The year 2020 changed so many things, for so many people. As a viral pandemic criss-crossed corners of the globe and COVID-19 began to claim more and more lives in more and more countries, people began to alter their behavior in a variety of ways. Some of these behavioral modifications were mandated by government officials, whereas others were initiated by people themselves in an effort to avoid contamination, sickness and death — and save their businesses.
Chief amongst these changes: People started staying home. A lot more. And as people spent more and more time in the safety and security of their own homes, their shopping and consumer behavior also began to change.
As many real-world, real-time challenges as the pandemic has presented to us all, so much of these consumer behavior shifts have been rather positive developments in the world of e-commerce. To say the least. Simply put: 2021 and beyond will see a continued shift in shopper behavior trends. The greatest gains should continue to come in the world of e-commerce — with emerging technologies helping lead the way.
E-commerce Surges. Amazing Leads the Way.
A pre-pandemic, early 2020 Ipsos report claims that e-commerce will encompass at least 22% of total global retail sales by 2023 – with industry titan Amazon.com, Inc. commanding a 45% share of the e-commerce market in the United States.
It’s safe to say 2020 has especially been a very, very good year for Amazon.
According to published reports, Amazon registered its most profitable quarter ever in the three months ending Sept. 30, 2020. Amazon’s North America revenue increased by 39.3% year-over-year, and its income from marketplace seller fees and other commissions surged nearly 55%. The company’s net income set a quarterly record at $6.3 billion — an increase of close to 200% from the third quarter of 2019 (aka pre-pandemic times).
The Rise of 5G
While COVID-19 will dominate any and all historical accounts of 2020, 2021 may well be remembered as a sort of watershed for…5G — the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. With 5G, large amounts of data can be transmitted more efficiently and effectively than 4G LTE, resulting in stronger network reliability, faster downloads and more “real-time” connections and transactions. As an emerging global wireless standard, 5G is set to enable a new kind of network that’s designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together — from machines to objects to devices. In so doing, 5G will also connect companies and consumers like never before. This sea change also stands to serve as a “rising tide that lifts all boats” for everyone operating in the world of e-commerce.
5G-powered phones have already become fairly standard across Asia. In 2021, the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and more will start to catch up to South Korea, China and Japan. According to data from CCS Insight, 60% of new phones sold in Europe and North America in 2021 will be 5G-focused phones — with that figure expanding to 85% in 2024.
5G will certainly impact the way Americans shop for and purchase items. It will make online and virtual shopping experiences far more lifelike than ever before. As the Ipsos report states:
“A whole service economy has sprung from technology that can link those who want something with those who can deliver it…Brands need to consider new routes to markets and be available in new channels that offer greater convenience and quicker fulfillment.”
Augmented Reality (aka AR)
At the forefront of our emerging virtual shopping revolution is Augmented Reality, or AR for short. From trying on clothing outfits to sizing furniture pieces, the transformative “almost like being there” capabilities of AR have the emerging technology poised to become a true “game changer” in the world of online shopping and e-commerce in 2021…and beyond.
In a blog post on bigcommerce.com, 1Digital Agency Director of Business Development Michael Prusich shared some interesting information around AR:
“Polls have shown some really powerful numbers in regards to AR too: 35% of people say that they would be shopping online more if they could virtually try on a product before buying it, and 22% would be less likely to visit a brick-and-mortar store if AR was available via their favorite e-commerce store. Some products and industries lend themselves better to traditional shopping methods, but AR is going to shake things up sooner than later.”
It's Not AR. It’s AI…
Not to be confused with AR, AI (short for Artificial Intelligence) is another emerging digital marketing trend — with an array of benefits to businesses. As AI and machine learning continue to expand, retailers can increasingly target and refine new ways to augment personalization and enhance customer service efforts.
AI also holds the potential to connect companies with customer data that includes real-time insights, automate tasks such as online “chatbot” support, optimize pricing, discounting and forecasting, and more. “Big data” will play an especially prominent (and big role) in creating and customizing these increasingly personalized consumer experiences.
The same Bigcommerce.com blog post quoted The Digital Outdoor Editor in Chief Ron Smith on the power and potential of AI moving forward:
“People want to know that brands care about them, and AI will be programmed accordingly. We have currently seen the opposite behavior on social media, where AIs learn from humans’ more negative remarks, but it’s highly likely that consumers will crave the impact. If bots can learn how to form sentences to convey an emotion, companies can soon teach them to offer comfort and products based on customers’ moods.”
We’ll Hear More from Voice Technology
The Bigcommerce.com blog post cited a forecast by Loop Ventures that estimates 75% of U.S. households will own and use at least one “smart speaker” by 2025 – quite the surge from the 28% of homes who owned on at the end of 2018. Google Home Assistant, Amazon Alexa (there they are again) and Samsung Bixby have led the early entry into this emerging technology, which is expected to seriously impact the way consumers conduct e-commerce searches and purchases.
The blog post also quoted Kensium E-commerce Solutions Director David Zimmerman, who predicted “More involvement of voice-enabled solutions in the commerce space with Amazon Alexa and Google Home.”
And according to the Ipsos report, “Amazon is also investing in voice technology, and this intuitive way to communicate voice commands for shopping is set to grow.”
A new report from Juniper Research entitled Smart Home Payments: Segment Analysis, Use Cases & Market Forecasts 2020-2025 is even more promising and detail-rich in this regard. Per this report, voice assistant-facilitated purchases by consumers are poised to increase 630% over the next five years — with voice purchasing surging from $22 billion in 2020 to $154 billion in 2025.
Surging Subscription Services
According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP), Amazon Prime subscriptions have grown by more than 14 million members in the U.S. since December 2019 – bringing the total number of Amazon Prime subscribers in America to around 126 million. Prime members (who are lured in by free delivery and an ever-expanding suite of multimedia offerings that come with membership) accounted for close to 65% of all Amazon shoppers in the third quarter of 2020. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners partner and co-founder Josh Lowitz:
“After several quarters of slower growth, Prime memberships picked up in the most recent quarter. COVID-19 likely drove much of this growth, with customers needing to order more items, more frequently, as they work and study from home. The annual growth rate in the base of members was the highest in four years.”
Subscriptions are another rising e-commerce consumer trend on the whole, and it’s easy to see why. In 2019, Amazon Prime subscription revenue totaled $19.21 billion for Amazon — and accounted for 6.8% of the company’s overall revenue. CIRP data also shows that 64% of consumers who sign up for a trial Prime membership convert to a paid membership. Even more convincing, 93% of consumers continue to pay for Prime membership after one year — and 98% stay subscribed after two years as Prime members.
While subscription plans allow retailers to better predict fulfillment needs and provide an edge in retaining customers over the long haul (thus increasing brand loyalty), the COVID-19 pandemic has consumers increasingly cautious about expenses — including subscription fees. So more than ever before, it’s vital to ensure your subscription provides real value and incentive for cost-conscious and cash-strapped subscribers.
Are YOU Ready for 2021…and Beyond?
As shopper behavior continues to evolve and e-commerce steps further into the forefront of these changes, are you doing everything possible to boost your brand and bottom line? Our team of experienced, in-touch professionals can help you adapt and pivot in ways that ensure your success in 2021…and well into the future.
Drop us a line today to find out how we can work with you to stay top-of-mind and front-and-center with the consumers of today and tomorrow.