The E-Commerce Trends Changing Retail As We Know It
By JOSH WALTER | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
To put it mildly, 2020 was an interesting year. With the sudden impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, business as usual was anything but.
Stay-home orders and social distancing meant traffic to brick-and-mortar stores decreased—if it didn’t disappear entirely. But retailers are agile, and those in the consumer goods space adapted accordingly—even amid extreme and unpredictable conditions.
Now, gradually emerging from those conditions, we’ve noticed that the pandemic has served as a catalyst for new trends as well as shifts in consumer behavior. If anything, Ecommerce was front and center of that shift, with a new reliance—and comfort—toward purchasing online, born out of necessity during COVID.
Because of that shift, it stands to reason that e-commerce is no longer an option for companies that want to reach consumers today. Here’s a look at some of the catalysts for this shift, and the trends we believe will persist in the year ahead and beyond.
Technology became a bigger driver
With face-to-face interactions, limited technology became key to retail transactions. Last year’s lockdowns saw online shopping grow 44%.
In the U.S., Amazon absorbed about a third of online sales, but independent retailers also saw an uptick in activity thanks in large part to Shopify. The e-commerce platform experienced big growth, with the number of stores using the service increasing by 71%, making it the second-largest platform behind Amazon.
And while sweatpants and hand sanitizer might seem like the most obvious online pandemic purchases, larger goods like home furnishings also saw tremendous growth in the online sales scene.
For example, according to Wayfair’s Investor reports, the company’s net revenue in 2020 was $14.1B, a 55% increase over the previous year. With the majority of people spending more time at home, it stands to reason they want to love being there.
It helped that a number of technologies helped transform online shopping into a true experience in its own right. Immersive solutions like augmented reality, for example, allow consumers to “see” a product remotely — from all angles and sometimes even in their homes.
Mobile shopping also saw an uptick in activity, especially in BOPIS (buy-online-pickup-in-store) and curbside pickup applications. Voice-assisted devices like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant have become an important adjunct to e-commerce shopping, with some analysts expecting voice commerce to hit $40 billion by 2022. Hey Alexa, order more milk.
Considering convenience is a must
With all these technological innovations comes even greater expectations from consumers. One of the most crucial of those is convenience.
For some items, especially consumable goods, two-day shipping just won’t cut it anymore. Same-day delivery is expected to hit 25% of the last-mile market share by 2025. There might be some additional legwork in the logistics of delivering items this quickly, but many customers will be willing to spend more for speedy service.
Also, curbside pickup, which was accelerated by the pandemic, is also expected to expand. Some analysts predict creative solutions like multi-retailer curbside areas may soon pop up at shopping malls.
With unexpected partnerships, inspiration is everywhere
These days, anything goes — even collaborating with the competition. A few years ago, Amazon teamed up with Kohls to offer in-person return hubs.
During the first three weeks of Kohl’s accepting returns, foot traffic in the store rose by 24%. It didn’t hurt that consumers returning Amazon purchases are given Kohl’s coupons, adding further enticement to stick around and shop.
And sometimes seemingly unrelated brands can benefit from a collaboration. When Lowe’s partnered with Christian Siriano and Rebecca Minkoff for New York Fashion Week, everyone involved saw their social media mentions take off.
To that end, influencer participation is more important than ever. Whether your social media star is a celebrity or a civilian with an acumen for decor, aspiration is huge. It’s no surprise to see Instagram, Pinterest and other sites expand to social commerce, with even more potential for growth in Livestream shopping in the future.
Giving consumers exactly what they want
With consumers spending more time at home, they’re willing to wait — and spend more — for a higher quality, made-to-order product.
That means customization becomes a key differentiator, creating more opportunities to take advantage of private label offerings. Quality merchants have a keen grasp on what their customers want and will be valuable partners in identifying in-demand features and products.
Although we appear to be on the pandemic’s tail end, we predict these new practices aren’t going away any time soon. Sales at brick-and-mortar stores will pick up again, but it will be imperative to integrate the latest technologies and offerings into the shopping experience to keep consumers happy and coming back for more.
Josh Walter is CEO and Co-Founder of BrandJump, a Los Angeles-based ecommerce sales and marketing company focused on bringing customized online strategies to manufacturers in the home furnishings space. BrandJump’s unique model delivers merchandising, content, and marketing expertise to optimize their clients’ online presence and drive revenue through internet retail channels. Learn more at www.brandjump.com.