Ecommerce is forever expanding. And growing your business means constantly having your finger on the pulse of the industry.
But what should you be paying attention to in the coming year?
We talked to 18 experts in online retail and digital marketing to uncover the ecommerce trends in 2020 set to fuel serious sales growth.
Here’s what we found…
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Top ecommerce trends 2020
Just like last year, we had some fascinating insights. But they again varied widely.
Here are the key themes that came up time and again:
Plus, we added some bonus predictions in a quick fire style at the end ????
These are the ecommerce trends to hitch your wagon to in 2020. Let’s take a deeper look at each one below along with what our experts said.
Trend #1 Transparency & authenticity
Yes, ecommerce is continuing to grow and take market share from in-store retail. But this also means competition is becoming more fierce.
So keeping hold of the customers you do get is absolutely key.
“I think now, more than ever, ecommerce brands will need to incentivise loyalty. With so many brands and products on the market, customers have endless options – so give them a reason to stay with you. Don’t strive for the one-off sale: Build relationships for the long term.”
~ Kaleigh Moore
Think customer lifetime value over acquisition – especially for somewhat established brands with growth in mind. Build relationships, drive repeat sales.
And a key thing driving your brand’s relationship building ability?
Being genuine. Being transparent. Being authentic. Being real.
“Marketing automation technology runs our lives more than ever, but it’s relationships that drive business and commerce. So people will find more ways to connect in person to build trust and strengthen connections.
“Make sure you offer several ways to talk with customers and get to know them. Algorithms can only tell you so much about a customer, transactions are driven by relationships. Use automation where you can but do not ignore the power of the personal touch.”
~ Paige Arnof-Fenn
Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
It’s all well and good talking about transparency and authenticity. But what does this actually look like in the real world?
You could go all out like Zappos – one of the modern day masters of transparency and authenticity.
They created a standalone dedicated website about their company culture. And even offer physical and virtual tours of their offices:
But even the simplest things can help. Like:
- Having easy customer contact points – like phone numbers and live chat.
- Offering a friendly return policy.
- Being more ‘human’ in your marketing.
- Creating company values around transparency and authenticity.
- Hiring staff who are aligned with these values.
- Using your blog and social media to show off company culture, production processes and behind-the-scenes goings on.
Packhelp are a great example of this last point in action.
They make custom product packaging. And research into their own customers revealed that people were really interested in what went into making the products – like how the cardboard was recycled, whether the ink was biodegradable, etc.
Phil from Packhelp tells us more:
“We found a wealth of content in simply documenting our production processes and presenting them to our would-be customers. This resulted in brands who didn’t even actually put the environment high on their list deciding to buy from us because they knew where the materials in our product came from.
“Transparency is what potential customers invest in, and ultimately want to be a part of. People want to know exactly what they’re buying, where their money goes, and what they’re supporting. With competition in the world of ecommerce only getting fiercer, brands tend to play with cards close to their chest. Take the opposite route – show people how your business operates, and that’ll turn you into a company that your customers want to be a part of.”
~ Phil Forbes
Marketing Specialist, Packhelp
Trend #2 Personalisation
Personalisation is by no means a new idea in itself. But it’s a concept that is forever evolving.
Meaning what customers expect and demand with personalisation is forever evolving too.
“Consumers are becoming less and less receptive to one-sided, one-size-fits-all marketing. Personalised messaging brings the conversation back to commerce, and it allows you to treat your customers like the individuals they are. Timely, hyper-relevant messaging is effective because it acknowledges their unique preferences and helps meet their specific needs.”
~ Nick Julia
Marketing Evangelist, Chatfuel
If personalisation is key, an essential driver behind this is being able to segment your customers and prospects effectively.
- Collecting data.
- Dividing up lists according to that data.
- And using it to send specific, targeted messaging across multiple channels.
“Bulk one-size-fits-all email is just not enough on its own anymore. And despite continuous calls for more personalisation and better targeting, nearly half of online sellers are dropping the ball when it comes to segmentation.
