E-commerce has long been a hot topic for consumers and merchants alike because it directly influences our life. It changed the ways people shop, pay, advertise, and work profoundly, and it’s set to evolve even more in the predictable future.
E-commerce (or electronic commerce) is the practice of selling and buying things online for commercial profit. This concept includes everything sales-related like advertising, payment processing, and protection of data. With the help of current technologies, everything can be sold online, from food, clothes, and appliances to services and data. This fact made e-commerce so popular and set it for rapid growth since the moment of its beginning. The pandemic and related restrictions of person-to-person interactions only accelerated this growth.
E-commerce did not get built from scratch. Mail-order purchases have been around for more than a hundred years. So when technologies enabled it, the sales moved online seamlessly. Customers have long loved convenience, privacy and individualization of shopping by mail. So they were only eager to continue buying things in a familiar way with even more comfort and number of choices.
Convenience, wide selection of goods and services, privacy, and lower prices boosted the popularity of shopping by mail. These factors also drive the popularity of e-commerce today. That’s why new developments usually aim to improve the user’s experience in one of these areas. If you want to succeed in this hot industry now and in the future, you need to keep up and know how to boost the positive experience for customers. Let’s explore the trends and steps to take to win in the e-markets.
The Growth of Online Retail
Naturally, the first thing that enabled e-commerce was the fast Internet and emergence of sites that offered goods for sale. The biggest breakthrough took place when it became possible to buy directly from the sites. The second big breakthrough happened when mobile devices became widespread, allowing people to shop on the go. From then on, online sales grew with unbelievable speed across the world, doubling and tripling year by year.
These two big shifts can be further broken down into smaller changes that made e-commerce skyrocket in such a short time:
- Payment on sites means that payment systems like banks and card issuers agreed to process online payments. This shift reshaped the financial services for all. Now paying online is very easy. Data protection became a separate concern.
- Boom in mobile devices that helped people to shop on a whim, just when and where they wanted.
- Personalization of shopping. Sellers analyze data to improve customer experience and show buyers the tailored offers.
- Customers’ preferences changed, as they shopped online more and more and now expect all sellers to be available for online shopping.
- Convenience of shopping and delivery. Doorstep delivery and fast delivery of orders made the e-commerce a strong competitor for offline shopping.
A Pinch of Dry Numbers
To understand the true scale of e-commerce worldwide, it’s enough to look at the real and forecasted numbers.
- In 2023, the global retail sales made online amounted to 22% of all sales made in the world. It is a visible boost from 14% in 2019.
- In 2022, the online sales in the USA alone hit the mark of $1.09 trillion, reaching the 12-digit number for the first time in a single year.
- 38% of all online sales in the USA are mobile sales and this number is set to grow.
- Globally, the e-commerce turnover is predicted to reach $5 trillion by 2025.
- Considering that China’s annual online sales turnover in 2022 was $2.2 trillion, this predicted number looks totally feasible.
- The European markets look modest for now with their dozens of billion dollars, the UK being the leader with $93 billion.
Added together, these numbers indicate that e-commerce will only expand further. It will be especially true when African states become more active in online sales (now they all host only %1 of the global transactions). To be a profitable merchant will mean to have a strong online presence and to be convenient to users.
Besides, e-commerce provides benefits that small and large businesses can use to boost profits right now:
- Smaller businesses can reach new customers online quickly and sell directly without resellers.
- B2B businesses now provide services similarly to B2C, which makes transactions easier and faster. Small businesses can benefit from this ease.
- Big marketplaces host millions of sellers and buyers under one roof. A business does not need to launch a separate store to start selling. It’s enough to join a platform like Amazon or AliExpress.
- E-commerce creates new jobs, making the economy healthier.
- Social media invites customers to buy in a new way, engaging them in shopping directly, and businesses should use this additional channel.
Current Trends in E-commerce Platforms
Since we started talking about big e-commerce platforms, let’s continue from there. Today, e-commerce is unimaginable without a huge marketplace where all sellers and all buyers meet.
There are branded platforms that provide unified storefronts to sellers. The platforms charge a commission for services. People buy ‘on Amazon’ even if they buy from some small third-party seller registered there.
Then there are platforms that let people build their own small websites and customize them for their own brands. This approach is called self-hosting.
The most globally known branded marketplaces are Amazon, Alibaba, eBay and Etsy. Examples of self-hosted platforms are Shopify and WooCommerce.
