Change happens fast—and often without warning—in the world of eCommerce. Innovative marketing and design approaches, new fulfillment and logistics strategies and new ways of showcasing products are continually changing the ways eCommerce marketers sell their products, and the ways online shoppers buy.
The challenge for eCommerce designers and marketers is distinguishing between those changes that represent key inflection points and those that do little if anything to improve customer experience. In the rapidly changing eCommerce landscape, it's critically important for eCommerce businesses to separate fads from substance, in other words, to ensure that every change they adopt is both relevant and valuable to their online customers.
As Reprice Express notes:
"In the highly competitive eCommerce sector, relevancy needs to be a top priority. One day you're in, and one day you're out. Online businesses must constantly be aware of ways to keep their brand and products in front of the eyes of their customers. One of the best ways to do this is by simply staying alert and up-to-speed with eCommerce trends. Ultimately, when it comes to experimenting with trends, it is important to make sure that any changes you make are always making things better for your customers."
To begin discussing 2020 eCommerce trends, we must remember that every eCommerce business is different, and each has different marketing goals and different customers and each faces unique marketing challenges. That said, the lion's share will want to consider the potential impact of the following 4 trends on their online stores next year:
Amazon remains at the top of the eCommerce heap, raking in almost $240 billion in net revenue in 2019—but Google Shopping is starting to give Amazon a run for its money. Although 83% of U.S. consumers made at least one purchase on Amazon in the past 6 months, the go-to place for many brands is organic searches—and that's where Google Shopping cleans up.
For one thing, the search to purchase arc is shorter for Google than Amazon (20 vs. 26 days). For another, Google's ads have a higher click-through rate (CTR) than Amazon's product ads. Finally, incorporating Google Shopping into your eCommerce platform can have a powerful impact on organic search results. These are just a few of the reasons ad spending on Google Shopping was up almost 50% (year over year) in the 4th quarter of last year. Said differently, eCommerce marketers should consider adding Google Shopping to their toolbox if they're not doing it already.
Artificial and virtual reality have been in vogue for some time in eCommerce site design. Companies like Warby Parker (letting prospective customers "try on" its glasses), or Amazon (helping them visualize how furniture purchases will look in their living rooms) have been experimenting with AI design for some time—expect that trend to grow in 2020.
At the same time, last-mile delivery has always been a fulfillment challenge for eCommerce businesses, but a few companies are coming up with innovative AI solutions to solve the problem. Some, like Ford and Toyota, for example, may be on the brink of completing fulfillment with self-driving vehicles, and Amazon has unveiled its "Scout," a self-driving robot operated by a person and already delivering products in Washington state and Southern California. Customers get understandably excited when the little blue and white robot shows up on their street and pops open its hatch so they can grab their goods. There's even a mobile mini-supermarket, Robomart (affectionately called the "Uber of groceries") that facilitates online grocery ordering.
Admittedly, these AI eCommerce delivery innovations are still in their early stages, but they seem to meet both a fulfillment need for business and a customer service need for consumers. Expect to see more autonomous delivery options next year.
If you think social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram are all about funny pet videos and family photos, think again. Businesses of all sorts across a wide swath of industries—including eCommerce businesses—are finding new customers on these and similar sites every day—and that's because consumers now trust these sites as sources of relevant information about the products and services they want.
For example, about 75% of active monthly users say they go to Facebook "for professional purposes," 7 of every 10 hashtags on Instagram are now branded, and almost 60% of eCommerce shoppers report purchasing products through a company post on social media. Aware of this trend, social media platforms are making it increasingly easy for eCommerce businesses to sell by incorporating clickable links to product pages in relevant content that builds customer trust and loyalty.
Sellers of big-ticket eCommerce products face a special challenge. Because these items cost more, consumers (already wary of potential problems with online purchases) view buying them as a greater risk. While prospective buyers might view a new can opener that doesn't do what it's supposed to as a problem, they tend to see a large screen, smart TV that won't connect to the internet as a minor catastrophe. To combat this consumer hesitation, more companies are providing flexible payment options that cut those large costs into a series of more manageable monthly payments.
Many are using third-party apps to make the transition and increase sales. Among the more popular of these are Final, Afterpay and Affirm. Each has shown great promise in boosting key sales metrics—for example, eCommerce companies using Afterpay have ramped up conversions by as much as 30%.
This represents just a small sampling of the 2020 eCommerce trends likely to impact the way marketers sell, and online buyers buy in the new year. The bottom line is that eCommerce businesses need to keep their nose to the ground, staying on top of the latest news, emerging technologies and customer experience strategies, and doing the research necessary to determine which are the ones that can take their online businesses to the next level in 2020.