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The Future of Ecommerce: 7 Trends Your Brand Should Follow

future of ecommerce

Ecommerce is one of the fastest-growing sectors out there, meaning the future of ecommerce in 2024 is bright. The global ecommerce market is worth around $6.3 trillion, and was expected to grow by at least 10% by the end of 2023. 

As a fast-growing sector, it’s also fast-changing. Ecommerce is relatively new, but it has grown by 275% in the last decade, increasing by $244.2 billion (43%) in 2020 alone. Within a few years, it’s gone from a convenient offering to a regular household service. 

It’s important that ecommerce companies keep their fingers on the pulse of current and emerging trends. Customer expectations can change almost overnight, and what’s considered a best practice today might be completely obsolete this time next year. However, jumping on the bandwagon carries risks. You can’t always tell which approaches are going to take off and which are merely fads. Ecommerce companies must do their best to determine which trends are worth spending time and money developing strategies for. 

While this entails a bit of a guessing game, there are a few enduring trends to pursue. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the experts believe is the future of ecommerce in 2024 and beyond. 

What’s the future of ecommerce?

It’s abundantly clear that ecommerce is here to stay. For the past five years, ecommerce’s global share of retail sales has steadily grown, and it’s projected to account for nearly a quarter of all retail sales by 2026. The only question now is what ecommerce is going to look like moving forward. After studying ecommerce trends that have a solid upward momentum, experts have determined some trends that are likely to be long-lasting.

Firstly, sustainable ecommerce is a must. While all industries need to be sustainable to keep up with modern consumer demand, ecommerce is one under a microscope. There are two main ways that ecommerce has a big impact: excessive packaging and carbon emissions, especially associated with deliveries and transport. Ecommerce companies would do well to minimize packaging, especially packaging made of plastic, and lower their carbon emissions. The emissions that they can’t eliminate can be offset with carbon removal projects or carbon offsets. 

Social ecommerce is another area that’s projected to grow. Gen Z, especially, is increasingly using social media to shop, but all generations are enjoying the social media game. Even if your customers aren’t directly making purchases from social media, they are being influenced by it, so ecommerce companies should make sure that they are using social media to market their brands effectively.

New tech is the final major trend that ecommerce companies need to pay attention to. The rise of AI and automation, VR tech, and digital payment methods all lead to a seamless customer experience, but only if done correctly. Many ecommerce companies are already exploring Augmented Reality to allow their customers to try on clothing, providing personalized recommendations via machine learning, and implementing quick and easy customer service experiences through AI chatbots. Although some of this technology may seem futuristic, its usage is expected to be commonplace within the next few years. 

Read more insightful ecommerce statistics.

How can businesses prepare for the future of ecommerce?

Businesses must keep up with ecommerce trends to stay relevant. However, traditional retail methods shouldn’t be completely abandoned. While ecommerce is on the rise, many people—including those in Gen Z—still enjoy the experience of shopping at a brick-and-mortar establishment. It’s important that you integrate traditional customer experiences with revolutionary ones. Competing in a world of ecommerce is all about diversifying your offerings.

As you choose which ecommerce trends to explore, you have to decide which ones best align with your customers. Take time to fully understand where your target market researches their products, where they like to shop, and which experiences they prefer. If your market consists primarily of Gen Z, for example, you might consider investing in Augmented Reality and social ecommerce, as they are the generation that is most likely to explore new tech, according to CGS.  Conversely, if your main customer base comes from older generations, you might want to ensure that your products are available on large ecommerce sites, like Amazon, because that is where these generations continue to shop online, as reported by the same study by CGS.

How is ecommerce changing consumer behavior?

One of the most significant trends in ecommerce is personalization. Because data analytics and Artificial Intelligence have allowed businesses to tailor their offerings to each customer’s preferences, consumers now expect an individualized shopping experience. Ecommerce companies should work toward creating a more personalized experience to increase engagement and customer loyalty.

Voice search and voice assistants are two more game-changers. In 2020, sales from voice search exceeded $2 billion. As voice-controlled smart speakers become as ubiquitous as refrigerators in the household, sales made from voice search may become the new norm. Therefore, ecommerce companies need to start optimizing their online content and products for voice search. 

As Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality also become commonplace, consumers are now able to visualize products like clothing and furniture from the comfort of their living rooms. When consumers become more confident in this type of technology, they’ll start to expect these types of offerings before they buy. 

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility have also become expectations for ecommerce and elsewhere. If it hasn’t already, your company must begin strategizing toward more sustainable practices, especially concerning plastic packaging and carbon emissions. Customers support businesses that are committed to minimizing their carbon footprint. They’ll look for things such as the option for a carbon-neutral delivery before they make their purchases.

