As unbelievable as it may seem, the end of the year is upon us again. And while it’s a great time to reflect on all the successes of the last few months, it’s also an important time to prepare for the months ahead.
Chances are you’ve been doing a lot of things right in 2019, but with a new year comes new trends. While you may not be falling behind yet, many companies have been innovating new ways to put themselves ahead of the competition.
They say hindsight is 20/20, but we want to give you some foresight into what you can expect for 2020. The following are our predictions on emerging trends that ecommerce companies should consider adopting in the year ahead:
1. Buy Now, Pay Later
Layaway may have been laid to rest, but that doesn’t mean shoppers aren’t looking for similar options for spaced out payments. Today’s consumers want to receive their purchases immediately, even if they can’t pay for it in full until later. Meanwhile, brands are realizing that flexible payment methods help reduce abandoned cart rates.
Services like Afterpay, Affirm, and Klarna have been gaining traction because they serve as a win-win -- shoppers can pay for the items they want to take home in installments, and brands have a tool for acquiring customers that may have otherwise decided the purchase was too expensive.
This option won’t make sense for every business, but those who sell products with higher price points will want to consider implementing a buy now, pay later option as part of their checkout process as these services continue to popularize.
2. Social Media Shopping
Most modern brands are already on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and perhaps a few other social media channels posting pictures and updates. But not every brand is using social media to make sales straight from the app.
Consumers are constantly looking towards social media to see what trusted peers, celebrities, and influencers are wearing and using to inform their own purchases, making these channels a gold mine for conversion. When 30% of consumers say they would make purchases through Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, theses channels should not be overlooked in the new year, especially as they continue to roll out new features such as in-app checkout to make shopping easier and more convenient for users.
As long as ecommerce companies ensure a smooth omnichannel experience across these platforms and onto their website, they can expect social media shopping to be a major differentiator in both brand awareness and buyer conversion.
3. Stakeholder Experience
While we endlessly focus our conversations on the customer experience in ecommerce (and for good reason) there’s another experience that should not be so easily dismissed -- the experience for all stakeholders involved in the customer journey.
Today’s customers have long buying journeys with many touchpoints, especially when they’re considering a product or brand they’ve never bought from before.
As an example, imagine someone who wants to buy a new washing machine or refrigerator. They might conduct research online and in-person, as well as through third-party distributors like Home Depot before making their final decision. But their customer journey doesn’t stop there. They then need to work not only with the brand or distributor to make sure their new product is shipped and delivered, but with contractors to make sure it’s installed and running properly.
In this case, there are far more stakeholders than just the consumer and the brand. The businesses that are able to harness the data provided at each of these touchpoints in a single, unified-branded experience, arm their stakeholders with this critical information, and create seamless conversation for the entirety of the shopping journey will have an edge up in each customer engagement.
4. Live Chat
In an age where customer service and support are becoming fundamental to a positive customer experience, companies must make their teams accessible to shoppers at any stage in their journey, whether they’re wondering if a sold out product will be restocked, or if they’re checking on a lost order.
Live chat provides customers with instant access to the very people that can help them when they’re on the fence with a purchase, or deciding if they want to make another. When 51% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company that offers live chat, ecommerce shops need to ensure that their customer support teams are available online, where customers are already shopping, and responding quickly.
Companies that only provide numbers that direct customers to robot answering machines and email contacts with long wait times will also watch their retention and acquisition numbers plummet as shoppers find more responsive, human brands to engage with.
The importance of personalization in ecommerce marketing isn’t anything new, but some companies are taking it a step further by creating products based on each customer’s personal preferences.
Brands like Curology, Care/of, and Prose use online quizzes to curate one-of-a-kind results for each customer. This hyper-personalization means that each individual is getting a product that’s made specifically for them. This is especially attractive when it comes to health, beauty, and wellness where factors like environment and stress can affect what products best fit your lifestyle.
However, even if you’re outside this industry or don’t have the ability to individualize the product to each and every shopper, companies that find ways to personalize the customer experience through interactive content like quizzes and product customization pages will also be the ones actively impacting repeat purchases and customer loyalty in the coming years.
6. AR and VR
While many consumers are drawn to online shopping due to the convenience of not having to leave their house to get their errands done, many are also be deterred by the fact that you can’t actually touch products as you would in-store.
Especially when browsing new brands that customers haven’t built up trust in yet, many might be hesitant to make a first purchase when they don’t know how the item will fit or look in real life. In fact, not being able to see, touch, or try on items is the top reason why consumers choose to shop in physical stores versus online.
This of course can create an obstacle when your brand operates primarily or entirely through ecommerce.
It’s also precisely why companies like Wayfair, Warby Parker, and Sephora have been experimenting with using augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) to level up their online experience. As more online brands look for ways to increase conversion while also reducing returns and exchanges, they will begin looking to AR and VR to provide customers the ability to try before they buy.
The world of ecommerce moves fast, and the standard is constantly changing when it comes to what methods attract, convert, and retain customers best.
While you shouldn’t adopt every trend you see just because it’s working for another brand, you should pay attention. Evaluate whether these tactics would make sense for your unique business and fit into the work you’re already doing.
As 2020 approaches, now’s the time to get a head start on the year ahead by taking a closer look at how you can improve the customer experience.