Trend Watching: What You Need to Know About Ecommerce in the New Decade

Personalization, community building and AI. These are three of the major trends that will have a strong impact on ecommerce in the 2020s. Victoria Fryer, a marketing expert at BigCommerce, predicts what the new decade has in store for online retailers and brands.

Ecommerce is an industry still in its relative infancy. With fewer than 30 years behind us since the first ecommerce transaction, it’s been a space ripe for evolution and innovation. As consumer demand and expectations increase, innovation in payments and fulfillment have impacted ecommerce, as well.

This constant push and pull has created a fast-moving and fast-growing industry with opportunities across every vertical. But with this growth comes a lot of noise. How can you take all the information out there and focus your efforts on the things that matter most?

Let’s take a look at 10 trends we believe will have a significant impact on the ecommerce world in the decade to come.

What’s the Current State of Ecommerce?

According to data from the end of 2019, it was estimated that ecommerce’s contribution to global retail sales would amount to about 16%. And a report from Activate Global shows that ecommerce sales are predicted to double by 2023.

Easy-to-use ecommerce platforms have reduced the barrier to entry for creating online stores, opening new business opportunities — and increasing competition. While increasing global demand makes room for these new businesses, the most success will come to those who meet consumer expectations from the forefront of the industry and expand into global markets.

10 Ecommerce Trends that will Shape the Decade.

Technologies change so fast, it can be daunting to think about where ecommerce stores should invest their money and sweat equity. These are 10 trends that we think will be important to ecommerce growth in the coming decade.

1. Personalization of products and marketing

Over the next decade, we predict ecommerce brands will begin to use more advanced personalization techniques to augment the shopping experience and improve segmentation and targeting.

An RCP survey from early 2020 showed that 56% of North American retailers identified customer experience personalization as their top priority. The trick for this to be successful will be walking the line between providing a better customer experience and feeling intrusive.

We’re also seeing a newer trend beginning to evolve that we think will continue into the future — the personalization of products themselves. Products created “just for you” are beginning to pop up more frequently, particularly in the DNVB health, beauty, and wellness space.

Some examples are Function of Beauty, who describes themselves as “personalized hair care based on your hair type and hair goals”; Care/of and Baze, who both provide personalized vitamins and supplements based on unique needs and health goals; and Atolla and Curology, who both offer personalized skin care based on skin type and needs.

2. Prioritizing customer trust and data privacy

A data-driven ecommerce strategy requires, well, data — but consumers are becoming more savvy around what information they share and who they share it with.

While a Deloitte survey from several years ago found that 79% of consumers are willing to share data to gain a clear benefit, a 2019 report also showed that 64% say a brand’s data privacy policies are very important to them. Mishandling the data of today’s consumers can result in a loss of trust that is incredibly difficult to earn back.

In addition, some governments are moving towards more heavily regulating the kinds of data businesses are allowed to collect about their consumers. The European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA are two examples, and we predict similar laws will be passed in other geographic areas — impacting an even wider subset of businesses.

3. Unified commerce and seamless gateway payments

Just ten years ago (2010), ecommerce accounted for a mere 4.3% of total retail sales in the U.S. Amazon’s Marketplace was just ten years old, Facebook was turning six, Instagram didn’t come online until the end of the year. We could have only imagined all the different ways that people shop today.

It’s become commonplace for today’s consumers, and as such, they expect a seamless experience across buying channels. Removing friction by combining customer and product data, and aligning that with 3PL fulfillment services in a single stream will be critical over the next decade. Unified commerce will enable the consolidation of back-office operations that support your brand.

4. Adopting a subscription-based model

As the cost of customer acquisition continues to rise alongside increased competition, retailers are searching for ways to make their brands stickier with existing shoppers — and some brands are turning to a subscription-based model to improve customer retention. This tends to work particularly well with CPG products.

A McKinsey survey from 2018 showed that the subscription ecommerce market had grown by more than 100% per year across the previous five years. While this won’t be right for every business, it’s worth considering if a subscription-based model could work for you.

