Retail and e-commerce change rapidly based on consumers shifting behaviors. Merchants must find new ways to sell their products. Here are 10 trends that figure to impact the online retail industry in 2019 and beyond:
1. Changing Attitudes Towards Traditional Advertising
The cost of advertising is increasing manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) by an estimated 40 percent. This increase has pushed sellers to find nontraditional marketing strategies to sell their products at competitive prices. In the future we’ll see merchants using social-based advertising and social gamification.
2. The Rise of Chatbots
As artificial intelligence's sophistication increases, so will the ability of chatbots to meet customers’ needs. They’ll be able to gather customers’ data and make suggestions about their wishes based on customer behaviors. Chatbots will become more than just tools to answer simple questions; they will become an additional sales channel that can help with retention.
3. Movement Towards B2B2C
Compared to the traditional B2C model, we’ll see a trend towards B2B2C. This means that manufactures will have the ability to sell directly to consumers — a concept that Alibaba has implemented in China through Ali Express. It’s another example of companies cutting out the middlemen and looking for ways to offer products at reduced prices while still maintaining profitable margins.
4. The Role of Influencers
Social media influencers seem to be a dime-a-dozen, but they can provide companies with significant access to consumers. A new twist to influencer marketing is live streaming, with influencers offering product reviews to generate sales. In China, the streaming app Tik Tok by Douyin is exceedingly popular, and provides users with opportunities to create video content while also promoting top brands.
5. Movement to Commission-Based Affiliates
In correlation to streaming for influencers, the market will also see a shift towards affiliate-based models. This arrangement provides more inducements for influencers to build their audiences and supply them with offers for merchandise while making commissions on their sales. For merchants, it expands their presence beyond traditional advertising and helps them reach trendsetters and everyday consumers. The influencer bubble exploded so fast and the clickthrough and conversion rates have shown to be extremely low. Therefore, influencer marketing isn't great for sales but is great for brand awareness.
6. International Trade Issues
The possibility of trade tensions, especially between the U.S. and China, poses a challenge for e-commerce. Cost of products and shipping will increase. The results will be surcharges on the consumer and pressures on merchants, or the need to source from other markets.
7. The Need for Speed
Mobile consumers want immediacy. This dynamic builds an expectation that merchants should be able to answer questions immediately. Companies that want to stand out must develop technology that enables real-time communication, whether it’s via chat or social.
8. Delicate Personalization
A tailor-made shopping experience is what consumers are longing for. Platforms will need to adapt and create customer experiences based on users’ shopping habits.
9. Exclusive Social Platform Releases
Many companies are now exclusively showcasing new products on social media channels. This allows the brand to directly communicate and interact with consumers, while also gathering feedback and building a relationship with brand followers.
10. Instant Decisions
The next evolution of Amazon.com's one-click buying is automated purchasing that’s made by actual devices. For example, HP now offers printers that place orders when ink is running low. A pair of pants can’t order a replacement by themselves, but for many products automation will become integral to the customer experience.
The next years will see a continued evolution of the e-commerce and retail experience. Social and mobile will evolve and consumers will gain personalized experiences while still having control over their brand interactions.
Alessandro Armillotta is the CEO of NeWants, an e-commerce technology startup.
Related story: 5 Trends E-Commerce Retailers Need to Know for 2019