The global ecommerce market is expected to reach €6.17 trillion in 2023. By 2025, around 23 percent of all retail sales will come from online purchases, up from 17.8 percent in 2020.
To compete in this increasingly crowded, hybrid market, retailers must do more than just sell their products online: today’s digital shoppers expect a flexible, convenient, and transparent customer experience. Conversational commerce, omnichannel sales, and other ecommerce solutions help businesses achieve this.
Smart retailers focus on these six trends:
1. Conversational commerce is steadily increasing
Consumers not only shop online but communicate with the company throughout the buying process. This combination of conversation and conversion goes by the name of conversational commerce and is a win for both customers and brands.
With conversational commerce, companies are able to optimize their customer service and automate parts of the sales process (including the payment process). In addition, they collect insights into how they can make their products more palatable for individual customers.
For consumers, it is a way to get help instantly and in real time. This begins, for example, with personalized product recommendations from an intelligent chatbot, continues with the search for products via a virtual language assistant (e.g. Alexa), and ends with a live chat with a contact center agent about the shipping options.
Live chats in particular can improve conversion rates by up to 82 percent. Research shows that 73 percent of consumers cite live chat as their preferred way of communicating with businesses. More than half (52 percent) use voice assistants to search for products and services, and 1.4 billion use chatbots. Retailers are investing primarily in the latter to further drive conversational commerce: They offer customer support and personalized product recommendations, take orders and reservations, process transactions, and serve multiple communication channels at the same time.
Global spending on conversational commerce is projected to increase almost sevenfold over the next three years, reaching around €275 billion by 2025. Chatbots will make up a large portion of that spend, but they are expected to save stores around $430 million in 2023 alone. Overall, according to the forecasts, retail sales through channels equipped with conversational commerce solutions are expected to grow by 98 percent per year in the next few years and reach around 135 billion euros in 2024.
2. Omnichannel shopping blurs the lines between online and in-store experiences
Retailers may still think that online and physical are two different worlds, but consumers don’t see it that way. Top companies are breaking down these barriers and allowing customers to complete different parts of the purchasing process through different channels. For example, some prospects research online and then buy in-store, while others view products in-store and then order online.
Omnichannel shopping also means that people can shop online and pick up their orders on-site – or return bad online purchases there. It is also possible to shop in-store and have the items delivered to your home. The “buy online, collect in store” (or “click-and-collect”) model prevailed during the pandemic. In fact, click-and-collect sales more than doubled in 2020 and are expected to account for 10 percent of all sales by 2025. Although more customers are returning to physical stores, they still want to shop that way as well.
3. Smart devices drive sales
People are increasingly using their smartphones to purchase goods and services, find local shops and communicate with retailers. By 2023, it is projected that 72.9 percent of all global ecommerce sales will be made via mobile devices.
Not only are customers using their mobile devices more often, they are also using them differently: they are increasingly relying on voice assistants to find stores and fill their online shopping carts. Projections are that language support will increase by 113 percent by 2024. Overall, a third of consumers now regularly use voice search via mobile devices and virtual voice assistants.
4. Privacy plays a more important role than personalization
Personalization has been a buzzword for years, which is why retailers have invested heavily in the relevant technologies over the past decade. They allow them to collect the data they need to deliver relevant marketing content and tailored shopping experiences. Modern consumers expect personalized content. But these strategies have been turned on their head by new data protection laws like the GDPR.
Now companies need new tools and ways to offer personalized content to their customers. They need to incentivize users to share their data directly with them. This can be achieved, for example, with the help of valuable content that you only receive if you give your name and email address. Firms should also be transparent about how they intend to use this data.
Artificial intelligence can support personalization efforts by gathering information about an individual’s online search and shopping habits across a company’s owned channels. Meanwhile, AI chatbots can make personalized product recommendations based on information customers provide directly to them. They then store this data for future personalization and targeted marketing.
5. Augmented Reality enables visual trading
With augmented reality (AR) technology, people can look at products in real spaces or in real faces: what does the couch in the living room look like? Does the lipstick color match the skin tone? It is predicted that one in three consumers will use AR to view products virtually. Around 65 percent of AR users should then be more likely to make a purchase.
6. Employees take on new roles
Faced with the skills shortage in retail, companies will automate customer support and sales as much as possible. For example, chatbots can help relieve understaffed sales and support teams. They answer customer questions immediately, while human agents focus on more complex communication topics and personal interactions.
The bots can keep customers up to date on delivery times and shipping delays, for example, and automatically notify them when out-of-stock items are available again. They can also assist their human workers with tasks such as click-and-collect sales, virtual shopping, or shopping by appointment.
Preparing for the ecommerce future
The world is changing at breakneck speed, and so is retail. Those responsible should keep an eye on the six trends presented here if they do not want to fall behind. As they show, communication methods that are universally available and integrated into all channels are well received by customers and give the shop the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.