There’s good news for online retailers in 2019: the global e-commerce market continues to thrive.
Business data experts Statista report, “In 2017, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 2.3 trillion US dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars in 2021.”
So how do you make sure that you’re keeping up with changes in the industry and getting a piece of the action? Whether you’re an experienced seller working on your branding, or just taking the first steps towards launching your online store, here are some of the trends in e-commerce you should look out for in 2019.
Augmented and virtual reality
Mixed reality shopping experiences might not have hit the mainstream yet, but as the technology becomes more sophisticated, you can expect to see it more widely used. With augmented and virtual reality, the aim is to bridge the gap between what they experience online versus in a traditional brick-and-mortar store. At its simplest, this could be testing out makeup or trying on clothes, but can also allow the customer to ‘place’ items of furniture in their homes, or even visit virtual reality showrooms.
Being able to get a more realistic view of the product they’re buying gives customers increased confidence in the purchasing process, who no longer have to worry if the sunglasses will suit their face or the lamp will look good in their living room. The upside for retailers that invest in mixed reality technologies is fewer returns and higher conversion rates.
Increased website personalisation
You’re probably familiar with Amazon’s recommendation engine, but the future of personalisation in e-commerce goes far beyond lists of related or suggested products. With 48% of online shoppers spending more during a personalised store experience, implementing this technology is a key factor for any retailer who wants to keep up.
By leveraging data such as browsing history, searches, past purchases and even customer location, AI technology can create content and layouts that are targeted down to an individual level. This might be menu personalisation for easier access to previously browsed categories, discount coupons for specific items viewed, and even custom content. Clever brands have implemented homepage displays reflecting the shopper’s browsing history or even suggestions based on the weather forecast for their location.
Chatbots are here to stay
As the e-commerce market grows, so too does its customer base. And for retailers, this means investing more in customer support for an audience that now expects to be able to get help around the clock. Chatbots can ease the pressure on staff by answering questions and collecting customer feedback, freeing them up for more complex tasks. Chatbot AI can also assist businesses by gathering information on most frequently asked questions and customer behaviour.
But don’t expect the technology to remove the need for humans. “A chatbot is not a silver bullet that solves all your problems,” Bill Carmody on Forbes.com points out. “It’s simply an enhanced tool that, when disclosed properly, can help your customers get faster access to the information they seek about you and your company.”
Social is still selling
With people spending a third of their time on social media, you’re really missing a big chunk of user views if you haven’t integrated selling through these channels. 60% of Instagram users say they discover new products through the platform, while 40% of Twitter users have made a purchase as a direct result of an influencer’s tweet.
According to the team at Smart and Fast Electrical, an electrical services company, Facebook has boosted sales and proved to be a cost-efficient marketing channel, saying that “by promoting a discount in exchange for a Facebook like, we are able to post on our page for free and get our promotions in front of people who have already purchased our services. These people are way more likely to request our services again and we get to market to them for free”.
Selling on social used to mean advertising that linked to a seller’s website, but now most social media platforms offer some kind of buy button that will help customers purchase a particular product. Instagram went global with its shoppable posts in 2018, which now receive 130 million clicks per month, and both Instagram and Snapchat now offer shoppable stories.
It’s not just about the convenience either – social media can create specific shopping experiences that an online store alone couldn’t. Snapchat teamed up with Jordan Footwear for the 2018 NBA All-Star Game to create location-based discount codes for special edition sneakers, which proceeded to sell out in 23 minutes.
Mobile purchases continue to rise
Though this is not a new trend, there’s no sign of the skew to mobile slowing down. Purchases made on mobile devices are expected to tip 63.5% of all e-commerce sales, with global mobile e-commerce revenue reaching $669 billion. With this much on offer, e-commerce owners really need to think mobile first when it comes to their stores. This means not only making sure sites are mobile-friendly, but also investing in apps. Mobile apps have a higher conversion rate than mobile web or desktop shopping.
According to the team at Unsecured Business Loans, a financial services company, adding a mobile-friendly application has boosted the number of applications received, saying that “giving the applicant an easy way to apply over their phone or laptop makes them much more likely to fill out an application when compared to tedious methods such as scanning physical documents”.
The checkout and payment process should also be as simple as possible – we all know how frustrating is to fill in credit card information on a mobile keypad, and customers on the train don’t want to get out their credit cards on the commute. The evolution of payment gateways and e-wallets such as Venmo and Amazon Pay is helping to fill in the gaps here.
Offering easy payment or booking options on your website will mean more customers will go through. The team at Wellbeing Health Retreats, a health coaching business, use e-commerce to book their retreats and sell other wellbeing products on their website. They have said that “providing an easy booking option online decreases the number of people who exit out without any conversion. We have several call-to-actions that lead to this online booking platform and we’ve seen higher book rates”.
Subscription models have more to offer
Made popular by value-driven brands such as Hello Fresh and the Dollar Shave Club, subscription services have been eagerly taken up by online shoppers. Subscription purchases have risen 100% annually in the past five years, and more than 50% of subscribers signing up to more than one service at a time.
Subscription business models fall into three main types. Access subscription provides users with access to content for a monthly fee, such as Netflix or news site paywalls. Replenishment subscriptions send customers a new supply of a product they’ve already purchased, such as razor blades or coffee. Curation services send subscribers a new selection of items each time, which is where beauty and fashion boxes come in.
Subscription models have become easier for even small retailers to implement as more options for accepting recurring payments come to market.