E Commerce 2022: Trends and Outlook
The rise of digitalization and the pandemic repercussions are having a major impact on shopping behaviour. Although complete lockdowns fortunately seem to be over, ongoing news about increasing infection rates and the thought of crowded streets on Saturday mornings make online shopping even more attractive. The e-commerce industry is booming and this development will continue even after the sanitary crisis.
According to the bevh (German mail order & e-commerce association) recorded a growth rate of 14,8% in Germany in the third quarter of 2021, which makes it the fastest growing quarter in the past 5 years. The winning sectors are food, DIY products and floristry, leisure articles, drugstore products, shoes and clothing, furniture, medicines, pet supplies and books.
However, the competition on the market has been increasing because of new arrivals. It is therefore more important than ever for online-shops to invest in their branding and to provide the most interesting and accessible shopping experience for their customers. It is the perfect moment to rethink the online activities of your company and to benefit from the new opportunities of the rising e-commerce sector!
Global movements such as Fridays for Future and the increasing concern for the climate change have significantly raised awareness for sustainability and environmental protection. Delivery routes, shipping and packaging materials are especially for online-shop a major environmental issue. But there are definitely solutions: boxes made of recycled, biodegradable materials and product packaging made of paper instead of plastic significantly reduce the environmental impact and also send a strong message to the buyers. Some online-shops guarantee climate-neutral shipping or offer the option to pay a small contribution as CO2 compensation. Moreover, consumers increasingly appreciate parcels with particularly little packaging material. They also tend to be willing to wait a little bit longer for a delivery to make sure that all items can be sent in one single parcel.
Sustainable supply chains and fairly produced goods also gain importance and manufacturers are increasingly inclined to expand their production in Europe. This also has practical side effects: during the first months of the pandemic, there were some delays in the supply chains, especially for items produced in Asia while local production was less affected by this global development.
2. Chatbots and all-round service
Even if physical contact is missing when shopping online, consumers still enjoy a personal approach. Chatbots - integrated, AI-driven chats that allow customers to communicate in real time are the latest trend. These tiny, virtual shopping advisors can provide information about product details, answer questions or even make recommendations.
Moreover, many customers are more likely to seek help this way as they feel less intrusive. After all, questions are answered by Artificial Intelligence and not by an overloaded call centre. Of course, this does not replace personal customer service for complex problems. However, chatbots are a good extra help for small concerns, have no business hours, but are available 24/7. Sounds like a perfect service-concept!
3. Social commerce
The same idea applies to social media: even if physical contacts are only possible to a limited extent, personal contacts and sense of community are part of the shopping experience for many customers. Especially in times of social distancing, personalized offers are gaining in importance. This way, companies can create close relations with the customer, present their brand on various channels and keep on communicating with clients. Interactive elements such as shared hashtags and raffles help to establish a continuous exchange with customers. Cooperations with influencers can also help this development. Sponsored posts, livestreams, invitations to events, etc. provide interesting and diverse contents. There is also the option of integrating the online shop directly into the company profile. This creates a new sales channel and users do not even have to change platforms to order!
4. Hybrid Commerce
Creativity and adaptability have always been important assets for companies. Many local businesses are now adopting an omnichannel strategy for example with newly established online shops, delivery offers or click & collect systems. This makes it easy for customers to reserve items from their local retailer online and then pick them up in the closest shop.
So why not try something new and build a second sales channel? This might be the perfect moment to create an online shop or a linked social media account with a direct purchase option.
5. Mobile payment methods
Secure payment and mobile payment methods make order processing easier for customers. Only 26% of purchases in Germany are still paid by invoice. Why? In order to pay an invoice, the customer has to transfer the amount himself. As we all have so much on our mind and so many bills to pay, this one piece of paper can easily get lost in our everyday life.
Online payment methods are faster and less complicated: once the account has been created with the payment service provider, it can usually be used for different shops. More and more consumers prefer using online payment methods such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal. Although PayPal incurs additional fees for the seller, buyers appreciate the uncomplicated, reliable payment processing with buyer protection. Especially for small shops with few references, this can help to build trust with customers.
6. Storytelling and content marketing
Successful storytelling and brand communication are crucial to stand out from the competition. Customers now want even more to identify themselves to the products or the brand, which they buy. Interesting, varied and original editorial texts with background information or short stories attract the customer's attention and interest. This is a good way for companies with a lot of competition to make a real difference. Furthermore, storytelling is a perfect tool to highlight values and unique of the company. An article, a video or an interactive graphic on the product´s origin can provide transparency and convince consumers of a sustainable strategy. A blog within an online shop can also be an important source of content.
7. Mobile Commerce
As long as you have access to the internet and a mobile device, you can really shop wherever you are. This accessibility is one of the major advantages of online-shopping. Ordering via smartphone is even more flexible. In 2021, the smartphone became for the first time the favourite shopping device, outpacing the laptop. It has been followed by desktop PCs, tablets, and at the last place voice assistants such as Google and Alexa, which will certainly gain in importance in the future.
In a nutshell, this means that it pays off for online retailers to invest in a convenient online-shop that also provides a special user experience on both smartphones and other devices.
8. Shopping without borders
For most people, the past two years have not exactly been about travelling. Uncertainties in planning and potential risks due to the pandemic definitely discouraged most Europeans to travel. Therefore, online shops that offer products unavailable in people’s native countries are more interesting. Travelling will certainly increase again in the coming years but so will the desire to shop for special products. For this reason, it is important to grow your business beyond borders and to consider internationalising your online-shop to be well-prepared for a more global and digital future.