We write about “the future of e-commerce” almost constantly. But that’s because the marketplace is changing so rapidly. Every month, new players appear. Some of those new players prove strategies, and then those strategies become trends.
Not every strategy is right for every e-commerce business. Subscriptionly, a blog focusing on subscription-box experiences, recently identified “60 stats and trends that will define the future of e-commerce.” It’s unlikely that a small business (or even a large one) can adapt to 60 trends simultaneously.
But four of them are essential to every company selling online today.
1. Personalized Experience is Crucial For Marketplaces
According to the 2017 Accenture Strategy Global Consumer Pulse Research Report, 43% of U.S. customers want to shop at e-commerce companies that always personalize their experience—as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of their privacy. In an era of digital information insecurity, unboxing experiences are a great analog way to personalize products.
But customers also want algorithmic personalization. About 31% of survey respondents told Accenture that they see the value in services that learn about their needs and wants, and use that information to inform future product selections.
About 48% of respondents said they were willing to consider smart reordering services in which smart home-enabled products inform an online retailer that it’s time to refill something like dish soap or toilet paper—although 40% said they found this data personalization is a little creepy.
This isn’t just a bonus for customers. About 41% of survey respondents told Accenture they had switched companies because of poor personalization.
The good news is: personalization is one area where small e-commerce businesses aren’t at a significant disadvantage over big ones. They may not have as much e-commerce market data as their Amazon-sized competitors, and their product-selection algorithms may not be any better—but Instagram-worthy unboxing experiences and personalized notes to customers are much easier to design on a small scale and significantly add to the customer experience.
2. E-Commerce Merchants Offering Multiple Shopping Channels
It’s becoming more common for customers to interact with brands both online shopping and offline. Online-only brands frequently do pop-ups so consumers can touch their products, then order them online later. When people find a boutique and browse but aren’t ready to place an order, they expect to be able to pull up the e-commerce store and have an experience that feels a bit like the brick-and-mortar store. For example, Amazon is opening bookstores.
A 2015-2016 Harvard Business Review study of 46,000 people found that 73% of them used multiple channels to do their shopping. Exactly the same proportion of retailers say multichannel sales are important to them.
And it’s not just a matter of dual channels, online shopping and off. There are dozens of digital channels that e-commerce retailers can use to reach customers. Facebook has a marketplace; Instagram offers in-app sales; and third-party marketplaces like Amazon, Shopify and Overstock.com can help products reach new audiences.
According to Lead Forensics, e-commerce businesses selling on four or more digital channels sell 300% more than businesses that only use one or two digital channels for e-commerce transactions. That’s three times as many sales from as few as two additional channels.
But omnichannel experiences aren’t that easy to create. According to Periscope, an e-commerce industry research group at McKinsey, 65% of sellers say that poor customer real-time analytics across channels keep them from implementing effective omnichannel sales. Next, 48% of respondents said their organizations operated in silos; 45% said they struggled to identify customers across shopping trips; and 39% said they struggled with a lack of internal coordination.
3. E-Commerce Retailers Exploring Same-Day Delivery Technology
Amazon launched Prime more than a decade ago, which means two-day delivery has been normal for a lot of people for a long time. And that group of people is only growing: Amazon Prime has more than 100 million U.S. users.
Customer experience expectations are not stagnant. Buyers are increasingly beginning to expect next-day and same-day delivery.
According to a 2016 report from Stuart, 72% of shoppers would shop more often and spend more money if same-day delivery were an option on the e-commerce site.
But same-day shipping requires a dense fulfillment network and enormous fleet of delivery vehicles to which few retailers have access. Amazon, which is in the process of developing a delivery service, may prove to be an exception.
Carriers also know that shippers will begin to expect same-day service, and they’re moving in that direction: 78% of logistics companies say they expect to offer same-day delivery by 2023, according to a recent Zebra Technologies study. And by 2028, the study estimates 40% of parcels will be delivered within two hours.
4. Future of Delivery Services For E-Commerce Companies
As carriers continue to test delivery via drone, autonomous truck and more, the parcel industry is well on its way to integrated artificial intelligence technology.
Retail customers aren’t afraid of this.
According to the 2016 Walker Sands Future of Retail study, 79% of U.S. consumers said they’d be happy to use drone delivery if it meant packages arriving within an hour. Further, after years of free two-day shipping, 73% of participants said they’d be willing to pay as much as $10 for drone delivery.
Retailers and manufacturers only have so much control over the evolution of e-commerce. Unfortunately, e-commerce industry changes have a lot of control over them. Shippers don’t need to retool their businesses to adapt to every trend. Some trends fade while others last, but they need to make informed choices about which strategies can benefit them now and in the future.