The rapid growth of eCommerce is perhaps the only recent news that isn’t shocking. With the coronavirus pandemic keeping us indoors for most of last year, 60% of our interactions with companies are now online. In the first 10 days of November 2020 alone, US consumers spent $21.7 billion online – that’s a 21% increase year-over-year.
And, following a 25.7% increase in 2020, retail eCommerce sales worldwide will rise to $4.921 trillion in 2021. The number of global eCommerce users is also poised to grow 10% YoY to a whopping 2021 figure of 3.8billion.
But even without the effects of coronavirus, eCommerce was set to be on the rise in 2020. Internet sales have made up an increasing percentage of total retail sales year-on-year, growing from 7.3% to 19.2% in Great Britain alone from 2010-2019.
Between February and April 2020, internet sales skyrocketed from 19.0% of total sales to 30.2%, which should come as no surprise. But there’s a lot to learn about the digital-first world we’ve suddenly found ourselves in – and the more you know, the more you can make the most of this new retail climate.
The pandemic is changing the way we socialise and travel. It’s expected to change the way we work. And it’s already changed the way we buy: 62% of US consumers shop online more now than before the pandemic, and one UK survey even found that 74% of respondents across all age groups now feel comfortable buying products online because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Because of the pandemic, eCommerce sales have grown substantially in comparison to the rest of the retail industry – 36% of consumers shop online weekly since the outbreak of COVID-19, as opposed to 28% before. And, when we zero in on the holiday season specifically, that disparity’s even starker – according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 44% more consumers went online to shop for holiday goods than the year before.
However, eCommerce hasn’t been spared from the overall decline in retail sales in light of the pandemic. US eCommerce sales were expected to jump by 18% in 2020, but the same report predicted that total retail sales in the US would decline by 10.5%.
What Products Have Been Doing Well Since COVID-19?
One unexpected industry that has seen a major shift to online purchasing in light of the pandemic is food and drink. Before COVID-19, just 9% of consumers shopped for groceries exclusively online. Now, 63% are buying more groceries online or by phone than before, and 86% are likely to continue to shop online or by phone when social distancing measures are removed. In the UK, average weekly internet sales for groceries more than doubled from pre-COVID levels.
During the pandemic, 60% of consumers have prioritized the purchase of essential items like groceries, while 3 in 10 consumers have also switched to brands that offer lower prices. But what non-essential retail items have still managed to fly off the shelves?
Curbside Pickup Trends ‘Picking Up’ Momentum
Curbside pickup is one of the more welcome changes the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on the world. And it’s been particularly great for eCommerce, allowing consumers to order online, then pick it up from the store – all while maintaining social distancing measures, and staying compliant with national stay-at-home orders.
While curbside pickup has been around for a while, logistical and shipping issues – not to mention the aforementioned pandemic – has seen it make a resurgence of late.
What About eCommerce After the Pandemic?
In a survey conducted by Salesforce, 61% of respondents say they expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than before it hit. Meanwhile, 60% say COVID-19 has changed their relationship with technology.
According to a survey of 2,200 US shoppers from October 2021, 48% said they’re spending more online since the start of the pandemic. But shoppers are also keen to return to physical stores – from January 2021, there’s been a 44% increase of in-person visits to retail stores, restaurants, and places of entertainment.
This is only set to increase – a PowerReviews survey of US consumers from June 2021, 70% responded “No” to the question, “Are you concerned about shopping in-store due to the COVID-19 pandemic?”. This figure is more than double in comparison to a similar survey conducted in September 2020.
Increase of eCommerce Fraud and Scams
Of course, with the increase of eCommerce fraud comes the enhanced risk of eCommerce fraudsters – something the data attests to.
eCommerce clearly integrates foreign economies, too: 57% of online shoppers have made a purchase from an overseas retailer. Let’s see that figure broken down by region:
The Rise of Digital Wallets
Digital wallets (also known as mobile payments or e-Wallets), like PayPal and Apple Pay, are on the rise as a preferred payment method – particularly in the APAC region. This is due in large part to the popularity of digital wallets in China: 81.1% of smartphone users in China use them, compared to 29% in the US and just 19.1% in the UK.
Given that China is currently the largest eCommerce market in the world, it’s no surprise that its two biggest mobile payment players – Alipay and WeChat – both recorded over 1.1 billion active users in Q3 2019. For context, that’s almost the entire population of China, which was recorded at 1.4 billion people in 2019!
But digital wallets are on the rise in the West, too. Mobile payment usage jumped by 77% in North America and 123% in Europe between 2015 and 2018.
Know which payment gateways your eCommerce website can accept, and know which gateways your customers prefer. The best eCommerce website builders offer integrations with all of the major payment gateways, and customers in the US will be looking for top platforms like PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay.
In a 2018 study based on 900 billion web visits, 58% came from mobile devices, while 42% came from desktops. And when asked how often they bought products using various shopping channels, respondents in 2019 chose mobile devices 30% of the time, and PCs 28% of the time.
