The pandemic has reshaped people’s perception of eCommerce, its place in daily life and security levels. People are spending more than ever before and eCommerce is taking advantage of the high level of disposable income many people have. The eCommerce industry as a whole is valued at about US$4 billion, and with the pandemic likely to continue to stretch on for at least another 12 months, limiting movements and physical shopping, eCommerce is set to continue to be a winner in 2022.
Understanding the major trends in eCommerce is important for merchants who want to capitalise on shifts in the market. ECommerce sales have accelerated in the past few years. Even prior to the pandemic, people were gravitating towards the convenience of the market and the ability to purchase a wide variety of goods from all over the world.
As the sector has matured, it has addressed the many early issues that plagued the industry, such as data security, delivery times, payment options and refunds. Most eCommerce operators have incorporated customer service standards into their business and many have made this a core feature of their sales, using chatbots, FQAs, email reply and even call centres to ensure that customers are connected with, fast.
Business-to-Business (B2B) companies are likewise benefiting from having an online presence. In the US, up to 15% of businesses that responded to a recent survey said that they use online shopping services at least once a week. This number is expected to rise as online purchasing and reordering are made easier for businesses. The site, forms, payment methods and customer service contacts have all been made easier.
Ecommerce has proven itself to be accessible and effective for private consumers and businesses all over the world as lockdowns continue to lift and fall in waves, limiting movements and shopping options. People have become more comfortable with online shopping and merchants who have provided high-quality sites, security and delivery services are benefiting. So what are the trends that are set to continue into 2022?
Converting One-Time Buyers
As a result of the pandemic, the eCommerce industry saw massive growth, which some experts have said was equivalent to 10 years of expansion in the US in a single quarter. This expansion has come as the physical retail market has shrunk, and brands have had to shift and adjust to meet consumer demands.
However, one of the biggest obstacles for online merchants is converting one-time shoppers to loyal buyers. According to Forbes, 75 percent of a brand’s customers do not purchase again from the same online shop. There are many factors that contribute to this, but one of the main obstacles is competition. With so many online sellers owning huge amounts of market power, it is easy to put pricing pressure on competitors. Buyers are looking often for the best price, but also the fastest delivery and most secure services.
There are other ways that online stores can appeal to customers. Website navigation, seamless shopping cart and transparency are essential to the success of online stores. Merchants need to incentivise customers and there are many ways that businesses have found to do this. Some online stores are aligning themselves with sustainability movements, while others are focusing on speedy delivery and unique packaging that prompt ‘unboxing’ videos. Loyalty programs, purchasing discounts, gifts and even motivational emails are all tools being used by brands who are seeking to retain customers for more than one purchase; and they work.
Rise of Online Selling
Online sales are forecast to reach US$4.5 trillion this year. This popularity has been bolstered not only by lockdowns, stay at home orders and general discretion on the part of people who do not want to interact with the public in a time of crisis, but also by the online services businesses are offering.
Not only can you purchase goods, like clothing, online, but simple requests, such as home-delivered meals, a taxi pick up, document pick up and delivery, online healthcare services, entertainment, and a host of other products and services can be purchased online. These sales are structured in various ways, such as one-off payments, recurring payments, subscriptions and even crypto payments. Services offered by apps have tapped into a market selling services people didn’t even know they wanted or needed, such as exercise and wellbeing apps that link to smartphones and smartwatches to remind account holders to move once an hour. The ways in which people have found areas to create products or services to separate people from their cash is ingenious.
The better the packaging the better the product, or so we assume. Brands that have harnessed the power of designer packaging are succeeding in 2 important ways: sales and word-of-mouth marketing.
People have a tendency to think that if a product is presented in packaging that is beautiful and representative of the brand and product, it will be of higher quality. Brands that have gravitated towards recycled, upcycled or reusable packaging are also more likely to attract customers because these are the values that many consumers have said matter when purchasing. Minimalist design is still on-trend, as is packaging that can be repurposed.
Customized packaging is having its moment, with the ‘unboxing’ trend of 2020 lockdown videos likely to continue in 2021. With a huge 72% of consumers in the US saying that packaging design matters, it should be noted by online retailers that design matters!
However, one concern of consumers purchasing online is the excessive packaging used to protect purchases. This is an issue for larger drop shippers that often provide only 3 box sizes and stuff the empty space with plastic or foam to protect an item. While it saves the company, and the consumer, money, it has been raised as a concern by consumers who do not understand how eCommerce merchants and logistics operations. It is incumbent on merchants and drop shippers to find a way to reduce the amount of unwanted packaging sent, while still protecting purchases.
Sales from eCommerce using smartphones are expected to increase by 15% this year, with mobile sales accounting for 73% of all eCommerce sales. Smartphone shopping has become far easier as sites have improved UX and UI to encourage customers to complete sales, leading to a rise in mobile sales engagement.
The increase in smartphone ownership worldwide has also increased. In many countries, people do not have a computer or laptop, but only have a smartphone. As more people are now also able to bank, they are also able to shop online and consumers use their smartphones to access eCommerce options. These options include ordering food and deliveries, as well as online shopping for household items, gifts, clothing, cosmetics and other retail items.
