Spending a total of 10 minutes to look for the perfect pair of beige trousers, watching videos on ways to style it, comparing what kind of choices different brands offer in this category, picking the best choice, receiving the order within a day, and wearing those pants right away—I absolutely love how convenient my shopping experience has become, compared to the pre-digital era. All this, because there are thousands of people working in the background to improve every aspect of the e-commerce industry, one day at a time.
Today, e-commerce influences up to 56% of in-store purchases, while e-commerce itself represents almost 12% of retail sales. And that figure is predicted to grow by a whopping share of 15% annually.
Digital commerce has gone beyond “buying something on a website” to a series of interactions that enable shoppers to have a “great shopping experience”.
Whether you are a consumer or an e-commerce startup, this is the best time to be a part of this industry.
The internet has disrupted our shopping behavior. These days, you can see people doing more research before purchasing an item and spend most of their time comparing different brands. Brand loyalty is definitely becoming a thing of the past.
51% of Last-Minute Shoppers said they weren’t certain where they wanted to buy, or they had multiple retailers in mind, when they started shopping
– Google, Omnichannel Holiday Study
Brands need to be aware of how to make the shopping experience better for consumers, keeping in mind the changing needs and intentions of today’s consumers, and help them navigate three critical steps in the new shopping journey: inspiration, research, and purchase.
As per Google’s research, out of today’s shoppers, 53% of them are curious—they want to perform extensive research before purchasing things, 40% of them are demanding—they are vocal about their needs and intent, and expect retailers to cater to them personally, 48% of them are impatient—they want their purchase needs to be met instantly and want their shopping to be done as quickly as possible.
Addressing the most curious generation and the most impatient shoppers the world has ever seen, 2019 is going to be a trend-setter for the e-commerce industry. There are going to be some unimaginable innovations, strategies, and trends shaping the industry for good.
After binging on a gazillion posts on Amazon’s net worth, thousand podcasts on Warby Parker’s marketing strategy, and countless case studies on e-commerce industry trends, I found myself thirsty to put together the ultimate guide on e-commerce trends to look out for in 2019.
So brace yourself and join the roller coaster ride of e-commerce 2.0—a glimpse of e-commerce trends to follow.
Rising from the ashes: Resurrection of brick and mortar stores
Though e-commerce is predicted to increase its footprint in terms of market value, many shoppers still prefer purchasing in their local stores.
The behavior of today’s consumer is transitioning towards research online, purchase offline (ROPO).
Brick and mortar stores are bound to make a come-back, not to compete with the e-commerce industry, but to operate in sync. The experience will be more unified than in silos, bringing together the best of both worlds. Here’s a closer look at the type of consumers and how much time they prefer spending online and in store.
The two main predictions with respect to e-commerce and retail in 2019 are: a) Online e-commerce stores will start functioning as a gateway to help the consumers with research, context sensitivity, quick access to FAQs, provide support, and mainly provide an option to place an order and pick the delivery from a local store. b) Stores would tend to be more digitized, in the sense that payment, manual browsing, and cataloguing will be automated and made effortless.
Did you know: Amazon has opened a chain of grocery stores called Amazon Go, claiming to have the world’s most advanced shopping technology to provide a hassle-free shopping experience with no queues, and no bills to be paid in the store. You can basically grab whatever you need and go. They call it “just walk out technology”.
Going forward, websites will tend to focus on customer engagement and stores will focus more on enhancing customer experience.
Did you know: Home Depot makes $5 billion online, but its top priority remains a stellar store experience. Stores and staff support the customer journey for both DIY homeowners and professional contractors.
A bot that chats, a bot that talks: Chatbots and voice assistants
Chatbots and voice assistants (VAs) are transforming the customer experience and customer engagement scene in e-commerce all together. Let’s just look at a typical day in a consumer’s life. They watch a YouTube video, check out a pinterest post, or read a blog where they become aware of a product. They are interested in purchasing that product and at this point, they have absolutely no bias towards any particular e-commerce brand. They start toggling between multiple websites that provide competitive advantage over each other.
The consumer then decides to proceed with an e-commerce brand based on the engagement offered by the website and the type of content it provides. Conversational marketing, proactive offerings, and intelligent assistance are features that decide the probability of a consumer picking a particular e-commerce site and proceeding to transaction. This is where chatbots, live chat, and voice assistants play an important role.
Having a live chat tool integrated with a chatbot or a voice assistant on your website provides room for engagement and personalized searches.
Consumers have questions at multiple stages in their purchase journey. They are constantly searching for the best options and purchase recommendations to satisfy their requirement.
Live chat serves as the best tool to cater proactive service in terms of engagement, sales enablement, and support. Consumers have an option to browse through in-app FAQs to address their queries. They can chat with a chatbot or a live agent if they need any further information. Check out why live chat for business is key for e-commerce in 2019.
The consumerization of experience: Experiential Commerce
From ‘what you can buy’ to ‘what you can experience’, experiential commerce is all about transforming shopping experiences and attaching a memory to every transaction. This is where all the money lies, in terms of future of e-commerce market share.
We already spoke about digitized brick and mortar stores that offer enhanced customer experience and engagement, unloading difficult processes like bill payment and queue system. 2019 is going to see more such unified store concepts, where brands have a gateway presence online, where you can literally shop from anywhere, using any source. And gives flexibility in terms of picking your order from a local store, or scheduling a delivery at a particular time.
