The B-Word and Other 2020 Predictions – Part 1

Monday January 6, 2020 | Posted at 9:58 am | By Paul Dicken
January 6, 2020 @ 9:58 am

At this time of year, and already for a month or two, there’s no shortage of trends and predictions for ecommerce in 2020. A quick search on Google will give you the macro trends. In this post we’re going to summarise them for you. Predictions are all very well,  but you’re perfectly entitled to say, ‘So what? How does this really affect my business? Make this useful for me.’ That’s why in our next post we’ll add our own perspective on what’s going to be important to you in 2020.

And who do we mean by you? We’ve written this post for mid-to-large online sellers who are present in at least one marketplace, and at least two channels, trading from a base in the UK. You’re probably doing in excess of £50,000 gross merchandise volume per month, and you’ve probably got at least half a dozen staff on the books. You’re probably not selling a few products on eBay out of your bedroom, although if you are we think there’ll be value for you too in this post.

Let’s start with some general comments about 2020, and none of them will come as a surprise to you. First, online retail will continue to grow. Yes, you didn’t hear it here first. It could hit $5 trillion in 2021, according to Statista. Social media will also increase its influence on the buying process, with activities like reading user comments and reviews leading the way according to EconStor. Furthermore, 37% of users use social media to research products, according to Global Web Index.

Mobile’s share of the ecommerce pie will also improve in 2020, although estimates of its share vary widely, from 50% according to the Robin Report to 70% according to Statista. Differences in definitions might account for some of this variance, but there’s no underestimating mobile’s ongoing significance. Lastly, marketplaces will continue to be where the action is at. Almost 50% of online searches start on marketplaces according to eMarketer, and Amazon’s share of total online spending is a colossal 37% and growing (Wunderman Thompson Commerce), mainly due to third party sellers like you accounting for over half of Amazon units sold. For more on this big picture stuff, see here from Finances Online.

Technology, technology, technology

In the pre-Internet world retail was all about location, location, location. You needed to be where the buyers were. In 2020, it’s still about location; online location, that is. You need to be where your target buyers are browsing, and depending on your product set and your buyer profile that might be Google search, marketplace search, chat, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, specialist or regional marketplaces, or your own specialist website.

Once the prospective buyer has landed, then it’s all about technology. Technology will continue to drive change in ecommerce and facilitate better buyer experiences for the consumer. Here are some of the areas where technology, so often emerging in the US or Far East and moving into the UK and Europe, will continue to push the boundaries in 2020: 

  • Smart speaker use and digital assistants will increase the adoption of voice-based shopping. Google, Amazon and Alibaba cater well to voice search and voice shoppers
  • Artificial Intelligence (‘AI’) will increase adoption, with, for example, 20% of US consumers saying they’re willing to purchase goods from chatbots (ubisend.com)
  • Software like virtual image creation, virtual reality and augmented reality will ease the pressure on sellers to satisfy users’ demands for ever more images of products and to try virtually before they buy
  • The need for video to accompany products will increase. 60% of US shoppers prefer watching a product video to reading a product description (SocialMediaToday). Videos also help with reducing returns and refunds due to buying the wrong product
  • Progressive web apps will continue to bridge the gap between websites and native apps, increasing consumer engagement and conversion on mobile. Marketplaces are starting to adopt this technology
  • Drop-shipping models and marketplace offerings like AliExpress will continue to allow sellers to quickly and cost-effectively increase their listings range with a lower risk
  • We couldn’t let a 2020 prediction post go by without mentioning drone delivery. Amazon has already experimented with drone delivery, and even delivery to the boot of your vehicle. In terms of observable traction, though, we think this is likely to be 2021 or beyond

So where was the B-word? Don’t worry, it’s coming in the next post. In the meantime, if your multichannel ecommerce platform is on your own prediction list for 2020, please do get in touch to start the conversation.

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