Global B2C e-commerce sales is expected to reach USD 7 trillion by 2024 or at least amount for a quarter of the total retail sales. For consumer-facing businesses, this means placing a greater focus on driving superior digital experiences will be paramount to meeting their growth objectives.
From an industry share standpoint, even with the economies slowly reviving, what we observe as a pertinent B2C e-commerce trend is that 2021 is slated witness a decrease in physical store footfalls. This will further compel store retailers to improve their digital footprint to attract a rapidly-expanding online customer base.
So how can online retailers, brands, and marketplaces prepare for the next phase of this new normal? How should they use their marketing monies to reap the desired impact and which channels will afford them the resonance and loyalty they seek? What should their tech stacks look like to gain a competitive edge? To answer these and more, here’s a roundup of the key B2C e-commerce trends we see emerging this year.
Business and Strategic trends
Omnichannel will stay a solid customer satisfaction influencer
84% of consumers shopped online since the pandemic. Once they discover a product many tend to share these links with their friends and family for a second opinion. Having multiple customer touchpoints is therefore becoming an important enabler not just for brick-and-mortar but also for digital-first brands to diversify discoverability. While the concept of omnichannel always existed, the pandemic will continue to underline it further; whether its contactless delivery, click-and-collect or buy-online-return-in-store, a benefit leveraged by physical stores.
Globally, 72% of constrained consumers are omnichannel shoppers, 10 percentage points higher than insulated consumers, whose finances haven’t been impacted. With seemingly simple aspects like using location data, chatbots, and using browsing data/channel to predict and act upon their potential next move, omnichannel will stay crucial in creating those exceptional moments that trigger repeat conversions.
Dynamic pricing will help get margins back on track
Unprecedented stock outages, volatile demand spikes, and supply chain disruptions have escalated the need for dynamic pricing. As shoppers continue to seek convenience combined with a deal they can show off, players will need a pricing model that rides on market fluctuations to create that win-win situation to keep their margins intact, if not growing.
Technology investments may seem expensive now, but they will reap tangible returns in the long run. An unmissable example is Amazon; the player is known to update its product prices every ten minutes. The marketplace mammoth is also said to change its prices between a shopper adding a product to their cart to the stage when they actually buy it, leading to a 25% boost in profits for the company.
Direct selling via social media platforms
54% of young consumers and 43% of middle-aged shoppers who patronize independent retailers shop via social media. As Facebook Shops and in-video shopping apps grow popular, an increasing number of brands are seeing value in going D2C on social. When surveyed 72% of respondents make up for those players who are convinced of social media D2C, while 33% are still contemplating their next pivots in this space. The obvious benefits are more engagement opportunities, reduced cart abandonments, and increased brand resonance.
Secure digital payments and flexible finance options
In 2020, the use of internet banking and finance apps grew considerably among older groups in North America, Latin America, and Europe. Additional identity validation requirements during the checkout process are viewed positively as nearly 50% holiday shoppers were concerned about falling prey to fraud. What should push industry players to further secure their online payment modes is the fact that nearly 2.7 trillion transactions worth USD 48 trillion will shift from cash to cards and digital payments in the next decade.
With the pandemic leaving many high and dry, shoppers are keener on patronizing marketplaces that offer them a buy now pay later option. Australia and the US have been the frontrunners in taking to installment payment options. This trend seems to be growing as it not only mellows down the sticker price shock but also helps millennials give into impulse purchases without feeling too guilty.
Voice-based shopping will grow stronger as micro-moments abound
Within handsfree B2C e-commerce trends, voice-based shopping is expected to reach USD 40 billion in the US and UK by 2022. As socializing continues to stay sparse, most people have grown familiar with asking their devices questions they would otherwise approach a retail salesperson with. Voice-based commerce has been thriving on such scenarios amid lockdowns, especially in Western countries.
The growing accuracy and convenience of the technology are enabling consumers to discover, compare, and act on their needs faster. A survey by Adobe reveals that 49% of millennials say they’ve been looking down at their phones less since using a voice assistant. As a technology, AI-enabled voice commerce not only allows for a seamless and conversational customer experience, it also allows businesses to amass a ton of data which they can further use to hone their marketing strategies.
Chatbot and AI investments will impact top and bottom line
As mentioned earlier, chatbots is one of the most employed B2C e-commerce trends since they aid in reducing efforts and costs in the long term. It is no surprise why approximately 50% of large companies are contemplating investing in this technology. They save businesses 0.70 USD per interaction and have earned the highest adoption in countries like the US, UK, Germany, India, and Brazil.
With a gamut of off-the-shelf solutions available to match every type of e-commerce, AI continues to deepen its roots as an effective enabler that helps players operate smartly and maximize revenues. If employed correctly, Accenture reports that AI can boost profitability rates in retail and wholesale sectors by 59% until 2035. From unifying data from various sources like your e-commerce platform and third-party sites, to personalization, logistics, and beyond, AI will help you make sense of the data to serve your customers better and stay agile. For brands looking to expand their AI capabilities here’s a quick roundup of the potential application areas.
Analytics and marketing automation will help sustain agility and drive deeper personalization
One thing that the pandemic made available is a goldmine of measurable, meaningful data that can be mined to make accurate and timely decisions. 84% of decision-makers consider cross-platform analytics “critical” or “very important,” but only 43% have the necessary tools implemented. Among firms that did invest in these tools, the successes that echoed included better cross-platform experience, better marketing campaign outcomes, and the ability to identify and remediate customer service gaps across touchpoints. Personalization beyond the first name, based on browsing history, customer behavior patterns and more, can help develop the right nudges and incentivize purchase. With speed and time-to-market growing increasingly important various forms of marketing automation are helping brands and marketplaces stay consumer-centric, topical, and genuine, long-term. Whether it’s cart abandonment, retargeting, or a simple-cross promotion email, marketing automation works and is among the top B2C e-commerce trends to implement to experience growth. One study shows that a staggering 32% of email conversions came from automated messages.
Augmented reality will continue to make up for touch-and-feel experiences
What fascinates shoppers using AR in their purchase journey is that AR enables them to superimpose computer-generated images to their real-life ones, creating an immersive product experience. And it’s precisely these experiences that have convinced investors to pour into social platforms like Snapchat. From IKEA to Gucci and more, brands that have leveraged this technology have been successful disruptors in their space, especially during the pandemic. While not all retailers and brands are ready to make this move, given various technology, talent, and measurement barriers, AR is here to stay for those who seek to benchmark themselves above the expected growth curve.
Most e-commerce players are embracing an agile mindset to pivot and adapt to whatever tumbles in their way. What businesses will realize this year is the need for temporarily band-aid solutions to be replaced with permanent adaptable solutions and trusted strategic partnerships to be forged. To succeed, savvy companies will ensure cross-functional collaboration, digital integration, and access to relevant and reliable data insights to make timely decisions.
Globally, retailers and marketplaces have been partnering with Netscribes to gain a holistic view of their content gaps, opportunities, and more to chart a strategic way forward. Contact us to know how we can enable your business accelerate its digital growth by riding on these B2C e-commerce trends and more.