Online businesses have revolutionized the concept of commerce and are here to stay. The shift to eCommerce hit an all-time high in 2020 with the pandemic and is only expected to continue growing in 2021 and beyond. Trends rapidly change in this field, however, and to ensure your business keeps up with that pace, you must stay abreast of changes and be ready to adopt the most sought-after consumer requirements.
Let’s explore the top 6 trends that will empower online businesses to get ahead in their respective industries this year.
1. Mobile and Voice commerce
Convenience is the name of the game; the use of mobile devices to shop online became increasingly popular in 2020 and is expected to grow by another 18.8 percent in 2021. Whether this is due to the aftermath of the pandemic or the growing confidence of consumers to browse, research, and compare their favorite stores from the convenience of their bedroom, this trend cannot be ignored. Mobile optimization of your website and/or online store is essential in helping you gain access to a larger audience.
Voice commerce is the use of voice commands to search and carry out transactions over the internet. “Hey Siri”, “Hey Alexa,” and “OK Google” gained popularity in performing everyday tasks or searching without typing. They then extended their use through voice assistants which could make purchases while the consumer was driving a car or even doing laundry. The convenience of asking one’s Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa to order a light bulb that gets to your doorstep while you handle a business client is phenomenal. With mobile and voice trends gaining ground, business owners must prepare to offer these features that will soon become standard.
2. Automation and Omnichannel strategy
One vital way to stand out as a business during the eCommerce boom is to automate processes and reduce manual costs and errors while enhancing customer experience. Everyone, from small businesses to multibillion-dollar giants, is looking for ways to boost operational efficiency. The use of automation software and web services to replace long hours of manual labor in marketing, billing, and shipping is gaining importance in business. Automating emails, identifying customer preferences, following up with relevant suggestions, and using chatbots for visitor interaction are all ways of streamlining your online business.
Omnichannel is a similar trend that involves marketing and selling across multiple online marketplaces, social media channels, platforms, and devices in a synchronized, seamless manner. Whether the customer finds you online or offline, from a desktop or a mobile device, he/she is offered an integrated experience that allows easy movement between his/her choices. This trend also helps the service provider who does not have to manually keep track of changes in their schedule and other variables by allowing different online platforms to “talk” to each other.
3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR)
AI and machine learning are new technologies that can enhance an online shopping experience based on captured customer data and shopping history. It can substitute your in-store associate by offering customers personalized online guidance and recommendations. The effect of making customers feel cared for, while providing businesses with key analytics of customer behavior, is what makes this technology outstanding.
AR / VR allows customers to experience a product before purchasing it. These technologies can be used to offer an option to virtually “try on” a product before committing to it. This elevates online businesses rapidly in specific industries like home décor and fashion where a customer can not only view the product in 3D but also view themselves wearing it. Customers can also experience a purchased service through VR simulations. Don’t get fooled by the names – artificial or virtual, the experience is as close as it can get to being real.
4. Social Media and Direct-to-Consumer (D2C)
The impact of social media on our daily lives cannot be overstated, considering the time we spend every single day on these apps. This has led to a trend of social commerce, where customers can pay for products and services directly on platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Online businesses can take advantage of this opportunity by positioning themselves well on popular social media platforms and using influencers to reach their target audience. And it works! On average, businesses are making around $5.20 for every $1 they spend on influencer marketing.
The D2C eCommerce strategy is one where the manufacturer or CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) brand sells directly to the consumer online, instead of using the traditional retailer. Among the advantages of shifting to D2C are offering a competitive price, direct consumer feedback, and the freedom to experiment and test new product releases. Having said that, the D2C route is not easy and involves strategic planning to compete against well-established retail giants; but it can certainly work once you get around the initial challenges.
Bitcoin is a new form of digital currency which allows transactions to be performed 100% virtually, without being backed by banks or any government. There are no physical bitcoins, only balances in consumers’ wallets that can be used for purchases without any transaction fees.
Despite all the recent noise around the collapse of Bitcoin, the currency is still thriving. Online businesses are now able to reach markets that were not previously on their radar. Many businesses like Microsoft, Expedia, Overstock, AT&T, and others have jumped on this shiny bandwagon that promises faster transactions and anonymity. This trend has the potential to create a new market and establish your business as trusted and innovative.
6. Data Privacy
Data Privacy describes the practices which ensure that every individual controls how his/her personal information is collected and used online. In today’s digital world, mountains of data are produced and collected to help companies transform their business operations. However, with the growing transparency and privacy concerns, consumers are intentional about what data is collected and prefer to abandon an online purchase or platform if privacy is compromised.
The increasing demand of consumers for privacy and data control has led governments to adopt new regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and a similar California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the US. Online businesses are now challenged by the constant balancing of their need to utilize personal data against the laws that protect consumers’ right to privacy. Respecting this right and strictly adhering to such regulations can give a business an advantage over non-compliant competitors.
Knowing the top online business trends can not only put you ahead of your competition but also help your business stay relevant. The ways you decide to incorporate such trends into your operations are varied and depend on your specific needs. Just remember, you can always reach out to us if you need a technical expert to help you through this journey.