Predicting Major Ecommerce Trends for 2020
The last decade saw e-commerce grow into a dominant form of business, and there’s every reason to believe the next ten years will see just as much growth and change – if not more! At Marketing Metrics, we’re looking forward to the 2020s being very exciting, with plenty of new ideas that you’ll want to follow and adopt.
There’s no telling for certain how things will shape up in the years ahead, but these are a few predictions we feel good about making. Or, at least, they point towards trends that everyone should be keeping an eye on.
Ten Predictions for Ecommerce In 2020 and Beyond
- Amazon-style B2B purchasing experiences
A major side effect of Millennials and Zoomers becoming responsible for purchasing decisions is that they increasingly expect a simple streamlined approach to e-commerce, even when making corporate purchases. They have no time or patience for the more traditional “wooing” process where one salesperson makes themselves a single point of contact for making purchases. Even Gen Xers are often annoyed by this process.
If they can hop onto Amazon and buy a box of pencils for their home in two minutes, they will want the same experience when they’re buying a case of pencils for their office. B2B and even B2C vendors will want to look into offering do-it-yourself shopping experiences that emphasize speed and ease of use, even if that means restructuring how sales staff get paid.
- Greater bleed over between online and physical presences
Extreme pendulum swings always tend to equalize over time. Across the past two decades, we saw e-commerce become huge, with an urgent push to move all interactions online. However, as time went on, the problems with this approach – on both the supply and demand sides – started becoming clear. Customer service and experience were difficult to maintain. Online transactions are distancing and impersonal. Logistics became more of a problem. Buyer loyalty was hard to maintain.
So, it’s hardly a surprise that in the last couple of years, we’ve started to see a hard push from previously online-only retailers to move into the physical space. Amazon is the most obvious example of this, but it’s a trend that we suspect will continue. However, as Amazon has shown with their grocery stores, it will be a new online-enhanced physical shopping experience.
QR codes and Bluetooth beacon messages will guide customers and track their activity. Checkout-less stores will become more common. Promotions will cross over between online and offline to encourage more engagement. This field is wide open for innovation!
- Predictive “AI” systems will improve engagement
The current tech gold rush is in the realm of heuristic “AI,” predictive learning algorithms that go far beyond the simple “If you liked this, you’ll also like these” recommendations of the past decade. Heuristic systems will be increasingly observing customer behavior, and making strong predictions about behavior – who’s likely to buy, who’s likely to abandon their cart, etc.
This will open up entire new avenues to engage with these customers directly with pitches, offers, and other opportunities meant to encourage sales.
Of course, this must be tempered with an awareness of how creepy these systems can seem to the public when their influence is too visible. Most likely, there will be a lot of work put into trying to disguise these observation systems and discouraging customers from thinking too hard about them.
- Increased adoption of chatbots and other conversational systems
“AI” won’t only be powering storefronts – it will also be powering customer interactions. We’ve already seen a big boom in online commerce sites deploying chatbots mimicking human service reps, and they seem to have a positive effect. Few buyers are fooled into thinking they’re human, but these bots can still function as interactive FAQs or handle basic requests such as scheduling callbacks from human reps.
This is a trend that will only grow over time. We’re absolutely going to see more advanced customer-facing AIs which will have increasingly sophisticated capabilities to parse natural language and autonomously handle complicated requests. There will still always be a need for human representatives and overseers, but in truth, we won’t be at all surprised if “Tier 1” customer support is almost entirely robotic by the end of this decade.
- Growth in regulation-compliance services
Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation sent shockwaves through e-commerce by implementing highly restrictive regulations on data-handling that applied to any company with any presence in the EU. While the Americas haven’t seen any legislation as far-reaching, there are similar headaches when dealing with regulations like the HIPAA laws covering medical records. And now, we have the new “Article 13” copyright laws about to come into force in Europe, further making electronic compliance a hassle.
What this strongly points towards is growth in services designed to help guide companies through increasingly complicated global e-commerce laws. It’s simply becoming too complicated for many businesses to keep up with, so a push from the service sector is almost certainly the inevitable result.
Companies may end up handing over more and more control of their data to third parties, just to keep themselves protected.
- Increased reliance on social influencers for outreach
This is another trend that’s been going on for a few years, and we see no reason to think it will change any time soon. Social media influencers will become the new pitchmen (and women) of the 2020s, and one of the primary ways buyers in all segments will hear about new products.
