It would be foolish to take 2020/21 eCommerce trends and project them forwards to report exponential growth. The pandemic changed our habits in almost every respect. And as much as online shopping has exploded over the past 18 months, there’s also a very strong urge to get back out there, eating at restaurants, drinking in pubs and shopping on the high street.
So with a basket full of caveats, here are three things we’re predicting are going to be permanent changes in the medium-term future of eCommerce.
Many new converts will stay
According to a Shopify report, there are 150 million new online shoppers now than there were at the start of 2020. A Forbes report from the end of last year said that online sales grew by 30% over the year – a staggering amount. A big chunk of that was from one company, Amazon, whose profits from Q1 2021 were $8.1 billion, three times its profits for the same period in 2020.
It’s something that we can easily see. Even if we were already regular online shoppers, we’ve undoubtedly been shopping online more, and perhaps ordering more takeaway food online too.
But it’s the newcomers to online shopping who are most interesting, because they have had the invisible barriers to online shopping – technophobia, security concerns, privacy or simply not being around to get deliveries – which have now been broken forever.
It wouldn’t take a huge proportion of the 150m to remain online shoppers for there to be a big impact on eCommerce – and on the high street. But the sensible analysis is that many of them will do at least some of their shopping online, so that points to numbers being considerably higher than before the pandemic, even though eCommerce revenues are expected to settle slightly when lockdowns end.
Marketers and eCommerce specialists have been banging on about omnichannel marketing for years now. It’s essentially the practice of combining online, brick and mortar and any other retail channels into one unified customer experience. Click and collect is a simple example, but when the full range of technologies from augmented reality to persona-based in-store offers are considered, the case for it becomes more compelling.
Companies that already had a strong omnichannel game were well placed to deal with the lockdown, and again, introducing customers to new retail experiences will inevitably lead to some of them continuing to use them. Why queue up in-store when you can place the order and have someone load it into your car boot? We expect some serious blurring between the online and offline retail spheres.
Direct to Consumer sales
The final big change we see coming is direct to consumer (DTC) sales. That’s where manufacturers cut out the retailers altogether and sell straight to the customer. The cost benefits are obvious for the customer, as retailers always take a cut. There could also be environmental impacts too.
It’s not for every business, of course. It helps if you’re already a known brand – startups could really struggle to get a foothold. We should never forget how much retailers help with display, comparison and marketing of products. And you need a robust warehousing and distribution network from day 1, something the retailers already excel at.
It might not affect smaller manufacturers too much, but DTC is certainly shaping up to make a big splash in the world of eCommerce. In fact, Nike just did it.
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