Unbeknown to most people, e-commerce is far from a new concept. The first consumer facing online shopping system was launched in 1984 by Tesco in Gateshead, and in fact, the first customer to use the site was a Mrs Snowball, aged 72. It is the relatively long track record of e-commerce that has led it to become such an innovative and ubiquitous sector.
New e-commerce technology is constantly being launched that capitalises on new trends, such as mobile, or creates new innovations, such as click and collect. The question for those within the e-commerce industry and the wider business community is what the next few years will look like for the sector and how can companies stay ahead of the curve.
The most important trend at the moment is the rapid growth of e-commerce on mobile (m-commerce). In 2014, European m-commerce is expected to increase by 53%, which is more than triple the 16% growth rate recorded in 2013 for the European e-commerce sector. For retailers, this presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
An omni-channel approach, i.e. making your business present on every consumer channel and on a variety of marketplaces, is now essential for retailers wanting to stay competitive and visible. However, this omni-channel approach requires time, money and a sound strategy, nevertheless, the dividends, for a company that ticks all of the right boxes, are huge. Reaching all the right channels, especially on mobile, opens the door to a massive consumer base.
Most major marketplaces (e.g. Amazon, eBay, Zalando, Rakuten, Spartoo etc.) have adapted to the m-commerce trend by creating mobile friendly features. These features provide retailers with an opportunity to leverage the technology on a marketplace by integrating their product catalogues. As a result, retailers do not need to create their own expensive apps or worry that their own website is optimised for mobiles or tablets. They also don’t need to invest millions in marketing costs to be visible since marketplaces drive the traffic for them.
Hand-in-hand with the growth of m-commerce is better shipping, sales cycle management solutions and payment options for online consumers. The recent advent of marketing and sales management technology has allowed even the smallest retailer to spread their products online via a host of marketplaces and also have their stock, marketing, customer service and delivery all handled externally for a relatively small cost.
The scalability of marketing and sales management technology also means that these services can grow with online retailers and adapt as their needs change or they wish to enter new markets. After all, it’s worth remembering that European online retail is not a homogenous block – the value of e-commerce markets in the north and west of Europe is much greater than the south, central and east of Europe.
Retail technology that enables retailers to better manage and exploit the multiple channels that consumers use to buy products will be a key theme. Technology will get better at matching prospective customers to the right products online, improving conversion and enabling a long term improvement of customers’ shopping experiences. The main driver of this improvement will be better use of behavioural data. As more businesses become adept at analysing the behaviour of consumers to predict product consumption trends, so too will the technology that supports the marketing and management of relevant products.
The ever shifting nature of consumer habits and purchasing preferences, along with the fast moving pace of technology has made e-commerce one of the most dynamic industries in the world. For retailers, keeping up with the latest e-commerce trends is a tall order however it is well worth the effort. A smart and cutting-edge e-commerce campaign can give a retailer the edge over its competitors, help break new markets and retain its visibility with current customers.