This type of a holistic shopping experience comes with multiple touchpoints, where you influence your user at different stages and layers of the purchase journey, and constantly provide valuable experience alongside a commodity or product – a multi-channel experience.
It’s about creating balance, and understanding when and where to amplify and show restraint throughout your channel mix, so you won’t overwhelm your following or burn your marketing dollars trying to convert people when they’re not interested.
– Herbert Lui, Director of Wonder Shuttle
This type of a multi-channel approach is tied to a strong branding strategy. Your brand should ensure good visibility and provide a consistent experience through different touchpoints.
Let’s look at some of trends that would enable experiential commerce and serve as a unique selling proposition.
Image recognition using artificial intelligence
Instead of typing in words, many consumers will use image-based search to receive close-to-reality match results. In fact, image and voice activated search may constitute 50 percent of all searches by 2020.
As image recognition and analysis become standards in mobile devices, consumers will be able to take a picture of an object then search for that exact product or a similar one.
Did you know: eBay‘s visual search tools allow users to use their own photos or those found online–a favorite blog or website, for example–to run an eBay search for similar products.
Did you know: Pinterest has invested heavily in visual search technology in order to turn the smartphone camera into a search engine for products.
In-house Augmented Reality
From couches to kitchen storage, consumers will be able to see exactly how an object looks in the required setup before placing an order, including visualizing “plus-sized” items like furniture or bathtubs. This will drive an increase in orders for items as well as reduce problems related shipping and services. AR may also help to reduce returns, which is a $260 billion problem, the e-commerce industry is facing right now.
Did you know: IKEA Place is an augmented reality app that lets consumers experience, experiment and share augmented and simulated pictures of their house by adding Ikea products into any space. Products are in 3D and true to scale, so consumers can see whether the furniture or accessory will fit and what it would look like in context.
Mobile is going to be one of the most preferred channel throughout the purchase journey of the consumer. Consumers are going to search for products, compare brands, watch YouTube videos, check websites, place orders, and most importantly make secure payments through their mobiles.
With big players like Google, Samsung, and Apple deploying their payment apps on mobile, payment is said to be driven by mobile in the coming years. It is already the most preferred medium used in retail, reaching 70% of the retail traffic by the end of 2018.
Did you know: 10% of Starbucks U.S. orders were done with their Mobile Order and Pay app. The payment platform was so popular that in February, mobile orders overwhelmed staff and created unprecedented wait times.
Did you know: 90% of China’s record-smashing, $25.4 billion “Singles Day” 2017 sales were completed on mobile and mobile purchases were 97% of total sales in the first minute, processed mostly by AliPay, Alibaba’s payment processing platform.
Experiential commerce is going to transform the way in which e-commerce and retail are packaged, effortlessly bundling both into a unified experience, acting as a genie in giving people what they want without any hassle.
On your mark, get set, create an impact: Bumper ads
After talking in depth about the various trends in e-commerce as an industry, it doesn’t seem fair to skip the most important aspect of retail and e-commerce; marketing and advertising to create awareness and brand influence. 2019 is going to see a surge in content creation in different formats to help brands to stand up against their competitors.
Consumers are going to be influenced by multiple touch points like videos, search results, ads, word-of-mouth, catalogues, campaigns, and other sources. Let’s take an example of a user Stacy and observe her car-buying journey.
Brands will need a 360 degree influence over every touchpoint of a consumer’s journey.
Marketing is going to be all about conversations and engagement, with live chat tools being integrated with all mobile apps and websites and chatbots capturing leads and automatically responding to support queries. Whereas, advertising is going to be all about creating content around the usage and value of such products.
The only way for brands to position themselves up in the pyramid of purchase vicinity is by visualizing their story and embedding their persona into every type of content created. Customers are going to naturally side towards brands that have a story and a purpose. They are going to go behind the “WHY factor”.
It is important for every e-commerce-related marketing campaign to embody three perspectives—brand persona, brand awareness, engagement.
Talking about ad formats in particular, YouTube ads and product videos are going to play a major role in creating brand awareness. 2019 is going to see an increase in ‘bumper ads’ which are six seconds, snackable ads that are played by mapping the intent of the consumer and the context of the ad. Bumper ads are created with an intention to drive frequency and brand reach.
Did you know: A combination of Google Preferred, TrueView, and YouTube’s new six-second bumper ads helped Neutrogena reach roughly 35% of all U.S. 13-24 year-olds per month.
Many large brands will start using bumpers ads to drive upper-funnel goals like ad recall and awareness. Bumpers ads are a cost-effective way to reach your target audience, ensure your message is seen and heard and keep you on top of their mind.
Did you know: Google tested over 300 bumper campaigns this year and found that 9 out of 10 drove a significant lift in ad recall.
E-commerce as an industry is reaching an important point in its journey of growth.
These are going to be some of the major industry reported trends that are going to impact the e-commerce market.
I hope these statistics and trends offer insights that you can use to engineer your e-commerce strategies for 2019. Like I mentioned before, whether you are a consumer or an e-commerce startup, this is absolutely the best time to be a part of this industry!