The Future of E-commerce for Brands and Retailers

Written by Grant Kneble, Digital Marketing Manager, Curotec

That e-commerce is growing is undeniable. Currently, online buying worldwide makes up more than 14% of retail purchases, with estimates putting that number closer to 22% in the next 3 years.

However, while the e-commerce of tomorrow won’t be unrecognizable to today’s shoppers, it will be different. As consumer expectations and technology both evolve, online retailers need to change their e-retail experiences to keep up.

These updates are no longer simple changes like improving your e-commerce photography, although these best practices are still important. Instead of being the way of the future, though, low hanging fruit like this is cost-of-entry, not a forward-thinking strategy.

We’ve collected 7 future trends in e-commerce here so that you can get a handle on where the industry is headed. As the saying from our Saturday morning cartoon days goes – “Knowing is half the battle”. 

Trends for the Future of E-commerce

Brands Increase Direct to Consumer Options

To catch the consumer’s eye, many brands have had to place their items with retailer partners. Without this exposure, it was hard to catch the attention of the public – if you didn’t see something in Target or Macy’s, how would you know that it existed.

The combination of social media and e-commerce has changed that dynamic. Brands can cut out the middle man, or at least marginalize the importance of retail partners to the brand’s bottom line. E-commerce SEO services make it easier to find brands. Social media provides an opportunity to advertise to a specific target audience. Influencer marketers have a lot more, well, influence with some demographics than retail partners do.

This is great news for a lot of brands because it provides a level of control and exposure that they would never have had in a traditional retail setting. Direct to consumer e-commerce offer significant benefits, like:

  • The ability to offer customized or personalized products
  • Ownership of the customer relationship; brands are no longer at the mercy of a retail partner’s customer service or experience
  • Direct access to a wealth of customer data

Progressive Web Apps 

A whopping 51% of online shoppers use their smartphones to make purchases. That number is expected to top 54% in the next year. Brands need to do everything they can to make the e-commerce experience on mobile devices as streamlined as possible.

One strategy is to use Progressive Web Apps (PWA). Like a typical mobile application, a PWA is downloaded and installed on the user’s phone. PWAs are unique, though, because they will load and be at least partially functional when the user has no network connection.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Related to PWAs are Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs). Brands must acknowledge that not every consumer is going to grant space to an app on their mobile device. Instead, brands and retailers need to plan for speedy load times and clean shopping experiences for mobile users.

AMPs provide that. Developed by Google, AMPs are pages that are designed to be mobile-first. They are simplified HTML copies of more robust webpages that load nearly instantaneously. With Google giving preference to mobile-optimized experiences, using AMPs gives you a better position in search results and gives customers a better experience.

Global E-commerce Sales Will Increase

More than $3 trillion. That’s the amount of global e-commerce sales from 2019. And that global market will only increase as shoppers across the world continue to be more comfortable with e-commerce and shopping from foreign retailers.

Online retailers need to be ready for this influx of overseas shoppers. The right e-commerce platform will better facilitate global shopping experiences. Brands may also wish to consider localizing their content for specific countries where they have a broader presence.

Integrating a payment system that accommodates multiple currencies and payment types should be part of a retailer’s operational plans. Streamlining logistics, too, with integrations or localized 3PL partners in key regions are additional solutions that will set retailers up to take advantage of the global e-commerce expansion.

A Focus on Fraud

Of course, as a retailer’s potential market expands, so does its exposure to risk. Cybersecurity will move front and center, and retailers will continue to need to pay attention to risky activities that can open up their systems to hackers.

One such area is card-no-present fraud. Credit card companies are scrambling to come up with ways that they can protect consumers against fraudulent purchases, but e-retailers need to protect themselves as well. Chargebacks can have a detrimental impact on a brand’s ability to keep their credit card processing fees low, and banking partners expect and even demand that online retailers are doing everything they can to mitigate fraud.

Online retailers can look for help outside of their platforms and card processors. There are companies that focus on identifying suspicious card-not-present purchases programmatically, and most offer APIs to integrate with the major payment processors and e-commerce platforms.

New Channels in the Path to Purchase

Online shopping won’t be all about online anymore, and this will change the path to purchase for many consumers.

We can expect alternative devices – like voice-assistants – to continue to rise in prominence. Telling your Google Home or Amazon Alexa to order more dog food without moving from your couch will become more and more common.

Additionally, retailers may start to see a backflow of opportunities, with digitally native brands offering offline experiences. Limited time pop-up stores and small, tailored brick-and-mortar experiences will continue to evolve to expand consumer’s experiences.

All of this means that e-retailers need to be on their A-game when it comes to omnichannel e-commerce. Offering a seamless shopping experience from brick-and-mortar, to online, to mobile, to voice won’t be a nice-to-have, it will be crucial to meet consumer demand.

Increases in B2B E-commerce

Although it’s been present for as long as consumer online shopping, B2B e-commerce has always fallen a bit behind its flashier sibling. That won’t be the case for much longer, however.

In fact, it’s expected that B2B e-commerce sales will outgrow B2B in 2020, with more than $7 trillion in gross online sales. The challenge for B2B brands is in providing the right experience for this unique buyer.

The B2B buyer doesn’t approach online shopping the same way a general consumer does. While B2C shopping is frequently about browsing and purchasing items that are fun and functional, B2B shopping is part of a purchaser’s job. It’s an item on their to-do list, and as such, they want to be able to find what they need quickly and move on with their day.

This puts a heavy emphasis on improving the customer experience, UI, and even performance of a B2B e-commerce site. To meet the demands of the B2B shopper, items should be easy to find and easy to buy. Slow load times and cumbersome purchase processes will drive a buyer to a retailer’s competitor. B2B e-commerce brands need to spend time optimizing their online shopping experiences now more than ever before.

All of this means one thing for online and hybrid retailers – now is not the time to sit back and coast when it comes to your e-commerce offerings. Online sales may be increasing, but it’s crucial that if you want to continue to ride the e-retail wave, you need to re-invest in your platform, operational efficiencies, and user experience. Curotec is here to help. We offer deep technical expertise in a variety of online platforms and tools, including Magento and Laravel, along with digital services, user experience design, and development.

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