Ecommerce Trends: 5 You Need to Keep an Eye On

Person purchasing on mobile using credit card

For any past and new ecommerce trends, there’s always one common theme: the need to provide excellent online shopping experiences has never been greater.

Ecommerce comprised 16% (or just over $600 billion) of the $3.8 trillion total U.S. retail sales in 2019. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this figure is only expected to grow.

With so much on the line, brands can’t afford to fall behind. They must have the measures in place to optimize their online shopping experiences to cater to people’s habits and preferences.

Let’s look at five current trends in the ecommerce industry that impact the online shopping experience today and for the foreseeable future.

Trend #1: Consumers plan to continue their new online behaviors post-pandemic

The onset of COVID-19 and the resulting safety regulations pushed shoppers online, both suddenly and significantly. In August 2020, U.S. online sales were 42% higher than they were in 2019, and there are signs that many people will continue their new shopping behaviors post-pandemic.

Over 40% of people plan to shop online more frequently post-pandemic than they did pre-pandemic, including those 65+ years of age. (GlobalWebIndex, 2020)

The pandemic forced businesses to re-evaluate their operations to account for this shift. Many companies even had to accelerate their digital transformation plans well ahead of schedule.

It’s hard to precisely predict what the ecommerce landscape will look like post-COVID. However, it will likely be permanently altered. Brands will need to keep listening to their customers to understand how their needs continue to evolve in these unique times, and how they can best adapt so they can continue providing positive ecommerce experiences.

Trend #2: The search for personalized shopping experiences is intensifying

As more customers turn to online channels to make purchases, many seek the same personal service they would typically get at your locations. They increasingly want experiences that feel tailored to them and won’t settle for one-size-fits-all online shopping experiences.

That can include:

  • Product recommendations based on their previous behavior on the site
  • Targeted offers shown when returning to the site
  • Re-organizing aspects of the website based on their specific interests.

80% of consumers are more likely to purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. (Epsilon, 2018)

Personalization has been a hot topic and among key retail ecommerce trends for years and gaining steam. A study by Accenture found that half of consumers surveyed left a brand’s website and purchased elsewhere because they felt the brand did not curate the experience enough to them. The same study found that the majority of customers were willing to share their data in exchange for catered online shopping experiences.

At the same time, the talk of personalization also brings about potential concerns regarding privacy, and how customer data is used. In the age of GDPR and CCPA, brands need to balance personalization vs. privacy in a way that truly provides meaningful and valuable personalized experiences, while always remaining transparent and never putting their customers’ trust in jeopardy.

This will be an interesting trend to keep monitoring over the coming years.

Trend #3: Visitors are turning to chatbots for 24/7 shopping assistance

In addition to personalized experiences, online shoppers seek convenience, speed, and frictionless experiences. They want these experiences to take place when they want, how they want, and want to do it all themselves. At the same time, they want to be able to chat with the brand quickly if they need help (see: conversational commerce).

Chatbots are helping fulfill this need.

Gartner predicts that by 2022, 70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies, including chatbots. In 2018, that number was only 15%.

At the same time, a study by American Express found that more than six in 10 customers prefer turning to digital self-serve options for simple inquiries. They only want to escalate to a live chat agent for more complex support issues.

In an ecommerce context, AI-driven chatbots help make the shopping and product support experience as seamless as possible, adjusting based on the customers’ inputs. In other words, to replicate what they would otherwise receive from an in-store representative, but 24/7 and without having to wait in line.

There are many elements needed to guarantee great chatbot interactions. Ultimately, they should be able to help your customers by:

  • Providing product recommendations
  • Answering product questions
  • Locating items in-store and online
  • Addressing issues during checkout
  • Getting clarity on information relating to shipping and returns
  • Helping with common post-purchase support questions

With chatbots expected to save companies billions in both costs and customer service hours in the coming years, and with online shoppers seeking self-service, quick, and personalized experiences, chatbots will continue to play a rising role in a brand’s ecommerce toolkit.

Trend #4: Mobile is overtaking desktop as the go-to shopping device

We’re spending almost four hours every day on our mobile devices. At the same time, mobile has now surpassed desktop in terms of total web traffic. Reflecting on our daily habits, it’s not far-fetched to think these figures will only keep rising.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the role mobile plays in our online shopping is only growing.

Mobile commerce, or shopping using your smartphone, is expected to overtake desktop soon as the go-to device for U.S. online shoppers. Globally, some estimates show that this has already taken place.

Customers are increasingly using their mobile phones as the primary screen for interacting with the web. However, while a 2018 Dynamic Yield study found that while 76% of shoppers used their mobile phones for shopping because it saves them time, only 12% felt it provides them the most convenient shopping experience (4x less than desktop). The culprits identified were things that the brand could control, the most common being that links were too small to click on (67%).

While this is a red flag, it also presents a massive opportunity for brands.

To best capitalize on customers’ need for a seamless mobile shopping experience, there are a few options to consider:

  • Optimizing the shopping experience for smaller screens – and making it responsive to any screen – should be a top priority.
  • Offer customers powerful mobile self-service options like chatbots to help address any potential speed bumps they may encounter along the way.
  • Provide the ability for customers to interact with your customer service channels (either self-service or live chat) through mobile channels outside of your website, such as through SMS and WhatsApp.

Trend #5: Social commerce continues to expand

There are more than 3.5 billion active social media users worldwide, spending nearly two and a half hours daily across these networks.

Social media plays an influential role in many people’s lives. It brings us closer to our favorite brands. At the same time, 87% of ecommerce customers say that social media plays a key role in their purchase decisions.

U.S. social commerce sales were estimated to be about $22 billion in 2019 and are expected to grow to $84.2 billion in 2024 (almost a three-fold increase).

Brands leveraging social media to promote their offerings and drive traffic to their sites is nothing new. However, the recent introduction of social storefronts such as Facebook Shops, and the ability to use Facebook Messenger bots within them, brands can now centralize the entire purchase experience within their social channels, providing customers a different way to interact with brands’ offerings while eliminating steps in their journey.

With social media playing a larger part in the customer journey, brands will also need to step up their social media analytics game to ensure they get the most out of their social presence.

How Astute can guide you in your ecommerce efforts

These ecommerce trends are just some of the ones taking the business world by storm today. However, winning brands are those that best adapt to their own customers’ needs and expectations.

Astute provides brands with the tools they need to obtain these insights and to empower you and your customers with the tools required to create seamless and exceptional purchase experiences.

  • Learn more about Astute Bot and how our award-winning solution can help improve your ecommerce experience and make it easy for customers to engage with your brand at any point during their purchase experience.
  • Astute VoC, our voice of the customer solution, can help you obtain targeted insights about your customers and their experiences. Use these insights to inform your ecommerce strategies and elevate the experience across the customer journey.

Learn how Astute can help you step up your ecommerce game today. Schedule a demo now.