The biggest advantage of these platforms is ease of use or minimal efforts required to start selling. On Amazon and Alibaba, you set up an account, upload the pictures and item descriptions and you’re good to go. On Shopify and WooCommerce, you build your own tiny shops from pre-made frames and patterns, much like building from Lego. Self-hosting provides creative freedom, while Amazon and Alibaba demand standardized presentation of goods.
All big platforms gauge sales in billions of dollars every year and attract millions of buyers. It makes them the first stop for businesses that only launch their online presence.
What’s Trending In E-commerce on Big Platforms Right Now
The recent trends on big marketplaces follow the general trends in the Internet and in technological advances:
- Mobile shopping grows rapidly, and customers want to have a mobile shopping experience on all platforms. Optimized websites and new features like mobile ads are a must.
- Social commerce is gaining traction, offering new ways to buy directly on Facebook or Instagram. Influencers and content creators connect businesses to users in a meaningful and authentic way. So, it’s reasonable to use buying tools built into the socials (like Facebook Marketplace or Instagram Shop) to attract more customers.
- Voice search and voice management have become mainstream. Voice shopping search and voice communication to sellers follow in tow as customers want to shop with ease.
- Individualization does not go anywhere. The more personalized shopping offers or experience, the better. Subscriptions with different perks like Amazon Prime attract customers and build loyalty.
Consumer Behavior in the Digital Marketplace
These new trends are often dictated by customers as they look for more convenient and authentic shopping experiences. E-commerce has one big drawback: customers cannot directly examine, test, or try on the items they buy. That’s why they want options that will let them understand how good or useful the product or service is. Besides, when buying online, people want to find lower prices and to see that their personal data is protected.
Online sellers need to remember these points while organizing their sales:
- Customers expect to find lower, competitive prices. Selling directly should remove all premiums that resellers usually include.
- Convenience of shopping should be high. If a site is slow or hard to use, people will flock to another seller with an optimized website.
- To get the feel of the item, customers want to see reviews from real buyers. When other people buy a thing and talk about it, it compels other people to try it, too. Amazon has this reviews section, and it drives its sales up. Individual sites need to have it, too.
- Personalized recommendations are also bound to boost sales. People are likely to buy a new pair of shoes that go well with a new dress or suit if it was offered to them during the dress ordering, the surveys show.
People are even more likely to buy if something is promoted to them by a real person, preferably a relatable one. That’s why influencers’ culture is booming now.
Influencers build connections to followers through day-to-day communication, in a friend-like way. In return, followers trust the authentic influencers and buy things they recommend. This is one more point to tap into direct online sales.
Livestream sales provide almost a brick-and-mortar experience when an item is shown and sold in real time. These opportunities are unique in the e-commerce environment, and they should be leveraged.
Strategies for Succeeding in the Competitive Digital Marketplace
With all listed trends in place and new trends still brewing, it may seem too hard to build a workable strategy for your e-commerce. However, there are essential steps that will outlive any fast trend. You may add new features and options to them, remove the ones that don’t work and customize everything on the go. Yet the sustainable framework for success should be developed in the first place:
- Your online store should be user-friendly and attractive. Navigation should be easy, all basic information for goods listed, all parts of the site working efficiently.
- Contacts and online chats should be easy to find.
- To be visible to search engines, the shop needs to have optimized listings of products and quality content related to the items or services sold.
- Data protection and security of payment are one of the top concerns among customers. Use verified and safe payment gateways and payment processing platforms. Provide information to customers about what data is gathered and how you intend to use it. Complying with data protection regulations (like GDPR in Europe) is a key to ensuring safety and trust of your customers.
- Customer service should be very good, and the pathway to buying and checkout easy and understandable. If an item is hard to buy because of a messy ordering process, a customer will likely move to another seller. Customer support should be in place, like options of tracking a shipment, asking questions, and settling problems, if any.
- One of the disappointing experiences customers face in the shopping process is shipment to a wrong destination. People often expect orders to arrive by a certain date, and delays can be detrimental to their plans. To avoid the mess, double-check the delivery addresses and automate filling of mailing labels. Use reliable label creating software to reduce the possibility of a mailing mistake.
- Regularly analyze your sales data and find the bottlenecks. Insights about what works and what does not work will help you to build better marketing campaigns and sales strategies.
E-commerce is booming and is set to grow even more, as new trends attract more customers and new countries join the market. Yet with all the new trends, it’s essential not to forget about the basics that make an online outlet a cool place to shop. A nice interface, easy navigation, excellent customer service and shipping without glitches will make your shop stand out. Build a good foundation for it, and you’ll be able to incorporate all new features and tricks into your sales strategies smoothly.