Covid 19 changed the world in 2020. And it’s not done with us yet. As we look ahead and consider what trends we can expect to affect our businesses in 2021, it’s as well to remember that none of us could have predicted the momentous effect that the Covid 19 pandemic has had. But let’s look at what we can see coming.
eCommerce will continue to grow
As we plan for a new and improved normal (vaccine-permitting), there is some solace to be found in the future for eCommerce. For eCommerce is one of the few winners of 2020. It has enabled us to socially distance. It has allowed us to buy what we need – food, medicines, exercise gear, Christmas presents, without putting our health at risk by shopping in store. It has supported our emotional wellbeing by giving us access to things that make us happy - bike sales for example have gone through the roof. For making all of these things possible even during lockdown, we are grateful. No wonder then that we can expect even more from eCommerce.
According to Statista, worldwide retail eCommerce sales have been growing significantly every year since 2014 and it’s not anticipated to stop until at least 2023. COVID-19 accelerated this growth even more. In a 2020 survey of decision-makers in Europe and North America, the vast majority of online business saw their online revenue increase after the spring lockdown 2020, with half claiming it grew 100% in a recent survey. With a new national lockdown already in place for 2021, expect to see revenue increases from eCommerce continue.
Augmented and virtual reality will up the game
There is loads of speculation on how innovative technologies enriched with AR and/or VR will be a game-changer in retail. AR (which superimposes computer-generated images on your physical reality in case you don’t know), has the ability to let customers try things on virtually. It’s already possible to see on screen what a shade of lipstick looks like on you and buy it there and then, as demonstrated by L’Oreal and Italian make up brand WeMakeup. This is set to expand into virtually trying on shoes or clothes. How much fun will that will be? According to a report from customer experience platform Narvar, the main reason consumers returned goods from retailers like Amazon , was the wrong size, fit, or colour. Imagine what virtual try on could do to reduce returns and increase customer confidence in shopping online?
AI is set to have a big impact on personalising the purchasing process in 2021. And, according to the latest research, is predicted to increase sales by 10%.
AI is going to help find your customer for you too. Intelligent algorithms will analyse current trends alongside your products, sales channels, customers and buyer behaviour to identify the best channels, time and price to list your products. This will save hours of number crunching, graph creating and report writing, and will help brands to accelerate sales and boost profits immediately.
Selling is getting social
Direct selling in social media is another strategy that’s on the rise. Facebook and Instagram are already at it, with more set to join the field. Buying directly from social networks is simply much more convenient, and the user journey is much shorter. That means less confusion and fewer abandoned shopping baskets.
In a 2020 survey of decision-makers in Europe and North America, 42% of respondents were either planning to start selling on social media directly or already doing it.
Robots and drones are the new posties
The new couriers may look a little less – human. A Technavio market research report suggests that the autonomous delivery market is poised to grow by an impressive USD 16.86 billion during 2020-2024. People want their goods faster and faster, so AI robots, delivery drones, and shipping vehicles have developed to keep pace. Amazingly, it’s now even possible to get your order delivered on the same day as order. And this autonomy is particularly helpful in these new days of coronavirus threat. Chinese eCommerce companies have been using robots to deliver orders in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus. And Chinese Delivery app Meituan Dianping has launched “contactless delivery”, whereby the brand uses fully automated vehicles to send groceries to customers’ homes in Beijing.
It’s not that far away for the UK and other countries either. Juggernaut of the eCommerce industry; Amazon, has put a new UK research team behind their delivery robot Scout. Currently on field test in the US, this small on-street robot is able to hand packages to customers with the help of human controllers. Amazon want it to be able to navigate residential streets and do this all by itself. So expect even more autonomous robot delivery in 2021.
Sustainability is a sustaining trend
It will come as no shock that sustainability is a trend that will continue to grow. That means sustainable packaging, sustainable logistics, proper consideration of your brand’s carbon footprint, just for starters.
A recent study found that 85% of consumers want to buy products that use as little packaging as possible or eco-friendly packaging material, and almost a third say they have stopped buying certain brands altogether because their packaging was not sustainable. It’s a message to businesses that they would be wise not to ignore.
Of course, eCommerce itself is more sustainable than physical stores, once you factor in the customers driving to the store, traffic congestion etc, on top of building the stores themselves. A recent study in the US found greenhouse gas emissions for eCommerce are 17% lower than bricks and mortar retail in a base case scenario. But your customers expect sustainable practices on top of that.
Recent research predicts that Recommerce or second-hand commerce will also see a renewed revival, with the second-hand market set to double in the next five years. This desire for sustainability over price will go beyond the likes of eBay and Gumtree into second-hand sales of luxury items. It’s a good opportunity for brands to develop their own individual recommerce marketplaces.
5G technology will speed up delivery
So you thought 5G phone technology just meant you could pick up your work emails quicker? Think again. This digital transformation has lots of benefits to improving ecommerce. Ultra-low latency supports the communication needed for autonomous vehicles. Plus the ability to network slice ie divvy up your broadband speed between applications, can improve efficiencies.
In terms of logistics 5G allows smart roads which speeds up delivery.
In a year when supply chain disruption thanks to the effects of Covid was one of the biggest factors in slowing business output, (57% of businesses experienced supply chain disruption in 2020), 5G will increase supply chain efficiency and we should see more of this in 2021. Your supply chain is only as good as your data and if your data is moving faster, so can your cross-border deliveries.
Shopping via the TV….
Seen an actress wearing a dress you like on the telly? Soon you could buy it. NBC has already rolled out shoppable TV ads that connect programmes to a mobile phone app, enabling viewers to purchase what’s on-screen. This technology is set to be incorporated into Smart TVs, so don’t let your teenagers loose with the remote.
….And smart speaker
In fact shopping is happening all over the house now. We’ve moved on from asking Alexa the weather or Siri to play our favourite tunes. Already 20% of us are using our home smart speakers to help us with our shopping – even if it’s just for making lists or finding out where our parcels are. But this figure is set to grow 52% in the next four years. Fashion group Very are developing shopping capability on smart speakers and many other eCommerce retailers are following suit.
Voice commerce is gaining popularity fast, as it expands the customer base, improves customer retention, and satisfaction. Voice commerce sales are predicted to reach $40 billion by 2022, according to data from OC&C Strategy Consultants.
If you want to be in on the action, it’s time to get optimising your ecommerce for voice search.
Smarter return solutions
The dreaded return. Whatever the reason – poor fit, damaged product, it’s painful to your bottom line. The return process sucks up time meaning the labour costs often exceed the original order fulfilment. Ouch. Which is why there is undoubtedly a trend towards increased use of return management software to help maximize efficiency. A smart return management solution automates some of the most intensive tasks, resulting in a more efficient operation for the retailer and a better customer experience for the shopper.
Though traditionally a B2C issue, returns are hitting the B2B market too as more B2B order are placed online. A study in the Netherlands showed the percentage of employed workers placing a B2B order increased from 39 to 48% in 2020 and is likely to grow again in 2021.
Interestingly, studies have shown free returns encourages higher basket spend amongst online shoppers, so it makes sense to for retailers to offer these. Especially as a whopping two thirds of customers say free returns are an essential factor in choosing their retailer. However, be aware of the dark side to free returns, as it heavily contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. The trend for easier returns looks like it will fight with the sustainability trend. We await to see which will prove the victor.
So there we are. Lots of interesting trends for 2021. Covid has meant many businesses are having to pivot quickly to stay profitable. If you’d like to talk to Omnipack about how we can help streamline your fulfilment and logistics and help you react quickly to whatever 2021 brings, get in touch here.