Although it’s infeasible to follow all of these trends, these are the approaches that experts believe are here to stay. To best fulfill the needs of your customers, try to ascertain which of these trends will be most beneficial to your target customers, then take the time to implement them well. You can figure out which ones best align with your customers by creating customer surveys, analyzing their buying patterns, and watching how they interact with the services you currently offer. 

future of ecommerce

1) Enhanced mobile commerce

By 2025, it’s expected that mobile sales (those done via apps on tablets or smartphones) will approach $710 billion. To tap into this market, ecommerce companies need to ensure that their websites are mobile-friendly. This can be done by creating Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) that can be run on all devices and by including mobile-friendly payment services. Many smartphones now include wallets and other services for easy payment with the click of a button. To stay relevant, ecommerce companies need to ensure that their systems are seamless for mobile use.

2) AI and automation in ecommerce

It seems as though, in 2023, Artificial Intelligence (AI) dominates business conversations. Ecommerce is not immune to its charm. There are a few ways that companies can implement AI in their strategies. For one, chatbots and virtual assistants for customer support can help create an incredibly easy user experience. Rather than having to sit through long wait times to speak to a representative, they can solve their problems with intelligent chatbots at any time of day. 

But AI goes beyond customer service. Machine learning can create a personalized shopping experience for each individual customer. This technology gathers and analyzes customers’ shopping habits as they browse your site and uses Artificial Intelligence to ascertain the types of things they are interested in. Using this data, it can then recommend certain products and anticipate their needs. 

Subscription-based models can help elevate the machine-learning experience. By offering a subscription to your site, you ensure customer loyalty. The more your customers visit your site, the more data you can glean, and the more personalized their experience will become. 

3) Social commerce and influencer marketing

You can’t talk about the future of ecommerce without mentioning social media. Social commerce is perhaps the biggest trend that companies need to jump on. Ninety-five percent of working-age people have said that they use social media platforms and/or online messaging systems. According to Business Insider, about half of Gen Z uses social media as their search engine over Google. For ecommerce businesses, this means that they need to implement social media in their strategies. 

Although social media ads are effective, 37% of social media users trust influencers over brands. It’s a good idea to partner with popular influencers to promote your brand. However, you should ensure that the partnership is genuine. Consumers also value authenticity, and they will resonate more with genuine influencer partnerships over promotions that are clearly ads. 

Besides promoting your brand, social media offers a growing platform for direct sales. An increasing number of social media users, particularly Gen Z, use TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram to make purchases. By offering your products on these platforms, you can increase your reach.

4) Sustainable ecommerce practices

Sustainability in ecommerce is more important than ever before. Not only do consumers demand sustainable practices from the brands they support, but ESG legislation and environmental regulation will require sustainable business practices in the future. Ecommerce companies can practice sustainability by investing in eco-friendly packaging, minimizing their carbon emissions, and offering carbon-neutral check-out options to their customers. Don’t forget your supply chains. To be truly sustainable, you must ensure ethical sourcing of materials and products.

5) Cybersecurity and trust

Today’s consumers are impatient, and if the purchasing process takes too long, they might not complete the task. However, it’s important that, while creating a quick and seamless check-out experience, safety and security are not sacrificed. Online shoppers are highly protective of their data and privacy, and a single data breach could irreparably lose your customer’s trust. As you build your ecommerce strategy, make cybersecurity a priority. If your customers feel safe sharing their information and using your site, they are more likely to return again and again. 

6) Integration of online and offline channels

As of 2022, almost 15% of retail sales were done online. Although this percentage is expected to grow steadily, it’s clear that offline channels are still a key feature of commerce. Ecommerce companies shouldn’t fully drop brick-and-mortar approaches just yet.

Besides partnering with stores to offer your products on the shelves, you can strategize ways to bridge the gap between ecommerce and offline shopping. These include Click-and-Collect, where a person can purchase items online and collect them in person, and omnichannel retail, in which you use multiple channels, both online and offline, to reach your customers and sell your products.

By bridging the gap between online and offline shopping, you can ensure that you reach all markets, even those that aren’t fully comfortable with ecommerce just yet. 

7) Emerging technologies in ecommerce

The future of ecommerce technology includes AI, VR, and Augmented Reality. Although the idea of using a VR headset to try on clothing or place furniture in your living room seems like something out of a sci-fi movie, 32% of shoppers have said that they’ve already used VR to make purchases. Investing in this technology could completely transform the experience of your shoppers. 

Another major development in ecommerce is the use of robots and drones for deliveries. Companies like Amazon and UPS are already using this new technology for fast and inexpensive deliveries. While this type of delivery service is still experimental, it’s worth keeping an eye on, and it may be the system of the future.

The numbers don’t lie: ecommerce is the future. However, it’s still not fully clear how the future of B2B ecommerce and B2C ecommerce will play out. Emerging technologies, new consumer trends, and customer expectations surrounding sustainability and social responsibility all lend to many exciting prospects for ecommerce. 

To determine which trends to explore, take some time to deeply understand your customer base, their pain points, and their shopping habits. From there, you can develop an ecommerce strategy that will stand the test of time, even within a notoriously fast-changing sector. 

Looking for more insights into what consumers are looking for in their online shopping experience? Download this report to learn what consumers expect of ecommerce brands in 2023.

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