5 key e-commerce trends that will change retail forever

Retailers used to treat e-commerce as an extra string to their bow. But now, any business that doesn’t sell their products online is potentially missing out on thousands of opportunities every day.

E-commerce has become such a big deal that any developments in online shopping can have major repercussions that shake the entire retail industry.

Here’s 5 major e-commerce trends that will change the world of retail as you know it.

Big online shopping days will dominate the retail calendar

It’s not yet clear what the future holds for major online shopping events. For instance, some believe that retailers might be better eschewing the likes of Black Friday entirely.

But after Black Friday came Cyber Monday. Retail businesses are even starting to capitalise on international events, such as Singles Day in China. These discount events enable shoppers to make significant savings, which gives retailers both online and offline the chance to make some substantial gains.

Everyone loves a discount, and few things are better at driving sales than the idea of scarcity. So even if the 'traditional' online shopping days start to wane, it’s likely that retailers will simply invent some more.

Flash sales

Not every sale needs to be an international phenomenon.

Groupon remains the most popular curator of online flash sales. But the problem with Groupon is that it targets opportunistic bargain hunters, so there’s no guarantee that your offer will be seen by the people who need to see it.

A major emerging trend in e-commerce is the use of flash sales that target regular customers. While browsing your product pages, customers can be shown a popup offering a significant discount on a product that you know appeals to them, based on their browsing history, their buying history, and any other information gleaned from your data capture.

Few customers will be able to resist such offers. And if the popups are worded to suggest that the offer is exclusive for regular customers, these flash sales will have the dual benefit of significantly boosting conversions while delighting your already-loyal customers.

Don't write off the high street: Brick and mortar will survive

Rather than dooming the high street, e-commerce can actually enhance the high street – but only if brick and mortar stores are prepared to evolve. Get ready to see a large scale integration of the offline and the online retail environments. Online sales will have a huge influence on in-store sales, and retailers will soon be able to manage customer interaction in real-time.

Customers often use smartphones to compare the price of products in-store with the price of products online. Retailers can use beacons and other technologies to match the customer’s email ID or loyalty program directly at the POS. So as soon as the customer starts to search for better deals online, they’ll receive an in-store discount, there and then in the store.

So long as they’re getting the best possible deal, it seems that shoppers don’t mind where their goods come from. So there’s much that high street stores can do to ensure that they can not just survive the rise of e-commerce, but profit from it directly. For instance, 80.4 per cent of shoppers said their perception of a retailer would improve if the retailer offered mobile deals and coupons.

Better shipping and flexible delivery

The moment Amazon launched Prime Now, their instant delivery service, all bets were off. It’s only a matter of time before online shoppers start to expect – no, demand – same day shipping as standard.

This shift in customer expectations will have a number of repercussions. First, the demand for faster and cheaper delivery will drive the growth of cross-border shipping. If it means saving money, consumers will think nothing of buying from overseas. So any retailer that invests in their international supply chain stands to make some considerable gains.

Second, because not all retailers will be able to meet this demand, expect to see a rise in solutions such as click and collect. We may eventually live in a world where, within minutes of buying a product online, a customer will receive their delivery by drone – wherever they are, and regardless of when they order.

But until then…

Retailers will increasingly rely on third party applications

Every emerging trend in e-commerce has been instigated by a retail giant. They have the resources to experiment with new systems and solutions, and because they have such huge data samples to play with, they have unlimited access to a whole world of invaluable consumer insights.

So how on Earth are smaller e-commerce businesses supposed to survive?
After all, not all businesses have the resources to meet increasingly demanding customer expectations.

Luckily, there’s an extensive selection of third party applications out there to help businesses of all sizes to future-proof their e-commerce operations. For example, your success in using algorithms to automate your data capture depends on quality and size of the data analysed. Smaller e-commerce businesses will naturally have smaller data sets to work with. However, they can still connect with third party providers to access vast amounts of data based on their target audience or sector.

Similarly, ERP systems can help businesses of all sizes to manage their operations from one convenient and intuitive central hub. Then there’s the services like Instacart that allow businesses to fulfil those demanding same day delivery orders without having to expand their fleets and invest in huge distribution warehouses.

Nada Giuffrida at Hallam Internet on behalf of Khaos Cloud