“Online sellers who aren’t taking advantage of the personalisation opportunities that exist and are emerging in 2020 are simply leaving money on the table. Take advantage of how you can unite your marketing channels under one platform, and create an immersive 360 degree experience worthy of your customer’s time and attention. In fact, we’ve already seen that using other channels to boost email has a significant impact on customer loyalty, to the tune of 90% higher customer retention.
“Offer the right message, at the right time, on the right channel. Customers of 2020 are being oversold to. But by offering an always relevant message no matter where your customer is in their customer journey, your customer won’t feel sold to. They’ll feel as if they’re provided with a useful service, increasing brand loyalty and customer retention.”
~ Whitney Blankenship
Content Marketing Manager, Omnisend
Of course, one of the most exciting avenues when it comes to personalised messaging continues to be the use of chatbots.
And our experts predicted these to move even further into the mainstream in 2020.
“In 2020, we’ll see more businesses than ever adopting chatbots to provide this personalised-messaging experience at scale. A well-built bot can tailor content, timing, product recommendations, offers, and more to each customer, and deliver them in an engaging, conversational style. It’s a helpful, interactive experience that will drive sales and make your brand stand out.”
~ Nick Julia
Marketing Evangelist, Chatfuel
And this isn’t as grandiose and difficult as it might sound on the surface.
Real brands are using chatbots to provide a super personalised experience in a number of ways. All tailor made to solve specific problems for customers at different stages of the buyer journey.
Want to engage new social media followers? HelloFresh uses a bot to send follow up messages to anyone commenting on one of their posts:
Want to educate people on your products? BaccOff uses a bot to send videos on topics their customers are interested in learning about:
Want to guide people through your product catalogue? GearBunch uses a bot as a personal shopper to recommend products:
Dynamic pricing is another element of personalisation that might be worth experimenting with in 2020.
As technology has improved on this front, it’s become a lot more accessible for the average online retailer. And can help drive purchases when they might have been lost previously.
“With dynamic pricing, ecommerce businesses can not only keep a check on the competitor’s prices but also make real-time adjustments to lure more customers into finalising purchases through personalised pricing. This dynamic pricing combined with flexible payment options can help avoid cart abandonment.”
~ Nathan Sebastian
Content Expert, GoodFirms
Retailers do need to be careful when employing these tactics. It’s all too easy to rely too heavily on AI and technology when this could actually be damaging your relationship with customers.
“Research indicates that customers find personalised pricing deceptive and unfair. However, my recent studies suggest as AI algorithms are more widely adopted, customers grudgingly accept the practice when feeling they get a good deal. The more significant issue is when AI algorithms facilitate actual discrimination by unfairly targeting protected groups and classes. An illustrative example is how The Princeton Review used customer geography as a factor to optimise pricing for test preparation services, but also disproportionately charged Asian-Americans a higher price. These high-profile incidents erode customer trust and brand value.
“The bottom line is that algorithmic personalised pricing is increasingly relevant and accessible to any growing online retailer. Yet whenever you take the human out of the intelligence equation, additional checks and oversight are advisable to avoid ethical or legal pitfalls.”
~ Joshua Gerlick
Nonprofit Management and Fowler Fellow, Case Western Reserve University
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Trend #3 Environmentally-friendly practices
Climate change and the environment seem to be dominating the news more and more each day.
It’s obviously a subject a lot of people care about. To the extent that it’s now seriously affecting mainstream shopping habits.
“As climate change continues to be a pressing issue for many shoppers, they are re-evaluating their personal habits and impact – including online shopping. Ecommerce stores should take a hard look at their packaging process and materials and see what can be eliminated or replaced with smaller and more sustainable materials. Retailers should also evaluate manufacturing processes and materials to see where they can improve. Shoppers will be looking for supply chain transparency.”
~ Meaghan Brophy
Senior Retail Analyst, FitSmallBusiness
In the past, a business ‘going green’ provided a nice niche to target or a cool USP to have.
But many consumers now simply expect the brands they buy from to be environmentally and socially conscious as standard.
In fact, recent McKinsey research found that nine in 10 Gen Z consumers believe companies have a responsibility to address environmental and social issues.
