on clothes and accessories or imagine furniture in their interior prior to making a purchase.
Augmented reality technologies have been able to solve this problem. E-commerce augmented reality applications are gaining popularity as tools for a virtual dressing room or test run.
Now, buyers can see how goods will look in real life: whether a dress fits a body type, whether a sofa matches the wallpaper in the living room, how much space a table occupies in the kitchen, and so on.
E-Commerce Competition Is Always on the Move
Trends may come and go, but in order to compete in the ever-changing online retail space, e-Commerce companies need to pay attention to them and choose the most relevant solutions for their audiences.
Remember: something that works for one business will not necessarily work for you.
It is important to apply the most appropriate innovations and adapt them to the needs of your audience. Competition in online retail will continue to grow, and only the strongest companies that will offer customers the most advantageous and convenient opportunities will benefit.
The only trend that all companies must follow nowadays is to take a customer-oriented approach.