As the economy looks forward to another slowdown and shakedown, you may be wondering how to protect your e-commerce brand and business. The internet is growing globally by the day, which means more consumers and potential competitors. Our World in Data estimates that there are 640,000 new internet users every day around the world.
The future of e-commerce
E-commerce is growing, with occasional slowdowns depending on market trends. As more people gain access to the internet and earn more disposable income, thanks to an overall improving world, they gain more power to buy.
People tend to use multiple channels when it comes to researching and shopping for a product. These channels can include purchasing from online stores, brick-and-mortar locations, catalogs, telephones or smart TVs. These are just a few examples that are available today, but more will surely appear with advanced technology. While the common view may be to limit your channels to reduce costs, keep several options open.
Social media is one of those growing channels. With influencers on Instagram promoting products and people side hustling by sharing images on Pinterest, we'll likely see this trend spike. While some websites don't integrate advertising well -- Tumblr is notorious for having mismatched promotional posts -- others, such as Twitter, are doing well for themselves.
Current trends in e-commerce
Below are a few trends we've seen so far in 2019 that I believe will carry into 2020. While I listed only a handful, each one will play a crucial role in the health of your storefront in the new year.
1. Increase in mobile shopping
More and more people are making purchases using their smartphones or tablets. In 2017, Google Analytics data revealed that 40 percent of online purchases were made using these devices. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year, sales on mobile devices exceeded $2 billion.
Shoppers just need to click a few buttons after logging into an account, and they’re done. Some smartphones will even allow for one-click payment, using the person’s fingerprints to identify them.
You can't overlook the convenience, especially since it saves time spent going to a computer or a store and filling in an order. Now, customers can find their shipping information saved on websites without having to re-enter it multiple times.
Online retailers need to make their websites, storefronts and shopping carts mobile-friendly. This way, you can receive more conversions and purchases in real time.
2. Use of AI for customer service
In films and science fiction, robots take over and fight humans. In today's reality, humans are using robots to automate customer service. In this case, artificial intelligence (AI) takes the form of chatbots. Facebook alone has more than 300,000 chatbots.
These chats appear when you visit a website and a bot asks if it can help you. It can direct you to more information, answer your questions and provide customer satisfaction. Not to mention, it can help increase conversion rates as a result.
Employers use chatbots for customer service since an AI is programmed not to react viscerally to angry complaints and can assuage an irate individual. They also don’t need to be paid, which can save money in the long run. As of 2017, 64 percent of respondents to a Statista study said they believe chatbots provide more personalized chats.
If you are going to use a chatbot, keep their interactions subtle. People have negative associations with robocalls and bots that intend to spread a specific message. Show that you host benevolent machines and not AI designed for trolling.
3. Addition of various payment options
This goes hand in hand with mobile shopping. Traditionally, people would use cash or credit cards when making a purchase. In some cases, they had to wait several days for a money order, check or direct transfer from a bank account. Today, we see this as wasted time, unless we want our purchases to become more secure.
Thanks to the internet and budding technology, we have access to electronic payment systems, such as PayPal. PayPal is great because it allows for international transfers. For those who want to use credit, PayPal also offers an electronic credit card for your benefit.
Then we have Apple Pay. This feature appears on our iPhones and allows us to purchase with one click. We can use it for making digital purchases on apps and from iTunes, and cash registers in some brick-and-mortar stores even have the option of using our phones to pay.
In line with mobile-friendliness, ensure that people can use these payment options on your website. Your customers will thank you. They will also take more time to purchase, which means better conversion rates for you.
4. Integration with influencers and social media
Influencers are the new celebrity product endorsers. One study reports that the ROI for influencer marketing is 11 times the ROI for traditional methods. Teens are a big market for YouTube, with 85 percent using the site in 2018. Instagram and Snapchat are also very popular.
Currently, advertising in such a way on TV is controversial. In some cases, such subtlety can even backfire, as shown when Game of Thrones accidentally included a Starbucks coffee cup in their pseudo-medieval shots.
Online influencers feel more authentic. Many are individuals making content for a particular audience, ranging from gamers to cat lovers to makeup artists. If you have a product that fits an influencer's brand, then you can promote it with ease.
Don’t limit yourself to visual mediums. If you sponsor a podcast, include product discount codes for the audience. If you want a video, ask an influencer if they'd be willing to make a video based on your product. The options are endless.