“The views of Gen Z and millennial consumers are critical. Together, these cohorts represent around $350 billion of spending power in the United States alone; additionally, Gen Z will account for 40% of global consumers by 2020. But concern over environmental and social issues is not restricted to younger consumers. Some two-thirds of consumers worldwide say they would switch, avoid, or boycott brands based on their stance on controversial issues.
“Over the past three years a third of consumers worldwide have expanded the scope of their purchasing decisions to incorporate principled values and views. A new global ethos is emerging, and billions of people are using consumption as a means to express their deeply held beliefs.”
~ Anita Balchandani
Where do you start when it comes to getting aligned with this consumer demand?
First of all, let’s take some inspiration from the first ecommerce trend mentioned in this post – transparency. You need to know and clearly share how your products are made, stored, transported, etc.
But what’s really popular among consumers is brands that clearly label themselves about more than simply making a financial profit.
“Make sure your products show a genuine care about impact to the environment. We’re seeing the formation of B-Corporations – entities that do not have to only focus on profit, but can find a balance between shareholder profit and a social benefit. These types of entities are still profit-focused, as opposed to non-profit, but they are also focused on benefits that may be good for society, the environment, social justice causes and the like.”
~ Deborah Sweeney
One of the very best examples of this in action has to be Patagonia.
They lead with their dedication to the environment and sustainable practices. And you can see it right in the main nav dropdown on each web page:
Patagonia’s mission is clearly stated, along with all kinds of content about their activism and sustainable supply chain.
Plus, they set up the crazy popular ‘Worn Wear’ clothing recycling scheme:
Trend #4 Social commerce
Another one of our ecommerce trends for 2020 has to be the continued development of social commerce.
“The biggest trend will still be the rise of social commerce. This is one of the ecommerce trends that has yet to reach its peak and will keep getting stronger in 2020 and beyond.
“Social media platforms are launching more business-friendly features like Shoppable Posts and Stories will drive this trend further. Instead of just a few offbeat Instagram shops that people try out, social commerce will become more mainstream. Businesses should think about creating their Instagram and Facebook stores and adding them as a retail channel. Social commerce represents a big opportunity for ecommerce companies and this is a good time to tap into it.”
~ Shane Barker
Owner & Marketing Expert, ShaneBarker.com
True social commerce goes beyond simply having a social media presence though.
It means being on the cutting edge of where your customers hang out online. Then offering the opportunity to make a purchase right there in the social channel itself – reducing much of the friction from the buying process.
“In 2020, the way online shoppers buy will be the focus of ecommerce, and not just on the website. The focus will be on social purchases.
In previous years, we were introduced to the Facebook Shop and Instagram Shopping, but these extensions of the social channels didn’t allow the actual purchase on the platform. Now they do, meaning mobile shoppers (which are continually increasing) will have a much more comfortable buying experience.”
~ Stephen Lever
Managing Director, Parka London
What does this look like in real life?
List products on a Facebook Shop, and have people checkout without needing to click through to your website:
Do the same on Instagram:
And even on Pinterest Buyable Pins too:
But it’s not even just about these typical big players anymore.
Being aware of newer social channels will be a key part of succeeding in 2020 too.
“TikTok cuold be huge for retailers in 2020. Organic outreach is just absolutely impeccable, my first post has 2.2 million views and 200k+ likes in a 72 hour time block with ZERO paid advertising. Creating skits that offer your product as a solution is an amazing way to generate awareness and organic traffic.”
Trend #5 Automation & integration
There’s a lot that goes into growing and scaling an ecommerce business these days.
Just implementing the ecommerce trends we’ve talked about so far in this post alone is a mammoth task. Let alone the countless other opportunities out there.
And so the need for automation across all avenues of an ecommerce operation is becoming more and more critical.
“2020 is the year of automation for ecommerce. For many years, ecommerce automation has largely contained itself to marketing and fulfilment. However, in the past 1-2 years, platforms like Mesa, that can automate nearly any aspect of managing your ecommerce business have burst onto the scene. And much like marketing automation did, these tools open up a world of possibilities that simply could not even be attempted manually before.”
~ Cara Wood
Digital Marketing Manager, ShopPad
The result of these automation advancements?
It’s now even easier to provide that elusive omnichannel experience. And integrate as many of your channels and practices together as possible.
