Keeping abreast and ahead of industry developments ranks among the most important steps businesses of all types and sizes must take to remain on par with their competitors—or better yet, beat them at their own game. And as we at E-Complish see it, forward-thinking merchants should now be paying especially close attention to developments that center on e-commerce, the growth of which has reached unprecedented levels thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as to other factors. With this in mind, let’s examine xxx key e-commerce trends to watch in 2020 and down the road.
While traditional retail sales have declined, the U.S. and Canada had, as of April 2020, seen a 129 percent increase in year-over-year e-commerce growth and a 146 percent hike in all online retail orders, Forbes magazine reported this past spring. With most, if not all retailers taking their business online to survive the pandemic, U.S. e-commerce sales are expected to reach $709.78 billion in 2020, up from $601.65 billion in 2019, eMarketer revealed in a recent report. Meanwhile, e-commerce giant Shopify recently released a report that pegged global e-commerce sales at $4.2 trillion by the end of 2020.
Bullish on BOPIS and Crazy about Curbside
The “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS) model—wherein customers complete purchases online, but pick them up at a store or other designated spot rather than waiting several days for delivery—is catching on. Of consumers surveyed by Quadini, 62 percent said they are embracing BOPIS as a way to avoid contracting COVID-19, while 87 percent of consumers queried by weighing solutions provider Shekel said they preferred options like BOPIS and curbside pickup to shopping in-store.
BOPIS was gaining ground even before the pandemic, and it’s seemingly here to stay. Digital Commerce 360 reported that 90 percent of traditional retailers will have launched BOPIS by the end of 2020. The overall convenience afforded by BOPIS is among the factors that are expected to drive its growth going forward even when COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror.
Holiday Changes Afoot
Expect to see fewer consumers doing their holiday shopping in-store, and more doing so online, for during the upcoming season. Research released by Statista in May 2020 indicates that compared to last year, 49 percent of consumers were more interested in shopping online for the holidays. Thirty-three percent of consumers were more interested in taking advantage of BOPIS service for the holidays, and 31 percent were more interested in shopping via an app.
Other holiday shopping trends, while perhaps only indirectly related to e-commerce, may impact it anyway. For example, some merchants have already begun to stock their brick-and-mortar stores with holiday merchandise—a move that is occurring far earlier than in the past. Many are doing so in anticipation of a second wave of COVID-19 closer to the holidays; they want to give consumers the option to shop ahead of time should a spike in cases that lead to another lockdown. Some have also announced plans to close on Black Friday—a traditionally heavy day for shopping and the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.
Getting Smart with Artificial Intelligence
According to Juniper Research, annual global retailer investments in artificial intelligence (AI) will total $7.3 billion in 2022. Some technology will comprise chatbots that assist e-commerce customers online, throughout the shopping journey and to the completion of checkout. More advanced solutions, such as those that offer purchasing recommendations, will play a role as well.
Adding Augmented Reality
Augmented reality—technology that brings the in-store shopping experience online—being adopted by more and more retailers. With augmented reality in place, consumers can, for example, see how an item will look in their home or get a view of how an item of clothing will fit them before using e-commerce tools to pay for their purchases.
Live stream shopping—sometimes referred to as “live shopping”—is a hybrid between traditional home shopping TV, live video stream content marketing, and social influencer marketing. In a live shopping scenario, consumers view items presented online (on a website or social media) in live mode and can purchase them immediately. Live stream shopping is still in its infancy, but Huachong Securities has predicted that the industry could expand to $15.9 billion by the end of this year.
Are You Ready to Help Your Customers as they Engage in E-Commerce?
The advent and growth of these trends make it increasingly important for businesses to adopt an expanding menu of payment acceptance solutions. For example, whether because of the pandemic, the improved shopping experience, the appeal of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, live shopping, fewer Black Friday shopping opportunities, or a combination thereof, more shoppers are going to engage in e-commerce. The more online payment options businesses offer—for example, an ACH payment option as well as mobile payment options—the higher the likelihood they will be able to capitalize on an expanding e-commerce customer base.
Moreover, with holiday shopping starting earlier, merchants will need to give customers additional means of paying for in-store purchases in a digital fashion—for instance, through an app or mobile checkout platform.