We are already a few months into 2019, and if early returns are anything to go by — and they usually are — the global e-commerce engine shows absolutely no sign of slowing down, or even taking a bit of a breather. Last year, e-commerce sales accounted for 11.9 percent of all retail sales worldwide, up from 10.2 percent in 2017, and 8.6 percent in 2016. This year the proportion is expected to reach 13.7 percent, followed by yet more increases in 2020 (15.5 percent) and 17.5 percent (2021).
However, while it’s a safe bet that e-commerce will continue growing, this doesn’t mean the industry is on auto-pilot. As on the brick and mortar landscape, there are key trends that will significantly, and in some respects profoundly influence, shape and define the e-commerce industry in the months and years ahead.
According to blockchain technology expert Nando Caporicci, here are three e-commerce trends to keep an eye on as 2019 unfolds:
- Social media is no longer a priority: it’s mandatory.
There was a time when e-commerce businesses could afford to have a limited, or in some cases non-existent social media footprint; less out of any aversion to social media, and more due to a “we’re doing just fine through our tried and true channels, and social media really isn’t worth our money and effort” sentiment.
Well, 2019 should be the year that this perception enters the dustbin of history — because social media is no longer a priority for all e-commerce businesses: it’s mandatory if they want to stay on the radar and avoid being crowded out (and eventually obliterated) by their social media-savvy competitors.
People who buy things online spend a third of their time on social media. The key, however, as Nando Caporicci explains is to integrate social media platforms with a flagship online store. Strategies in this area include installing share plugins on product pages, implementing social logins, using social share buttons and hashtags, adding social feeds to online stores, utilizing live video, and highlighting reviews, recommendations and testimonials across all channels.
- More respect for the buyer’s journey.
The traditional approach to e-commerce is to shorten the buyer’s journey as much as possible; or even better still, eliminate it entirely so that customers arrive at an online store, easily find what they need, add it to their cart, check out, and either starts enjoying their purchase immediately (e.g. e-learning course or software app), or look forward to getting it delivered in the very near future (e.g. smartphone or sweater).
However, this approach neglects to grasp that many customers want some kind of support process that helps them understand what they need, and how to differentiate between solutions that seem similar. In 2019, this oversight will be significantly addressed as a growing number of e-commerce businesses realize that it’s good manners and good strategy to communicate with customers before the sale — not just after the sale.
E-commerce operators have to shake the passive vending machine mentality, and lean forward to engage customers by having rich, real-time conversations through web chat, streaming video, and phone discussions. As Nando Caporicci explains, not only does this facilitate sales, but it gives businesses the opportunity to glean valuable market research by analyzing the types of questions and concerns that customers have. This actionable intelligence can then be leveraged for everything from new product development, to identifying the most profitable buyer personas.
- Expanded use of video.
E-commerce businesses have been using video for several years, but the approach has largely been static with the deployment of promotional or “describer” videos. These mainstays aren’t going away in 2019, but they’ll be augmented by a new generation of e-commerce videos that feature live streams, influencer content, and community-supplied content like unboxings and reviews.
Comments Nando Caporicci: “In the past, one of the knocks against using video in the e-commerce space was the bandwidth drain on mobile devices. But this isn’t an obstacle anymore, and so we should expect to see video playing a much larger role in both the pre and post-sales online shopping experience.”
Nando Caporicci’s Final Thoughts
It is a foregone conclusion that e-commerce will continue to expand and reach new customers on a daily basis. Many businesses are opting not to have physical retail locations, and this shift has been seen throughout every industry conducting e-commerce. Nando Caporicci believes that the most prominent trends in e-commerce for 2019 will be the mandatory need for social media, a deeper respect for the consumer decision process and journey, and finally expanding the use of videos.