As our daily lives become busier and technology evolves, consumers are seeking new, more convenient methods to fulfill their sales needs. Ecommerce is redefining commercial activities across the world and growing at an incredible rate. In this post, we’ll discuss the growth of ecommerce and what your ecommerce business can do to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
The official ecommerce definition is ‘the business of buying and selling goods and services on the Internet’. It’s this that allows people to buy and sell virtually anything, at any time. Before the introduction of ecommerce, consumers relied more heavily on brick-and-mortar businesses — those with at least one physical location. Although these businesses still exist, they are increasingly being replaced by ecommerce sites.
With 95 percent of households in the UK owning a smartphone, it’s no wonder that people are buying and selling using ecommerce platforms. Unlike when ecommerce websites first launched, payment methods are now much more simple and secure to use, allowing consumers to purchase with the touch of a button (or fingerprint). If an ecommerce business wants to remain competitive — particularly in the eyes of millennials and Gen-Zs — it must be optimised for mobile. Recent years have also seen ecommerce and social media apps increasingly joining forces, with Instagram being the biggest player.
What’s more convenient than being able to shop from the comfort of your bed or sofa? For the majority of purchases, customers no longer need to worry about getting their shopping done before closing time, on a bank holiday, or in bad weather, nor do they need to worry about crowds, traffic, and awkward social interactions. Sales can happen around the clock and online or ‘virtual’ staff can help at any time of day. Even better? Consumers can read reviews from other customers before purchasing, leading them to find the products they want more quickly and easily.
One of the major reasons for ecommerce growth is that consumers want more choices. While brick and mortar stores were limited in terms of the amount of stock they could house, ecommerce websites can cater to a wider audience with far more options in terms of colour, style, and specifications. Of course, the products don’t just fall out of the sky — they’re stored in central warehouses — but these are also much cheaper than retail spaces. Customers can browse what’s available, and for items that aren’t, can request to be notified when stock replenishes. Returns and refunds are much faster and convenient, eliminating the need for customers to take things back in person and stand in long queues.
When ecommerce first came about, the idea of recommending a product according to customers who shared your purchase history was a mind-blowing concept. But with technology advancing with every year that passes, modern consumers want that bit more. In accordance with their preferences and unique style, customers now not only receive recommendations as they browse, but when they open their emails, and land on other websites, too. When customers are presented with products that more closely align their personal preferences, they are more likely to purchase.
I know what you’re thinking. No, we’re not talking about Price Drop TV and other shopping channels — rather about watching your favourite show and being able to purchase what you see. Ever found yourself watching Netflix and wondering where the main character got her dress? Rumour has it that in the not so distant future, you’ll be able to click, find, and purchase that very item. You may have come across shoppable ads when watching a show on your laptop or tablet, but soon enough, you’ll be able to purchase what’s on-screen using a mobile app, too.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has played a huge role in providing consumers with product recommendations. This type of technology has also eliminated the need for physical staff to assist customers. The next step? To help businesses find their customers. By analysing current trends against a companies’ sales channels, product ranges, and buyer behaviour, intelligent algorithms will be able to identify how to price products, where to display them, and when, in turn helping brands to boost sales and profits.
According to the Harvard Business Review, 65 percent of buyers want to make purchases from brands that aim for sustainability, leading businesses to shift their focus towards making products that protect the environment. Ecommerce giant Amazon is among the businesses that has taken the pledge towards sustainability, for example through its ‘Shipment Zero’ initiative where 50 percent of all its shipments will be net-zero carbon by 2030. Unlike certain technological advancements, this trend is something all businesses can take advantage of, for example, by reducing the amount of packaging waste, or outlining ways for your customers to recycle your products when they’re finished with them.
At least one in five UK homes is using a smart speaker or voice assistant like Alexa, Siri, or Google Home. While the majority of owners rely on these devices to play their favourite songs, or tell them the weather forecast, 20 percent use them for shopping-related activities, which can include anything from asking when a new product will be back in stock and tracking a delivery to ordering a new product. This figure is expected to jump to 52 percent within the next four years, sparking a trend amongst ecommerce companies to optimise for voice search.
Understand what makes a successful ecommerce website and learn how to give your customers the most valuable shopping experience with our one-day ecommerce course.
by Emma Gibbins | 22 Feb 21
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