Before the advent of the internet, you’d have to commute to a brick-and-mortar store in-person, meet and talk to the salespeople in the flesh, and analyze the goods yourself before making any purchasing decisions. Now, you’re able to visit a cyber-store like you would a regular website, have the store’s product offerings show up for you on the screen, and then make only a few clicks before your order is ready to be shipped out and delivered to your doorstep.
With the way shopping online is ingrained in our lifestyles today, it’s hard to imagine that e-commerce wasn’t always mainstream. When the World Wide Web arrived in the early 1990s, some of the first virtual marketplaces to take form were the ever-popular eBay and Amazon online shopping platforms. Since these sites were a novelty, people were really only using them to buy limited-edition products and collectibles and not so much depending on them to buy just about anything essential and non-essential.
The spike in the popularity of e-commerce in recent times can be attributed to the global pandemic. In the US alone, e-commerce grew by 44% and represented more than 21% of the total retail sales in 2020, the year the world was hit by the widespread contagion. During the pre-pandemic era, only a handful of stores also offered their services online, but more retailers since they were forced to turn to e-commerce in the hopes of keeping their business from dying out. This is exactly why right now it’s pretty difficult to tell apart purely internet-based retailers and traditional stores with a virtual portal as well.
It’s unlikely that online shopping will completely replace in-person shopping in physical stores anytime soon, but one thing’s for sure; e-commerce is now a norm. The pandemic forced an undeniable shift in the consumer mindset. Parallel to people becoming more used to the higher levels of perceived convenience during online shopping, they’re also growing a lot less patient when it comes to customer service.
To accommodate changing shopper attitudes, businesses are scrambling to look for ways to create more personalized and engaging online shopping experiences for their clients. As a result, e-commerce is constantly evolving, and a few emerging trends are projected to change the trajectory of the virtual retail market as we know it now. Let’s take a look at what they are!
Customer Data Analytics
In a virtual store, there’s really no salesperson to hover around you and help you pick out items they think you’ll love. You’re entirely on your own to select a product at your own discretion. In cyberspace, however, market research analysts are constantly observing consumer behavior patterns, which allows businesses to plan their future advertising and promotion strategies based on general trends.
On an individual level, as you shop online, the store records your stylistic choices and taste across different modalities like color, design, and more. It is then in a better position to recommend to you products based on your preferences, a task a salesperson would have been doing otherwise in a physical store.
Emphasis on Smartphones
Revenue generated by smartphone purchases is expected to exceed 400 billion US dollars by 2024, which is nearly double the amount for the projected revenue for 2021. Our smartphones are portable devices that we can use anytime, anywhere. Of all the orders made online, more than half of them represent the purchases made via a phone.
The increasing trend for buying through smartphones in place of personal computers has given rise to a need for mobile-friendly virtual platforms. Stores are trying to create such a version of their official websites, on top of looking into creating their very own phone applications. An app allows people greater accessibility and better price comparisons and a more personalized shopping experience.
Shopping through Social Media
On any given day, billions of people log into their personal social media accounts on a number of different platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and countless more, all of which make for great marketing tools. A business using these platforms to connect with their target audiences and maintain an online presence is nothing new, but their utilizing these very portals as virtual storefronts sure is.
In recent times, there have been growing instances of businesses using their social media for direct sales. Such an arrangement makes the shopping experience simpler for their clients, allowing them to browse through the store’s product offerings and make purchases in fewer steps.
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