Mobile shopping has been on the rise for a while. However, even though more than half of all time spent on retail websites takes place on a mobile device, sales made on desktops are still worth more money on average. Customers also order more products on desktop than on mobile, with item counts per order 24% higher on desktop devices.
So, Why Is Mobile eCommerce Important?
Desktop devices lead in sales, but mobile devices lead in traffic – Google even added a site’s mobile-friendliness to its search criteria in 2018, reflecting the big turn towards mobile browsing that we’ve already seen. And this popularity means that mobile browsing is starting and ending more consumer journeys than ever before.
Shopping is an increasingly omnichannel experience – the frequency of multi-device customer journeys is estimated to be between 41% and 65% of all purchases made online. Even the best free eCommerce website builders allow you to design mobile-friendly eCommerce websites.
Mobile eCommerce During COVID-19
45% of consumers say they’re using their mobile phone more as a shopping channel since the pandemic began in March.
In its May 2020 analysis of eCommerce data from 60 countries, PPRO found that Sweden leads the pack, with 60% of its eCommerce shopping being conducted on a mobile device. China follows close behind with 59%, while the UK and US conduct 55% and 39% of eCommerce shopping from mobile devices, respectively.
Mobile eCommerce in the Future
Pre-pandemic estimates predicted that mobile purchases would be worth $3.56 trillion by 2021, making up 72.9% of total global eCommerce spend. What’s more, consumers are expected to use their smartphones to spend over $86 billion online this holiday season alone – a year on year increase of a whopping 16.6%.
Mobile Commerce Still Used More to Browse Than to Buy
One recent Kibo Commerce report suggested that, vis a vis desktop, mobile shopping had a higher session rate – meaning more consumers were using their smartphones to browse products and deals.
However, Kibo’s data also showed that mobile sessions resulted not only in a higher cart abandonment rate – that is, people dropping out before completing the purchase – but lower conversion rate and order value, too. So, while smartphones are still set to be key players in the eCommerce world of the future, desktop-based customers remain more lucrative for now.
Personalization and Localization
In eCommerce, personalization means delivering more personal experiences to customers by tailoring their recommendations and offers based on factors like their browsing behavior, purchase history, and geolocation.
Localization means tailoring a website to a customer’s IP address, so that it reflects the customer’s native buying experience in terms of language and context. If you sell internationally, this is an important way to compete with local sellers in overseas markets.
Voice control devices, such as smart home speakers, are increasing in popularity all over the world. There are expected to be 8 billion voice assistants in use by 2023, which would be up from 2.5 billion at the end of 2018.
Voice assistants are an up-and-coming giant in the eCommerce industry – so it’s important for merchants to be prepared. When Adobe surveyed 400 business decision makers in 2018, 91% said they were already making significant investments in voice technology. But it’s important to plan for new challenges as well: Because voice technology devices are still so new, they’re more susceptible to security vulnerabilities and fraud.
Chatbots are a favorite feature among Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000), who choose live chat as their preferred way to contact brands. Millennials have a spending power of $10 trillion over their lifetimes as consumers, and together with the younger Gen Zs, they make the most purchases online of any age group – so chatbots are an important tech trend to keep on your radar.
It’s clear that Millennials like chatbots – but how does everyone else feel about them?
We’ve seen how chatbots can be convenient for customers. But they can be beneficial for merchants, too: Chatbots could save companies up to 30% in customer service spending, and companies in banking and healthcare alone are expected to save $8 billion by 2022 by using chatbots.
Multichannel Marketing and Social Media
Multichannel, or omnichannel, marketing means using a sales approach that integrates the customer experience across various channels, including text messages, social media platforms, and emails.
Today, the average number of social media accounts per person is 8.6 (a figure that’s grown 79.16% from 2014 to 2020), and US households each own an average of 11 connected devices – meaning it’s important to reach customers across as many of those accounts and devices as you can.
55% of online shoppers made a purchase through a social media channel in 2018, and in 2019, 87% of online shoppers believed that social media helped them make a purchase decision. Instagram alone attracts 70% of consumers looking for product discovery, while 77% of Pinterest users have discovered a new brand or product on the platform.
Customers can also purchase products directly through social media pages, which 30% of consumers say they would do. Some merchants are well aware of this trend: One in four business owners are already selling through Facebook.
And hey – remember when we talked about China as a massive eCommerce market? Social media purchases are already the standard there, with 55% of users buying goods or services directly on a social app.
92% of consumers are more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other type of advertising, which is why social media plays such a big role in customers’ buying decisions. But there are also other kinds of social proof that you can use to your advantage, including customer reviews – 91% of customers from the ages of 18 to 34 trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations.
Social Commerce On the Up
In addition, further data suggests that over a third of shoppers (35%) are ‘very likely’ to use social commerce to make a purchase, with another 26% ‘somewhat likely’.
There’s a lot to unpack here – so let’s break this data down into two of its most dominant themes.
Recyclable Packaging a Must
With the lion’s share of consumers now expecting brands to provide recycled (or at least less) packaging, this is one piece of evidence company’s need to start taking notice of.
