Ready or not, the new year is upon us. 2020 doesn’t just bring New Year’s resolutions that we’ll abandon after a few weeks - it’s filled with a whole slew of retail and eCommerce trends in which eCommerce companies should be investing for the long term.

eCommerce Retail Key Trends

Monitoring, analyzing, adopting, and implementing key trends is critical for eCommerce and retail brands to stay ahead of the curve - and the competition. 

We’ve outlined some major retail and eCommerce trends that can help your company differentiate itself and continue to provide best-in-class products and services to consumers.

Changing the In-Store Experience

We’ve seen the death of malls, the struggles of department stores, and the closure of countless small business brick-and-mortar stores. But some of that could be changing.

2020 will see a rise in interaction-based shopping experiences. Consumers no longer need to visit a store in order to make a purchase. They can make the majority of their purchases online. For many eCommerce-only companies, online has always been the only purchasing option.

But customers still crave real-world experiences.

According to a 2018 Retail CX Trends study, more than half of consumers identify stores as being the source of “enjoyable” shopping experiences. 

Brands that provide unique brick-and-mortar retail experiences - like speciality events or tailored, personalized services - will build a loyal customer base and increase total retail sales via both online stores and physical stores.

eCommerce-only companies could tap into this trend by setting up pop-up shops, partnering with other stores, or co-sponsoring events.

Truly smart companies will take advantage of these opportunities to link in-store behavior to online data, to help create a seamless, omnichannel retail strategy

The Rise of Omnichannel for Retail and eCommerce

So what will omnichannel retail will look like in 2020 and beyond?

You’ve heard us talk about omnichannel eCommerce and multi channel eCommerce before, and it certainly won’t be the last time. In 2020 it’s more critical than ever to provide customers with a seamless shopping process that connects all aspects of the customer’s journey.

Customers no longer shop in a straightforward manner. Shopping online has gone multi-device - phones, iPads, computers, smart devices like the Apple watch, voice-recognition systems like the Echo - a trend which will only continue.

In fact, According to eMarketer, in 2017 over 35 million Americans used a voice-activated device at least once per month. Voice assistants like Siri and Alexa, and devices like Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple Homepod will increasingly impact sales.

Online sales have also gone multi-platform. Online retailers may drive sales via social network selling on Instagram or Facebook; customers might order a pizza via an emoji text message; they could interact with a chatbot on FB Messenger. This creates ample opportunities for retail and eCommerce sales, providing companies with a variety of ways to engage with customers no matter where they are in their buyer’s journey. But it also creates a need for multi-channel management.

A solid omnichannel strategy that connects the data shared across platforms to give businesses a comprehensive overview of their customers will help set your company apart. It will also allow you to create platform-specific messages tailored to reach customers at the right time in the right way, thereby driving sales.

Headless Commerce or Bust

We’ve already seen significant adoption of headless commerce in 2019, and that’s only the beginning. By de-coupling the front-end experiences from the back-end functionality, front-end developers are no longer married to the infrastructure and coding that comprises the back-end. They do not have to use built-in templates and themes, and can create unique, customized user experiences. This flexibility allows companies to deliver content across multiple devices and screens, supporting an omnichannel strategy.

Headless commerce has also inspired the increasing use of progressive web apps (websites designed to look and function like an app, without requiring the user to download an app). PWAs create a far better consumer experience on mobile devices. They’re faster, easier to navigate, and simplify mobile transactions like mobile payment. 

PWAs are just one way in which headless commerce supports better user experiences. Expect to see companies taking advantage of this freedom.

Innovative Shipping Solutions

People hate paying for shipping. They really, really hate it.

According to ShipCaddie, 95% of eCommerce shoppers say that shipping prices impact their shopping decisions, and a whopping 36% of consumers that abandon their online shopping cart do so because of shipping costs.

Consequently, in 2020 we’ll see the majority of retailers and eCommerce companies offering fast and free shipping options, as speed of ship time is another factor in cart abandonment. 

They’ll also begin offering more innovative solutions, like ship-to-store options, and in-fridge, in-car, and in-house deliveries, enhancing the ease and convenience of delivery options. Even drone delivery is becoming a reality.

This will also mean that for businesses, distribution centers are more critical than ever. Order fulfillment, inventory management, and accompanying logistics all impact deliverability.

Shifts in Social Commerce & Targeted Advertising

Consumer purchases directly through social platforms has increased over the years. With the addition of newer platforms like Instagram Shopping and Checkout on Instagram, expect that trend to continue to grow.

This means that companies will need to invest in social selling strategies, technology, and management. They’ll need to have good data in order to determine when and where their audience is spending time (i.e. which social platforms), and when they’re most likely to make a purchase.

We’ll see targeted advertising expand correspondingly, with brands aligning their advertising strategy with platforms on which they can sell, rather than just the tried-and-true Google and Facebook solutions. 

Personalization vs. Privacy

We’ve written before about how personalization is key for eCommerce companies. This will continue to be true in 2020, as companies further utilize customer data to tailor recommendations, products, advertisements, and more. Customers will also continue to expect and demand personalization, responding to content marketing that is designed specifically with them in mind.

Simultaneously, consumers will also be increasingly vigilant about protecting their privacy. It’s a Catch-22 with which retailers will need to contend.

Finding the balance between hyper-personalization and consumer trust is critical for success.

Retailers have an unprecedented amount of data at their fingertips. In addition to using it to personalize customer experiences, they will also begin using it to predict customer preferences and craft products and campaigns that meet those needs. Rather than simply reporting on outcomes, we’ll see companies utilize predictive analytics to inform their strategies. This will again be an area where companies will need to prioritize keeping private consumer data safe.

Just the Beginning

While these trends will be significant, they’re just a handful of the changes that 2020 will bring to the retail and eCommerce markets.

Smart businesses will invest time and resources to monitoring and analyzing trends as they emerge. Determining whether or not it’s worth adopting a trend will be come just as critical as identifying them. Will this trend advance your eCommerce brand? That’s the question to hone in on in 2020.

About the Author

Blue dotted circleSarah Falcon

Sarah Falcon

VP, Marketing Global

Sarah is a nimble and creative marketing leader with 15 years of experience in a mix of agencies, B2B, and B2C enterprises. She brings a background in building and driving impactful marketing practices and processes for growing businesses. Sarah has expertise in brand, content marketing, lead generation, and marketing operations. She’s a co-author of the 2019 book on B2B eCommerce Digital Branch Secrets: eCommerce Playbook for Distributors.

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