When writing about ecommerce trends, there’s always a question as to whether it’s a trend, a paradigm shift or shifting baseline you are talking about.
For example, personalization was a trend a few years ago. Today it’s considered a commodity and a given for most ecommerce sites, but ecommerce personalization still has much more to offer and can still be seen as an important trend. In many ways, the trend itself is not new, just the level of the trend.
When you look at trends, you can choose between focusing on trends that might emerge and become large or old trends that are taking the next step.
In this short article, I will mainly focus on ecommerce trends that do not feel particularly new, but that still will be game changers during 2020.
From the time of the bleeping modem era, the need for a fast site has been of high importance. But things have changed since the time it was ok for you to go and get a cup of coffee while waiting for the site to load on your desktop computer. Today, customers are browsing and buying online in the queue to the coffee machine and waiting is never ever an option in the world of ecommerce.
It does not matter if you have sought after products, interesting content or attractive prizes, a slow site is as close to torture that the modern consumer gets, and every millisecond of waiting is an experience killer.
Since your site is (more or less) no longer used on desktops for long sessions, but rather in short bursts during the ongoing customer journey, like on the bus, on the toilet or in the store, the winner is the site that can maximize those short visits.
To make the site snappy during 2020 will not only be a trend – a snappy site will be the ticket needed to exist in 2020 and beyond.
To read today means plugging in your headphones and indulging culture by watching HBO or Netflix. Yes, people do still read books and on tablets, but for many people this is seen more as an achievement than pleasure.
So, the question is why would people, who do not really want to read, all of a sudden like to read long product descriptions? Well, the answer is that they don’t if they don’t need to. In most cases, the educated customer already knows what they need to know about a product before they reach the product page and just a buy button would do the trick for them.
But in the case where the customer does not know enough of the product, text will not satisfy them. Their knowledge needs to be complemented by YouTube where they most probably can see a video of the product in all angles, being used and reviewed.
By letting your customers exit your site to get the information they need, you open up opportunities for competitors to snatch your customer. For 2020 make sure this won’t happen by offering videos where you show that you are the one to visit for deep knowledge, not a place for products alone.
In a time where every business is focusing on Customer Experience (CX), there is one core goal all businesses have – getting the customer to genuinely care about them. Being top of mind is still important, but even more so to be top of heart.
If what you sell and stand for does not engage, you will fast be forgotten. With the algorithms of social media advertisements promoting engagement, your message will not be heard if engagement is too low and the time where you could scream from billboards alone to be recognised is long gone.
The trend we will see is sharper statements from ecommerce sites and businesses about who they are and what they stand for and more focus on customer collaboration and rewarding engagement. The most successful businesses will be able to maximize engagement on their own platforms and channels (own forums, advanced on-site reviews, displayed user generated content (UGC)) in synergy with social and traditional media.
Direct to consumer (D2C)
When everybody thinks they can do a “Daniel Wellington” and just need a product, an ecommerce-site and a social media account to harvest gold, you might think that the D2C trend is already passing, but that is not the case.
When shopping more and more is done in social media channels and fuelled by engagement rather than big advertisement budgets and interests are shared globally among peers, the right product, story and feeling still have the potential to go from nowhere to everywhere in a blink. You don’t need more than one or a few products to sell when you are exposed in the right feed and one click shopping makes it hassle free for the customer.
The combination of brand, product, and channel is potent, and we will see that these companies will nibble more and more from the traditional players and traditional players responding by taking the same strategy where possible.
"Hmm", you might think, "that old trend", and yes that old trend will still be important in 2020 and beyond. The main reason being that customers will continue to buy things where they happen to be.
If you are not where your customers are, they will not buy from you. If that place happens to be Amazon, Zalando or Asos, then that’s the place you need to be. Or, if you happen to be the main player in a niche, you can take the role as the marketplace owner.
However, those who can be their own marketplace compared to those who will sell through marketplaces as a channel will always be fewer. We will see the death of new marketplaces where they just won’t reach the critical mass needed for momentum or creating the depth that customers demand from a marketplace.
Smart integration of channels and data, effective internal processes and organization, prizing and range strategies and customer acquisition for marketplaces will all be big considerations this coming year for many ecommerce businesses.
Sustainability – the mega trend
2020 will be the year where customers will actually care (not only say that they do) about sustainability when it comes to what companies they want to do business with. It won’t matter if you are ecommerce, traditional retailer or both, sustainability will matter.
Greenwashing is no longer an option as a strategy (not for the planet or for a business). From a business perspective you need to be offering a guilt free shopping experience to your customers or you are selling them guilt – which they don’t really want to pay for.
Even though sustainability isn’t a trend, the real trend will be to handle sustainability in a sustainable business way i.e. not only adding cost, but by finding new ways to produce, sell, rent, co-create, re-sell, re-use, recycle, etc. that are profitable. Here we will see a lot of creativity from ecommerce businesses.
So, will these five ecommerce trends and one megatrend dominate 2020?
Well, yes. In combination with other trends like AI and machine learning, voice, smarter shipping solutions and return management, chat bots, visual search, web-based AR, 3D product customization, new payment solutions and other supporting trends, these trends will affect a lot.
And if you combine high-performance ecommerce with smart video product information with a sustainable business model and engaging customers directly, supported by a smart marketplace strategy, you will find the new trendsetters, and possibly paradigm shifters, right there, shifting the baseline.