Studies have estimated that around 19% of all plastic material ends up in unmanaged dumps, with just 16% of all plastic waste reprocessed or recycled. Most of the world’s plastic waste actually winds up being incinerated (25%) or in landfills.
These damning statistics haven’t passed consumers by, and people want action. With 70% of customers in the US and UK believing corporations should be doing more to address environmental issues, implementing a sustainable packaging strategy is an ideal place to start.
But the statistics also indicate that recyclable packaging alone may not be enough – it needs to be transparently recyclable, too. After all, one in four people struggle to tell if a product is recyclable, with many unable to parse the materials into processable piles. If eCommerce businesses not only make their packaging recyclable, but provide instructions on how to recycle it, they’ll be tapping into a wide market of sustainably-minded (but hapless when it comes to recycling) consumers.
Ease and Affordability Driving Green eCommerce Success
Other recent GWI data looked into the barriers that internet users in the US and UK feel they’re facing when it comes to purchasing eco-friendly products. According to the data:
With six in ten consumers avoiding eco-friendly products because of their higher cost, there’s a clear gap in the market for a green eCommerce business able to offer sustainable, environmentally friendly products for less.
The fact that almost one in four (24%) consumers are dissuaded from eco-friendly products because of how difficult they are to find will also be of alarm to brands. Is it more marketing needed? More brand exposure and awareness? A greater retailer willingness to stock expensive eco-friendly products… or a combination of all three?
Whichever it is, one thing is clear. The eco-friendly eCommerce product that bests manages to negotiate the tricky balancing act of affordability, visibility, and transparency – that is, clearly communicating to the consumer what eco-friendless is, and why they should care – will be very successful.
Did You Know?
The consumer market for sustainable products is set to be worth a blockbusting $140.5 billion by 2023.
While the UK has yet to match the US in online sales, both markets have shown a steady increase year-on-year.
Did You Know?
US consumers will spend, on average, 12 hours shopping online this festive season. Talk about a day’s work!
Did You Know?
According to Adobe, this year Americans will spend a total of 414,000 years (which equates to an incredible 3.6 billion hours) shopping online in November and December.
Black Friday in the UK
In 2019, 42% of adults in the UK planned to take part in Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2020, that figure dropped to 39%. However, Brits were still expected to spend an estimated £6 billion over both holidays in 2020, and those who did plan to take part were expected to spend 18% more on average than in 2019.
Inventory Issues Set to Play Their Part in Black Friday 2021
It’s not just our health (and patience) that the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on – it’s our stuff, too.
The ongoing effects of the spread of coronavirus – along with the nationwide stay-at-home orders it’s caused in the US and UK – have led to serious logistical and supply chain issues. Put simply, suppliers haven’t been able to get their hands on much stock!
‘Out of stock’ messages in January 2021 are up 172% when compared to pre-pandemic levels (January 2020), and a whopping 360% versus January 2019.
These widespread stock shortages are set to continue throughout the 2021 holiday season, with apparel the category suffering most. Other items suffering with an inventory problem include sporting goods, electronics, and products for babies and toddlers.
Use More Discount Codes
“Our most successful tactic last Black Friday/Cyber Monday was to run discount code sales throughout the weekend, and to promote them through live chat on our website.
Basically, we had one discount code for Black Friday, one for Small Business Saturday, and one for Cyber Monday. The fact that we used different discount codes for each specific event helped to create a sense of urgency among our users, and we saw our eCommerce conversion rate skyrocket.”
Discount codes are a surefire way to boost sales any year, but especially in 2020. Calloway Cook, owner of the herbal-extract supplement company Illuminate Labs, told us he’s used discounts to adapt to a downturn in sales due to COVID:
“Let’s face it – most consumers are struggling financially at the moment. If you’re a high-end brand, it’s going to be tough to generate as many sales as you did last year.
We started offering an 80% discount on first-time subscription orders in a banner on our website, and saw a surge in recurrent revenue. This has been really crucial in helping us ride out the economic storm of 2020. We’d recommend any retailer selling at a high price point to try out this strategy if you have the profit margins to support it.”
There are tons of small ways to drum up anticipation before and even during your Black Friday sales. Samiksha Desai of Yummy Tummy Recipes said using a countdown clock on her client’s landing page increased conversions by 11%, while Karl Robinson of Logicata looks to the future to grab his customers’ attention:
“While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are all about discounts, offering a future discount through your purchase can really entice customers. For instance, a deal where you buy today, and receive a future voucher for 10% off on your next purchase, can really grab attention and allow people to continue the savings past one specific point. Plus, you could also be growing and strengthening your customer loyalty.”
“Email is king. Utilize your email list – readers are warmed up to you already, and have opted in. The holidays are the best time to blast your list, and don’t be afraid to email every day, or sometimes twice a day during the big sales. Last year, we did over 100k in sales from Friday – Monday. 40% of that came from email alone.”
Prepare Your Website
Even in today’s world, 46% of American small businesses still don’t have their own website – so if you’re reading this, you’re already on the right track. If you’re still preparing your website, you can find out how to build an online store and explore the best small business website builders.