We know the world changed dramatically in 2020, but we decided to look specifically at how the pandemic has changed digital commerce.

Across online retail (B2C) and business to business (B2B) markets customers have made a dramatic shift to online buying. Digital sales increased by 42% from 2019 and more than one third of retailers now sell the majority of their products online. 

 

The pace of change

While online buying has been increasing for many years, the pandemic accelerated the pace of change dramatically. 

The number of ecommerce users globally increased by 9.5% in 2020, reaching more than 3.4billion. The trend is expected to continue this year with the figure growing by 10% year on year to 3.8billion. 

Businesses have launched new online stores at unprecedented levels, adopted new technologies, and tested new strategies. It has been a steep learning curve as they have discovered what their customers want from an online shopping experience. 

 

What we have learned about digital commerce in 2020

Speed is more important than ever – as we spend more time searching and buying online our patience with slow-loading pages is almost non-existent. 

Potential customers will abandon a slow site and might never return. Google has now placed even greater emphasis on page load times as part of the overall user experience. Google itself aims for a page load time of under half-a-secondso this aspect of site performance can’t be ignored. 

Online and offline service is a popular choice – ordering online to pick up in-store (BOPIS) or at the curb was one way grocery stores responded to the challenges of the pandemic. However it has been popular with almost every type of retailer with brick-and-mortar stores. This online-offline option grew by 67% year on year to Feb 2021. 

Our customers are mobile – mobile shopping has increased, and customers are making more purchases than ever on mobile devices. By September 2022, mobile spending is expected to account for more than half of online sales. 

To keep ahead of this trend ecommerce businesses must make sure that the mobile experience matches or is even better than the desktop in terms of speed, design, functionality and product information. 

While 63% of visits to ecommerce sites are currently via mobile devices they account for only 53% of sales, so work is needed to improve conversion rates. Mobile-first technologies like progressive web apps (PWAs) could be the solution and some say they will be the future of ecommerce. 

B2B companies must evolve – some B2B companies have been slow to adopt ecommerce as part of their business strategy. However, during the pandemic digital channels became the only viable sales option for someNow, almost nine out of 10 say that digital channels will be part of their future plans 

There is recognition that they will provide new and more flexible selling models such as subscription-based services and automatic reorderingYour sales teams can take a new role and add value by placing orders on behalf of customers on your ecommerce platform. Specifications, manuals and guides can be delivered digitally and marketplaces for resellers and distributors will help them to reach new customers.  

D2C selling and drop-shipping are growing – manufacturers and other B2B sellers that rely on wholesalers, distributors and retailers are finding the post-pandemic business landscape challengingSome have created their own direct-to-consumer (D2C) websites. If you already have a B2B ecommerce site then you can take some straightforward steps to sell directly to your end users. However, you will need to review your internal processes to become more customer-focussed and to empower your customer services team. 

Alternatively some manufacturers provide a drop-shipping service to fulfil orders made on retailers’ websites. Retailers can sell products online without having to hold stock themselves and manufacturers can take advantage of retail brands and channels to reach consumers. To create a successful strategy you will need to use your ecommerce portal to manage relationships with your drop-shipping partners and to have an accurate view of your inventory. 

Personalization expectations increase – as online competition increases personalization becomes an even more important point of differentiation. More than one third of shoppers say they want a more personalized experience although they remain hesitant to share too much personal information. Artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) will play an essential role in delivering world-class personalized experiences.  

AI allows organizations to provide personalized product recommendations, promotions, and content based on current trends and customer buying behavior 

Now that we have become more familiar with online buying AR can showcase products in real-world environments such as a virtual showroom or in a customer’s home or office for exampleTools like Adobe Sensei for AI and Apple’s ARKit for AR are already available for businesses that are embracing these technologies.  

Payment options provide market differentiation – businesses and consumers have become more aware of the need to protect personal information online and especially payment details. Online payment security and fraud protection are high on the priority list. 

Due to increased online transactions banks needed to respond quickly with new payment methods. For example SafetyPay provides payment options for around 3million customers that don’t have bank accounts. 

More flexible payment options offer greater choice and have been welcomed by shoppers and business buyers. These include buy now and pay later and easy payment in instalments froKlarna for example. Zero-interest financing and low-interest credit can make it easier for customers to buy. 

 

If you would like to know more about delivering outstanding ecommerce experiences in a post-coronavirus world speak with one of our experts.