E-Commerce Trends in a COVID World
By late summer 2020, COVID-19 has greatly changed the economic landscape. Alongside the obvious health challenges and tragic losses sustained from the pandemic, the working world has fundamentally been altered through necessity. Social distancing and reduced contact with the world physically beyond our front doors is reshaping how people go to work, interact with one another, and how they make purchases.
Consequently, e-commerce marketing trends are developing that both take advantage of pre-existing arcs of technological development and the evolving preferences and behaviors of a populace spending their shopping hours online and far from more traditional brick-and-mortar outlets.
Still, broadband and internet use has consistently increased over the years in the United States, as the Pew Research Center indicated that even before COVID struck, nine in ten American adults were using the internet in 2019, up from 84% just five years prior. Meanwhile broadband use was up to 73% in 2019. Now more than ever, customers can be found online.
Here’s an overview of several trends in e-commerce within the late 2020 COVID-19 paradigm.
An increasing number of buyers expect that retailers and delivery chains to place emphasis on sustainable, environmentally-sound products and practices. A 2019 study found that 75 percent of consumers in the fashion industry want less packaging, 32 percent of buyers would prefer a product from a sustainable brand, and 52 percent expected more sustainability efforts be made within the industry.
Sustainability concerns lead us to the next trend in e-commerce.
Online Thrift Shopping
The old adage “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” is fairly important within sustainability circles, as getting more use out of existing materials increases a product’s lifespan and reduces energy use in production.
Even as retail has suffered during COVID, online thrift store ThredUp reports that online secondhand purchasing is projected to increase by 69 percent between 2019 and 2021, even as the retail sector declines 15 percent.
Homepage Streaming Video
Video continues to be an essential tool in the toolbelt of sales. YouTube reaches more Americans by mobile alone than any television network. Video has also been shown to increase conversion and engagement rates. Builderfly reports that 62 percent of customers will view videos before buying, while placing a video on the company landing page can increase conversions by over 80 percent.
Voice recognition technology has greatly simplified quick access to markets, from ordering groceries to researching and competitively pricing electronics. While voice assistants such as Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant are vital components of the voice-activated boom, contactless payment options are finding popularity in hotels, cruise ships, and grocery chains. A voiceless technology option in brick-and-mortar locations gives those who venture out an increased perception of safety, rather than interacting with touch-based technology.
Multi-Channel, Headless Approach
E-commerce applications are less dependent on separation between front end and back end. Without that separation, employees face less of a learning curve in dealing with your system while making it much easier to react to market trends. Meanwhile, it’s become increasingly vital to place products on more than one e-commerce application. Products can live in multiple channels – your online store hosted by services like WooCommerce or Magento hosting, your social media presence, or even your brick-and-mortar location. Placement of products in more than one of these channels greatly increases the chance for a product to connect with its target audience.
E-commerce Personalization Through Big Data
It’s become increasingly feasible to forecast demand for one’s goods, thanks to big data analytics. Historical data can be quickly reviewed to determine whether overstocking is a concern, given previous purchasing trends over holidays.
Even more exciting is the ability to custom tailor a shopping experience to suit the wants and needs of a prospective buyer. Sales conversions can be much higher if a store is offering the consumer recommendations accurately predicted on the basis of previous purchases, all optimized thanks to big data analytics.
Just as important is learning why customers want to buy the products that are being sold is why they abandon the products they end up not purchasing. By personalizing a shopping experience through predictive analytics, it’s possible to foresee why a customer may wish to change their mind about a product and seek an alternate product more suited to their needs. That analysis would enable the retailer to offer the preferred product or service first, reducing the risk of cart abandonment.
AI and Machine Learning
Artificial intelligence’s appeal is being able to imitate human thinking; partnered with machine learning, it’s possible to improve an AI’s learning process by repeating processes over time and becoming better at that process. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are trending towards greater accessibility among even non-corporate entities. Gartner Predicts suggests that in 2020, 85 percent of a consumer’s commercial life won’t involve direct interaction with other people. If AI, boosted by machine learning, can reduce the chances of abandoning their shopping cart by providing the services most relevant to a buyer, that will improve the customer consumer experience and grow.
Thanks to automated payments, a subscription service is a strong means of bringing customers back on a monthly basis, so long as the service continues to provide content and services of value. By March, 2019, three out of every four Americans had at least one online subscription, while 66 percent indicated they had more than one. Customers paid on average $38 a month for them. Video services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime remained the most popular service. Those pre-COVID numbers are likely to rise in 2020 as Americans without attractive options for outside entertainment opt to stay home.
Regardless of what your industry, COVID has had a lasting impact on the way we do business.
Shawn Humphrey is the former social media manager for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a technical writer for banks and tech firms, and part of the content team at Magnus Opus. He’s currently working on his second novel and enjoys singing soul music and visiting his son.
This article has been published in accordance with Socialnomics’s disclosure policy.