“Integrated marketing will be critical in 2020. Creating campaigns that combine marketing methods gives much greater returns than just using each marketing method independently. I’m sure many reading this will be thinking “cool – I’ve already got that one covered!” But have you really?
“Is email marketing integrated with web push notifications to maximise abandoned cart recovery? Is the audience receiving your email welcome campaign synced with your advertising audiences on Facebook, Instagram and Google to make sure the customer gets the same message on all channels during their ‘Welcome’ period? Have you looked at all your post purchase communications (what’s in the box, review emails, in flight alerts and more) to make sure each is providing the perfect message to the customer to give them a great experience and get the next order?”
~ Chloë Thomas
Owner & Podcast Host, Ecommerce Masterplan
(Chloë is also the author of the new UK & US Amazon bestseller, Ecommerce Marketing: How to Get Traffic that BUYS to Your Website)
There are a number of ecommerce tools out there to help automate and integrate many of your processes.
When it comes to the orders, inventory and fulfilment side of creating an omnichannel experience for your customers, there’s no better solution than Veeqo.
Bonus ecommerce trends for 2020
We asked a bunch of experts about their opinions on ecommerce trends to watch out for in 2020.
While many answers could be grouped into the silos above, there were still a few extras we thought worth mentioning. So we laid them out below in a quick fire bonus section:
“Going into 2020, there’s a key trend that ecommerce businesses need to be paying attention to: headless commerce. A headless approach separates your front-end customer experience from any back-end systems, and uses APIs to connect the two. This separation is becoming critical for retailers to keep up with evolving customer expectations and the always-changing technology landscape.
“Headless commerce allows brands to stay agile and make constant customer experience improvements by empowering them to make front-end changes independent of the back-end. The APIs also make it easier to add new touchpoints to keep up with your customers wherever they choose to shop. While the “sexier” ecommerce trends like AI/VR, voice, and social commerce are all well and good, scaling to these touchpoints in an effective and efficient manner won’t be possible without a headless commerce approach.”
~ Karly Cyr
Marketing Director, Mobify
Structured Data in Email
“Structured data has gained plenty of momentum over the past few years for search. Enabling brands to have product reviews, price and stock status display beneath links in search results.
“What we are now seeing is structured data making its way increasingly into email. So even if ecommerce brands have implemented structured data as a part of their SEO strategy, its usage in email is something every brand should seriously consider in the coming year. Just like with search, it’ll help your emails stand out in inboxes and boost click rates.”
~ George Hartley
CEO & Co-Founder, SmartrMail
Progressive Web App (PWA) Sites
“The mobile-first approach has been a well-known thing for a few years, and also as a part of search engine optimisation (SEO). A new trend in 2020 will be building websites using progressive web apps (PWAs), which deliver mobile app-like experiences to users of the web. These kind of websites also benefit SEO as they load faster, feel and respond like a mobile app, and last but not least – Google supports them.”
~ Stephen Lever
Managing Director, Parka London
Flexible Payment Methods
“Any sized online retailer needs to pay attention to flexible and alternative payment options. PayPal has been a popular online payment method for years. However, more and more retailers are offering instalment payments and financing options using solutions like Klarna and AfterPay.
“These options are attractive to shoppers, especially those without traditional credit cards. For retailers, they are a win-win because in most cases the retailer is still paid upfront. Plus, instalment payment options have been shown to increase both the number of sales and the average order value.”
~ Meaghan Brophy
Senior Retail Analyst, FitSmallBusiness
Ecommerce trends 2020 conclusion
Our experts have revealed a whole host of ecommerce trends in 2020 that you need to pay attention to.
A quick summary of everything mentioned:
- Transparency & authenticity.
- Environmentally-friendly practices.
- Social commerce.
- Automation & integration.
- Headless commerce.
- Structured data in email.
- Progressive Web Apps (PWAs).
- Flexible payment methods.
There’s obviously a lot to think about here. But embracing even a few of these next-level ideas could be huge in helping your ecommerce brand push ahead of the competition in the coming year.
What are your thoughts on our ecommerce trends 2020? Any missing that you think need to be mentioned? Let us know in the comments below.