As things stand, this is an excellent opportunity for companies to get in on the trend early. The nice thing about partnering with social influencers is that as long as you keep your expectations realistic, it’s a relatively inexpensive venture with huge potential for returns.
What’s important to remember is that even mid-tier influencers still reach many thousands of people. It’s not necessary to try to get onto the radar of the biggest influencers in your sector. Find B-listers, even C-listers, and butter them up. They’ll eat out of your hand and tell their audience all about your products.
- Increased product personalization or customization
Manufacturing trends have made it easier than ever to produce variations on existing products, with little or no retooling needed. This has already given rise to closet industries of custom manufacturing work, and this trend will undoubtedly continue. Consumers already expect customized product offerings online, so it’s only natural that this desire will start to expand into physical products as well.
This is a trend that can take many, many forms. The main takeaway here is simple: no matter what field of business or industry you’re in, determine what types of customization or personalization might appeal to your buyers, and look to provide it.
(Personalization will also almost certainly be a driver of buyer loyalty as well!)
- Less reliance on “clickbait” and other sleazy tactics
A “sucker” may be born every minute – but they’re wising up. The Millennials and Zoomers have grown up online and are very familiar with all the typical sleazy tactics and tricks used to push engagement and purchases. There’s already a backlash building, as and the online generations continue to move into positions of responsibility and power, they will be less and less influenced by cheap tricks.
Racing towards the bottom, and only targeting low-information buyers, can also backfire in numerous ways. In the short term, it can damage your brand image. In the longer term, we’re talking about some of the least-loyal buyers in the market. They won’t stick around. Those who continue to pursue low-hanging fruit will be devoting huge amounts of time just maintaining market share.
Marketing Metrics Corp designs and develops e-commerce websites. We’re the top online marketing firm in Wisconsin, and we put a particular emphasis on the industrial and manufacturing sectors. If you want cutting-edge outreach in e-commerce, website design, and more, please contact us to discuss the details.
Can you add a 9th one for On-Demand? Here is some copy ideas. At the end of this section, please tie in the need to integrate e-commerce with your ERP software.
On-Demand Ecommerce Becomes the Norm
On-demand ecommerce is the expectation to buy and receive goods whenever and wherever wanted – including delivery on the same day. Orders will be placed from phones, from vehicles, and numerous Internet of Things (IoT) devices (think Alexa, Siri, Google on steroids) that will be integrated into everyday lives. This order convenience will not only impact how and when products are ordered, but also when they are delivered. The desire for convenience and our growing impatience has started to create more and more expectation for same-day delivery of goods.
This spring, Amazon announced it had invested $800 million in narrowing Prime shipping to a one-day window, rather than two days. Amazon is already capable of next-day delivery to about 75% of the total U.S. population – and already has a huge head start in fulfilling its promise to shorten the current two-day free shipping plan to same-day.
Amazon has already changed the game and set consumer expectations in the ecommerce market, and this plan will continue to raise total consumer expectations and force other retailers to keep improving their logistics infrastructures in order to compete.
Most retailers are only recently starting to offer two-day shipping. They will be forced to spend even more on improving their logistics infrastructure to try and keep pace with Amazon. To be relevant, they will have to build more, smaller distribution centers (DCs) in population hubs to keep delivery windows short. We are already seeing this trend and we will continue to see the expansion of smaller DCs throughout the 2020s.
A 10th should be: Manufacturers are selling directly to customers via online platforms. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/advanced-electronics/our-insights/the-coming-shakeout-in-industrial-distribution
Other manufacturers are selling directly to consumers on online platforms. For example, Dow Corning recaptured cost-sensitive customers by establishing Xiameter, a low-cost web-based brand. Within ten years of launch, online sales accounted for 40 percent of Dow Corning’s revenues. Kohler, a major manufacturer of plumbing products, has invested in direct-to-consumer and builders’ channels with a state-of-the-art e-commerce platform and supporting organization structure despite an extensive network of distributors and retailers who sell its products. The list goes on: prominent manufacturers across industries are looking for ways to capture a larger share of the overall value chain.
Conclusion: slower-moving distributors (that don’t adopt or embrace e-commerce) will struggle—and some to go the way of Blockbuster and Borders.