In recent years, e-commerce has radically changed the retail industry and the FMCG world. This disruption was only accelerated by COVID-19. It’s not just the way consumers choose and buy goods that has changed, the e-commerce channels themselves are also constantly changing. In this blog post, we’ll look at the emerging trends that might cause even more disruption in the future. 

The growth of e-commerce is reflected in all the statistics, with COVID-19 accelerating the growth of online sales by between four- and sixfold. According to Forbes, global e-commerce retail sales will reach more than $3.4 trillion in 2025. These figures indicate that the future of e-commerce is bright, with no signs of growth levelling off. Research by the European Commission reveals the fastest growth to be among those in the 25–54 age group, followed by 16- to 24-year-olds. So it seems clear that no matter how big the market is today, it’s still in its infancy. 

Let’s look at some of the emerging e-commerce trends that Patrick de Vries, Manager at BearingPoint, discussed with me. Some are already part of our daily lives but will become more ubiquitous. Others are on the verge of becoming reality, and still others that will need some time to take root – but it’s good to know what’s on the horizon. 

Delivery drones 

Delivery drones will certainly be part of the future of e-commerce. Since 2013, Amazon has been developing Prime Air, its own drone delivery service, which it hoped would start operating in some cities by the end of 2019. In 2022, the project has still to be launched, although the Prime Air delivery drone fleet has received approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration, so it seems only a matter of time before we’ll see the first drones in the skies. The Global Drone Package Delivery Market Report estimates annual industry growth between 2020 and 2030 at nearly 54%. In addition, delivery services that use self-driving vehicles will become reality quite soon as well. 

Unified experience 

Another increasingly popular trend in the online retail segment is the unified experience, which means offering the consumer a more agile service through the integration of all your channels. Thus, physical stores, telephone or web services such as online chat are now fully connected. This allows the consumer to, say, purchase a product through the iPhone app, pick it up at the physical store and request its assembly over the phone. 

For all this to happen efficiently and effectively, the customer service team must be aligned with the multichannel offering and avoid communication failures or noise that could negatively affect the customer experience. However, to offer a truly unified shopping experience, it’s not enough to just connect offline and online; you have to offer the same experience through all sales and communication channels, giving the customer the option to consume when and where suits them. 

Social commerce and voice commerce 

Social commerce is rapidly increasing and should be a factor in any Unified Commerce strategy. Social media has considerably improved customer reach and sales performance for many businesses. Even a novice or inexperienced person can buy products quickly and conveniently on any social media platform. Channels such as WhatsApp, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok have developed purchase buttons and several other sales features to facilitate transactions. TV channels and video streaming services use QR codes to guide potential customers – using their smart tv set – to a purchase page. Regardless of which communication and sales channels are most popular in the future, one thing is certain: everyone will be connected, so social commerce will be an essential part of your Unified Commerce strategy. 

At the same time, the fight for auditory attention is just about to start. Global players such as Google and Amazon continue to expand their services from computers and smartphones to your bedside table. Interestingly, besides direct voice services, human voice services like Clubhouse are also gaining momentum. During the last six months of 2020, Spotify doubled the range of podcasts it offers. 

Various payment options and broadening cryptocurrencies 

Another clear trend is giving the customer several payment options, making the checkout process easier and more agile. People who use PayPal often prefer to use stores that offer it as a payment method, while others are more inclined to use Google Pay or Samsung Pay and want to see those as options. Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is one of the fastest growing payment methods and has all the necessary ingredients to become a keeper. The staggering growth of BNPL service providers such as Klarna and Afterpay indicate great potential, although stricter government controls could slow down their impressive growth trajectory. In addition, the rise of cryptocurrencies broadens the payment method spectrum even more. Earlier this summer, Tesla announced it will ‘most likely’ restart accepting bitcoin as payment for car purchases. 

Deliveries in 10 minutes 

The trend towards same-day deliveries is meeting the demand of the 'want it all and want it now' generation. They will often choose the supplier that meets their needs the quickest, forcing suppliers to adopt a totally different logistics structure. This includes using software that strictly controls stock levels and deadlines, decentralising distribution centres and allocating stock in smaller quantities at strategic locations. A great example is Gorillas, which promises to deliver groceries in 10 minutes. 

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