The rapid increase in mobile purchasing should level off this year, as it is unlikely that the current pandemic situation will change dramatically in the coming 12 months, so there are no predicted shifts in the numbers of people who own mobile phones or an uptick in spending. The numbers are likely to be sustained by people using smartphones to make essential purchases and deliveries to their homes, rather than discretionary spending.
Personalization of the customer experience is set to continue and become more targeted in 2021. The use of data, technology and automation has proliferated in recent years, and customers are responding by purchasing.
Targeted marketing across multiple platforms is becoming more sophisticated. Consumers are aware that the advertising is targeted using tracking data and the general response is one of acceptance. While there are many ethical considerations when following this line of marketing, it needs to be part of any marketing strategy that is to survive the coming years as competitors hone in on big data and automation.
Consumer feedback is generally positive with most people saying that when a brand targets them correctly, it can lead to brand loyalty, increased purchasing and stronger brand awareness. To get the mix right, brands need to understand their customers, what they want from the brand and how to best make contact. While an email update might be right for some customers, for others it is as simple as an ad in their newsfeed or image on social media that prompts them into action.
Payment Processing Security
Payment processing is critical to the conversion process. If your online shopping experience is not seamless from selection to purchase completion, customers will abandon their cart, much faster than they would in-store. Customers give only 3 seconds for your gateway to open and smoothly process their payment. If you request too much information, have a lengthy check out process or have delays in processing, the majority of customers will abandon the cart and not return, ever.
Your payment process needs to be smooth, easy and transparent. You should have a branded process that does not take the customer away from the website – which is easy to do with the right API – and offer a wide selection of payment options. At this point of the process, it is critical that you can secure the sale with trust, this means offering the highest standards of online payment security options for customers, and displaying your security protocols so that customers feel safe. Even the slightest hint of an insecure gateway and customers will abandon their cart.
There is a wide range of plug-ins and eCommerce software available that retailers can use to improve their payments processes, and depending on the volume of sales, they also come in a range of price points that are manageable for eCommerce merchants.
While multichannel selling is a challenge for many online merchants, it is an expectation among consumers that they are able to find brands across various platforms. Big brands have been rapidly expanding into multichannel selling for the past few years, and now is the time for smaller merchants to catch up.
One of the main reasons that multichannel selling is so important is that it opens the opportunity for online merchants to enter new markets.
- 37% of consumers use social media to research products and brands.
- 51% of units sold on Amazon came from third-party sellers.
- Amazon has a 37% share of online spending.
- 46.7% of all online searches start in marketplaces such as Etsy, Amazon, and eBay.
- ECommerce’s share of total retail sales has been increasing at a rate of about 1.5% in the past 3 years.
Voice Shopping to Grow
Voice shopping is becoming increasingly popular as the number of people who own smart speakers increases and the technology evolves. The number of voice shoppers is expected to increase by 55% by 2022 as Amazon’s smart speaker, Echo, becomes a household item.
The rise of voice shopping is likely to lead to the development of better shopping technology and is a stepping stone to the next ‘big’ thing in online shopping, but for now, it is being adopted at a steady rate. While the technology poses some challenges, such as purchasing typically being a visual medium, it has a place for the purchasing of services such as movies, games and music.
Environmental consumerism is present for online sales. Brands are expected to provide products that meet their expectations of environmental care, with many consumers admitting to being influenced by environmental concerns when deciding on a purchase. Online consumers are far more easily able to research the ingredients, origins and packaging used by a brand than it is to do in-store. For this reason, brands that have made a commitment to sustainability and have made this information available on their website are likely to influence buyers and retain customers. Research shows that 73% of Consumers research household cleaning and personal care products for environmental impacts before purchase.
This concern for the environment extends to business customers as well. Many B2B operations have a public commitment to environmentally friendly practices, so they also make purchasing decisions based on partners that reflect their values. Online merchants that are transparent and provide an outline of their commitments and values are more likely to find B2B partners that have common goals, helping to expand both your operations.
Online Shopping and Social Media
Social media is now more than a place to connect with friends and family, it has become a whole universe for many people. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook “buy buttons,” which allow online retailers to sell through the sites and online stores have links through ads.
Social media targets users with the most ‘relevant’ information based on user data, and is more effective than other forms of marketing because of the invasive nature of the platforms, which users consent to, to track, target and confine people using the platforms. Users’ behavior is heavily influenced by social media targeting, and at this time, the laws that should be regulating the power that platforms have over users have not been implemented. It is important that online merchants that want to be successful use these platforms to reach audiences. While this does not need to be necessarily unethical, it will be influential and marketers do have a responsibility to be transparent and forthright with consumers online and especially on social media.
AI in Ecommerce
Artificial intelligence (AI) has improved workflows and processes. Retailers are expected to spend US$7.3 billion on AI by 2022, as tech provides that personalized customer experience that consumers seek.
People are becoming increasingly comfortable with using chatbots, connecting with companies online using messaging apps, know that while the replies are automated, their issues have been registered and will be resolved either through an automated process or through escalation to a customer service agent if required. The speed at which these automated services work mean that consumers feel more important to brands and that loyalty can be built and maintained all through automated services.