6 E-commerce Trends to Watch for in 2019
In the past few years, e-commerce has experienced a significant rise.
- Thanks to mobile, e-commerce in North America grew to more than $500 billion in 2018, which is an increase of 16%.
- Online shopping in the States currently accounts for 10% of all retail sales and is expected to grow at a yearly rate of 15%.
- By 2040, 95% of all purchases will be made online.
As consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, e-commerce presents an opportunity for countless entrepreneurs.
To stay on top of their game and offer better customer experience, e-commerce companies need to keep up with the newest trends. Here are 6 e-commerce trends to consider this year.
1. Artificial Intelligence Solutions
Many e-commerce businesses are already using AI to better understand their customers, generate leads, and improve customer experience.
Today, e-commerce retailers are struggling to produce product content quickly enough in order to keep up with customer demand. This means providing product photography and video, product descriptions, stock availability, brand logos, reviews and ratings, promotion info, pricing, etc. Creating all this content is a laborious and time-consuming task that is mostly done manually.
Artificial Intelligence solutions help automate the creation and optimization of product content.
Some of the big players are already implementing such solutions: Alibaba has started using an AI copywriting tool, which creates 20k lines of copy per second, whereas Amazon uses machine learning to analyze consumer purchase behavior and drive personalized product recommendations.
AI can also help with customer service and support. With consumers expecting immediate help or answer to their questions at any given time, human individuals are no longer efficient. Enter chatbots. Chatbots have become more sophisticated and besides customer support, they’ll soon be able to perform other actions, such as help customers complete a purchase, provide personalized promotions, etc.
Another huge AI trend to watch for this year is voice search. Even though traditional search remains strong, voice search is expected to continue growing in 2019 and by 2020, 50% of mobile searches will be vocal searches.
To benefit from this rising trend, focus on long-tail keywords that users speak rather than write, make sure your content is well-structured & easily-digestible, and use more informal language when you write.
2. Mobile E-commerce
By now your online store should already be optimized for mobile devices. Why? Let’s look at some stats.
- In 2017, mobile e-commerce sales accounted for almost 35% of total e-commerce sales.
- Since 2016, more than 135 million people have used their mobile device to make a purchase.
- In the last six months, over 60% of people have used their smartphones to shop online.
- By 2021, mobile e-commerce sales will account for 54% of the total e-commerce sales.
E-commerce platforms need to offer great user experience on mobile devices. The best solution for this is responsive design, i.e. sites that adjust to any device.
However, being mobile-friendly isn’t enough to attract customers and increase mobile sales.
- Over 50% of users didn’t complete a transaction on their mobile device because they thought it was unsafe to leave credit card details.
- Over 65% of consumers didn’t complete an online purchase because of obstacles during checkout.
Besides web design, mobile optimization should also cover segments like security, chat support, multiple payment options, and easy checkout.
3. Social Media Gets Transactional
E-commerce business owners have already realized the power of social media as both a customer service tool and a marketing channel. Here are some stats to demonstrate the power of social media:
- 1 in 4 businesses are selling via Facebook
- More than 85% of e-commerce buyers believe social networks help them make a shopping decision
- 30% of users stated they would like to make purchases directly through social media platforms
- 40% of merchants use social networks as a sales generating tool.
To leverage social media, you need to find out which platforms your target audience is using and create content that motivates them to purchase your products.
Constant communication is also very important. Instead of reaching out to customers only when you have a specific goal, strive to build long-term relationships with them. This means posting fresh & relevant content on a regular basis, but also responding to customers’ questions and reviews. This way, you’ll show that you really care about your customers and they’ll feel comfortable buying from you.
2019 marks a turning point as social networks are looking for ways to enable users to complete their purchases without leaving the social media platform. Messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and WhatsApp also plan to join the bandwagon and become transactional.
4. Ethical E-commerce
2019 is the year when consumer values will have a strong influence on their purchasing decision.
Consumer awareness is on the rise. Today more than ever, people want to know what’s behind the goods they buy, including digital purchases. Are brands selling online ethical and socially responsible? Do they use excess packaging? Are they environment-friendly? How and where are the products made?
As a result, brands are compelled to conform to higher value systems and be completely transparent. For instance, Reformation, a sustainable women’s clothing and accessories brand, discloses their environmental footprint in a newsletter, including details such as waste, water, carbon dioxide, packaging, etc.
The fashion label Everlane provides a cost breakdown of the materials for each of their products. This policy is said to have doubled their annual sales despite the fact that Everlane doesn’t invest in advertising.
5. No More Free Returns
So far, e-commerce companies have used favorable return policies as a means to boost conversions. However, as e-commerce grows, the cost of managing these returns has become a serious issue.
- In 2017, returns hit $400 billion, which is an increase of more than 50% since 2015.
- Returns of physical store purchases are 8%, whereas e-commerce returns go up to 30%.
- It is expected that over 20% of all purchases made in 2018 in the United Kingdom will be returned.
- Over 60% of consumers stated they are more likely to buy online if there’s an option to return the merchandise in store.
2019 will be the year of significant changes in return policies. Amazon already announced its plans to ban ‘serial returners’ (consumers who often return products) for life. In addition, the company now has over six hundred physical locations where customers can return products, as a means to save on returns taxes.
H&M Canada, on the other hand, stopped accepting returns from online purchases in store, thus forcing consumers to cover postal expenses.
6. Physical Locations
2019 is the year when the digital and physical will solidify. The time of pop-up shops is over; if you want to stay on top of the game, you need to open a brick-and-mortar store.
Having a physical store allows your business to offer omnichannel options such as in-store pickup but also to reduce e-commerce shipping costs.
In addition, brick-and-mortar locations are a great way of connecting with customers. People have an opportunity to interact with your brand, while you and your team get a chance to elicit feedback and gain valuable insights on a daily basis.
Consider opening a space that serves multiple functions such as Rapha’s Clubhouses where people can buy gear, get their biked repaired, and do work.
Dave Schneider is the founder of LessChurn, churn reduction app. In 2012 he quit his job to travel the world, and has visited over 65 countries. In his spare time, he writes about SaaS and business at DaveSchneider.me