5. Increasing dependence on artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence technologies continue to become more sophisticated and, in 2018, 28% of the top 250 global retailers reported using artificial intelligence in some way within their organization.

The opportunities for artificial intelligence to improve the ecommerce experience exist across much of the buyer’s journey — from marketing through the supply chain. Two common examples include the use of virtual assistants and chatbots, enabling consumers to get answers to their questions in real time. AI can work with marketing automation software to empower marketing’s ability to translate data into decisions, meaningful interactions, and positively impact business outcomes.

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6. Optimized last-mile delivery

Consumers expect delivery times to be shorter and shorter. Over the next ten years we’ll see automation and artificial intelligence come together to optimize last-mile delivery.

Last year, Walgreens began testing store-to-door delivery via unmanned drone, and Amazon has a landing page on its website for Prime Air, a service meant eventually to offer 30 minute delivery via drone — though the service hasn’t quite gotten off the ground yet at scale. Incorporating AI can help optimize last-mile delivery by identifying optimal routes and better estimating delivery times.

7. Marketing to Gen Z

As the new decade begins, Gen Zers are roughly between the ages of 7 and 22. This means that, over the next ten years, members of this generation will gain some significant purchasing power — and you’ll need to take their values and shopping preferences into account.

Some research shows that Gen Z is a more communal generation, with greater focus on equality and inclusiveness than generations before. They also tend toward being more socially conscious.

For all these reasons, brands may do better with Gen Z by sharing and marketing their values. In addition, you’ll have to stay social. A March 2019 survey showed that 52% of Gen Z respondents find out about new brands via social media — and no other method even came close.

8. Advanced product visualization

Sometimes, you just need to see it. Particularly for new brands, consumers may want to get a better feel for your product before buying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a brick-and-mortar, if you’ve got the advanced technologies for product visualization.

Some retailers are already using video hosting software, renderings, images, and artwork to create three dimensional representations of their products. Augmented and virtual reality tools are also creating new ways for customers to ‘try before they buy.’ Sephora, for example, has a feature to ‘try on’ products, and a new app called Virtual Try on Watch uses AR to let you — you guessed it — virtually try on watches to see how they look on your wrist.

One significant advantage of these technologies is that, when customers have a better idea of what they’re ordering online, they may return fewer products — saving you the time and money of dealing with returns.

9. Use of predictive analytics for business decisions

Using predictive analytics can actually enable many of the trends we’ve just talked about, by making predictions based on analysis of large amounts of historical data. We predict that, over the next ten years, more and more retailers will use predictive analytics to make better business decisions, faster.

By analyzing customers and their habits and preferences, you’ll be better able to personalize and target offers and promotions to boost sales. It can also help to prevent fraud and security breaches by recognizing anomalous behavior.

10. Building communities is more important than ever

In today’s hypercompetitive market, every brand has to identify their point of differentiation — that certain something that only they can offer. The desire for connection and belonging is a fundamental human quality “centered on gaining acceptance, attention, and support from members of the group.”

When brands do this well, that resulting customer engagement can improve the number of online reviews and amount of user-generated content. Shoppers are shown to trust recommendations from their peers more than they trust your marketing message, and this has the added benefit of reducing your customer acquisition costs (depending on your particular community-building tactics, of course) and increasing customer retention and loyalty.

Conclusion.

No one ever really knows what the future holds. Life can throw some pretty big curveballs sometimes. But based on rising trends, new technologies, and changing consumer habits, we can make some pretty educated guesses about where the industry will go. These ten trends are a great place to start when thinking about how to add value and future-proof your business for the next decade.

About the author

Victoria Fryer is a content marketing writer, researcher, and content project manager at BigCommerce. Specializing in writing and web content strategy, she previously spent eight years in public relations and marketing for Tier I research universities. She holds a B.A. in English Writing and Rhetoric from St. Edward’s University and a Master of Liberal Arts from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania.

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