Trends come and go like the ebb and flow of a tide. It seems like with each new quarter we see e-commerce trends on the horizon that might have a massive impact on various industries. Companies that can spot these trends before they hit the mainstream can capitalize on their new knowledge. Because of how quickly trends can gain traction, a company that can prepare or pivot into a trend before everyone else can see a lot of engagement from their core audience. However, the key is figuring out which trends are the exciting ones.
In particular, e-commerce trends can be particularly fickle. Emerging trends, the ones that haven't reached critical mass yet, are the ones that businesses should spend their focus on. An emerging e-commerce trend, if caught on the rise, can catapult a company's popularity. When you find the most exciting emerging trends, you're almost guaranteed to be the talk of the town.
These eight entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective have become quite adept at spotting emerging trends and picking out the most exciting ones from the bunch. We asked them about the most recent emerging trends in e-commerce that we should be aware of. Their responses are below.
1. COVID-19 as an e-commerce accelerator
A trend I noticed is COVID-19 as an e-commerce accelerator. Huge brands had to dive into the direct-to-consumer (DTC) playbook. Mega-retailers being “forced” into e-tailing now are finding they can activate customers at mega-scale via video ads, gaining positive attribution analytics leading to redistribution of and more sales productivity for their marketing spend. - Sean Cunningham, VAB
2. Personalization improving the online shopping experience
E-commerce personalization will improve the online shopping experience. Customers want to feel cared for, especially when they are looking for a particular product. Algorithms can assist with making webpages, emails and even advertisements more personal. When the algorithms are properly trained, then businesses can use them to win over customers. - Duran Inci, Optimum7
3. Exponential growth of online grocery and last mile delivery
The greatest e-commerce impact of COVID-19 is the exponential growth in online grocery and last mile delivery. Consumer volume increased as advertising opportunities for brands beyond perishables have expanded. Now beauty, alcohol, OTC and other center-aisle categories must build strategies for "the third shelf." - Kerry Curran, Catalyst
4. Shopify's integration with the Walmart Marketplace
Shopify's integration into the Walmart Marketplace is big news. This sets up a positive network effect for Walmart, Shopify and Shopify's sellers -- more audience for Shopify and its sellers, more product diversity and revenue for Walmart to compete with Amazon. By linking advertising closely with demand, this will make the Walmart advertising platform more powerful for some advertisers. - Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
5. ML and AI for customer service increasing velocity
Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) for customer service will help increase e-commerce velocity. Customer service is often an underfunded necessary evil for e-commerce brands, particularly when a burst of operational issues inevitably arise. Resolving customer challenges at scale keeps customers coming back because customers want to talk to "someone" who can resolve issues in real time. - Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
6. The rise of the curbside delivery concept
The game has changed completely for businesses that rely on in-person activity for revenue, such as restaurants, bars and events. The concept of “curbside delivery” has opened up new possibilities for taking a piece of that experience away to recreate in new and different environments. The more creative a brand is, the more they can still meet customer needs regardless of our changing world. - Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute
7. Growing importance of voice search
Voice search is coming, but it's being ignored. With the rise of virtual assistants, e-commerce has been quick to understand the implications. When a consumer can order a product by simply saying "Hey Alexa, order X," that changes everything from the standard web and/or social search. Marketers need to understand that voice is a completely different game to SEO -- adopt voice early and they'll be ready. - Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
8. The surge of in-home training and mindfulness platforms
An exciting trend to watch emerge has been the surge of in-home gym equipment, virtual personal trainers and mindfulness platforms which allow people to feel part of a community without having to meet in person. This is a big area of opportunity for both the consumer and the advertising industry. - Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising