Dwelling on past events is never particularly productive. Even when a year has been a turbulent as 2020 was (and 2021 is proving to be), it’s important to set your sights on the future.
But at the same time, learning lessons – often the hard way – from past events is the only way to pursue positive improvement. As things stand, the UK is in a pretty precarious position with regard to the potential long-term effects of the pandemic.
One minute, we’re told things are well and truly on the fast-track back to normality. The next, we’re being told to brace for even more turbulent times to come. Knowing which advice and insights to trust is practically impossible, leaving marketers and online business owners to make their own minds up.
A Booming Ecommerce Sector
One of the few semi-positive effects of more than a year spent in lockdown was the way in which it triggered the biggest boom in ecommerce activity in history. All of a sudden, people who would previously have gone nowhere near online stores suddenly found themselves shopping online.
Even those who were initially hesitant quickly found the whole thing becoming second major. And in doing so, discovered all the wonderful benefits at shopping online, as opposed to on the High Street.
This resulted in an enormous ecommerce bubble, which some had predicted would burst when things started getting back to normal. In the meantime, evidence has pointed to quite the contrary. It’s now entirely possible that the ecommerce bubble will never burst, when looking at the way things are moving right now.
For example, data from the Office of National Statistics indicates that just under 35% of all retail sales in March went to ecommerce operators. Impressive enough, but actually a tad down on February, when it hit 36.2%.
Either way, it’s an exponentially higher proportion than early last year, before things really went south. Before the pandemic hit, ecommerce sales accounted for just over 23% of total retail sales last March.
Projections for Further Growth
Given its current momentum, there are those who are now predicting a wildly successful future for ecommerce on a global basis. In fact, a recent study from eMarketer suggested that by the end of year, China’s domestic ecommerce market will account for more than 50% of all retail sales for the first time.
Elsewhere, South Korea is fast headed for around a 29% ecommerce retail market share within the next few months.
These may be the most extreme examples of projected growth worldwide, but they nonetheless give a good indication of the state of the ecommerce sector today. Even when life returns to normal, the masses are unlikely to give up the benefits of shopping online in favour of the more expensive and less convenient High Street option.
Key Trends Already Impacting the Ecommerce Sector
Looking ahead, predicting what’s to come in terms of ecommerce trends is as simple as looking at what’s already making waves. The biggest ecommerce trend is, of course, its skyrocketing popularity.
Aside from this, there are several different sub-types of ecommerce that are emerging as the things to watch for over the coming months. Though with most of the five trends outlined below, you’ll likely to be seeing a lot more of them for several years to come:
1. Subscription-Based Ecommerce
First up, the popularity of subscription services where products are delivered on a regular basis is growing. In particular, ecommerce enterprises that specialise in everyday household items and groceries are proving particularly popular.
Research conducted by McKinsey found that among those who consider themselves to be online shoppers, as many as 15% already use at least one subscription service. Understandably, the biggest point of appeal with subscription-based ecommerce is the opportunity to get products for even cheaper than their normal retail prices.
Not to mention, the simplicity of having what you need delivered on a regular basis, without having to submit repeat orders.
Subscription-based ecommerce is an attractive and effective business model, which can be great for building strong customer relations. It also provides the perfect opportunity to reward customers for their loyalty, taking further steps to retain their business and boost their value to your brand.
2. Eco-Conscious Consumerism
These days, people are looking far beyond the actual products they buy when assessing eco-friendliness. Oftentimes, it’s the environmental commitment (or otherwise) of the brand itself that takes precedence. Even if you are not buying or selling ‘green’ products in the conventional sense, you could at least champion eco-friendly manufacturing processes, shipping, packaging and so on.
Increasingly, businesses are outing their net-zero cab and targets and outlining how they intend to achieve them. All for a good reason, as up to half of all consumers now say that environmental concerns are factored into their buying decisions. In addition, people in general are significantly more likely to buy something from a brand they considered to be ‘green’ – if the price is right.
Going forwards, ecommerce businesses will have little choice but to adapt to the growth of eco-conscious consumerism. And while doing so, find ways of delivering the same value for money while minimising the environmental impact.
3. Smart Speakers and Voice Assistants
This is something that could have a major impact on the way ecommerce businesses approach their search marketing strategies. Traditionally, SEO has targeted conventional online search near-exclusively. Where an SEO strategy proves effective for textual search, it may not have nearly the same clout with voice search.
More people than ever before are using smart speakers and voice assistants to do their shopping. According to Review 42, up to 43% of consumers who own smart speakers already use them to make purchases. The issue here is that when voice assistants are used for ecommerce purposes, those using them use very different language than when conducting a traditional search.
Consequently, ecommerce operators are finding themselves in a position where it may be necessary to make major adjustments to their SEO strategies. Optimising for voice search is often not the same as optimising for traditional search queries.
While the adoption of smart speaker technology may be slower in some countries, it’s widely predicted to be the next big thing in connectivity for most households.
4. Cryptocurrency Transactions
Slowly but surely, the world’s biggest businesses are hopping on the Bitcoin bandwagon. The extraordinary volatility of crypto coins has made the cryptocurrency landscape a subject of heavy debate. Some are embracing what could eventually replace conventional currency as we know it, while others are avoiding it at all costs.
In any case, millions of consumers worldwide have adopted crypto as their preferred payment types. It’s already being accepted by the likes of Shopify, Expedia, Microsoft and more. Not to mention, countless smaller businesses looking to appeal to a new generation of crypto investors.
In terms of demographics, the vast majority of cryptocurrency users are currently relatively young (45 or below) and fairly tech-savvy. Nevertheless, there’s been a notable uptick in the number of people spanning various additional demographics that have at least taken an interest in crypto.
It may be some time before virtual currency takes over as the world’s preferred form of currency. But given its popularity among millions right now, refusal to accept it for payment could put you behind your competitors.
5. Localisation in a Globalised World
Last but not least, the ecommerce revolution opened the door to a new kind of globalised commerce. There are no longer any borders when it comes to most arms of the retail sector, enabling businesses and consumers to buy what they want from where they want at any time they want.
But while all this is going on, shoppers are demonstrating a growing preference for shopping local. And in doing so, shopping with extensively localised businesses that speak their language – regional dialects, colloquialisms and all.
Increasingly, consumers are shying away from larger brands and bigger businesses outside their localities. If there’s something they can get locally to support their local economy (and ideally at the same price), that’s what they’ll do.
It’s something that ties in with eco-conscious consumerism, with more conscious shopping decisions being made than ever before. With ecommerce, one of the biggest benefits has always been the ability to source products from overseas for cheap. Today, people are paying far more attention to the local ecommerce proprietors in their vicinity.
Or at least, making the effort to ‘buy British’ where the option is available.