Statista forecasts a turnover of 343 billion euros for e-commerce in Europe this year – with a trend to rise even further. While national borders are becoming increasingly unimportant for online shoppers, demands regarding the user experience are continuously growing. We explain which trends are shaping European e-commerce this year and what successful retailers should pay attention to.
Cross-border purchases are becoming increasingly popular in Europe: On average, 40 percent of European online shoppers regularly order abroad – the numbers are increasing steadily. Yet, as cross-border shopping increases, so do the challenges for e-retailers. Here are the trends that you shouldn’t miss out on this year – as well as useful tips how you can make your business future-proof.
Success factor: User Experience
Who wouldn’t want to be spoiled when shopping – e.g. be greeted in a friendly manner and always well-advised? Who doesn’t want to feel comfortable during their shopping and check out with a basket full of future favs? Just a few years ago, the scenario described above was one of the main pros for stationary retail. In fact, however, global e-commerce is well on its way to taking the top spot away from floor trading.
Modern technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) provide retailers with the potential to offer customers individually tailored products in real time. On the basis of previous purchases, search queries on Google or visits to expert forums, merchants can adjust their offer uniquely to the respective (new) customer and can therefore make an impact on the decision-making processes in their favor. Technologically innovative approaches to customer advice and customer loyalty, for example through augmented reality applications, will also move into focus in 2020. Against this background, the optimization of the user experience using new technologies will become an increasing competitive factor.
Mobile first: Mobile Shopping and Mobile Payment
The smartphone is becoming increasingly relevant in European e-commerce. Mobile shopping and mobile payment rates are rising steadily. According to eMarketer and Kantar TNS, e-shoppers in Denmark and Sweden are currently the top performers in mobile payment in Europe. However, acceptance is growing across Europe, which is why merchants should keep an eye on their security infrastructure. Mobile sites and new payment methods must not only be accessible to their customers, but also secure. The technical requirements for recognizing biometric data, such as fingerprints or the user’s voice, are already in place. Retailers who meet the demand for simple and secure payment methods can score points and optimally prepare themselves for the future.
E-Commerce: Multichannel Strategies
In addition to the rapidly increasing use of mobile devices, experts are observing the disappearance of traditional boundaries between sales channels: Customers often use several channels for their purchases and usually take a situation-specific approach.
The mix of stationary and online trade as well as phone and online service is not unusual. This is where retailers benefit from a functioning multichannel or ideally even omnichannel strategy and approach. Retailers who want to gain a foothold in Europe should note that the European market is quite heterogeneous. It is therefore important to know local habits and to offer the preferred channels of the respective target group in the local language.
Sales Channels: Voice and Conversational Commerce
While social commerce, for example the use of social media as a sales tool, is not a new concept anymore, sales via voice guides and messengers are becoming increasingly important. Currently, so-called voice commerce via a voice assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Assistant is still a small business segment. However, the potential is real, as voice assistants are getting more popular in Europe. New devices with a display and of course the smartphone open up new perspectives. The screens could support the currently still quite difficult ordering processes via voice control.
Another sales channel that is gaining popularity is instant messaging services such as WhatsApp, which is widely used in Europe. Conversational commerce enables companies to contact potential customers in chat rooms and offer them information, advice and incentives to buy.
Augmented Reality: Raise potential, avoid returns
Besides AI and the active use of data, there is another trend that will shape global e-commerce in the future: Augmented and Virtual Reality. The merging of reality and virtual images as in Augmented Reality (AR) or the creation of simulations as in Virtual Reality will increasingly shape the shopping experience of the future.
AR is particularly interesting for industries whose products cannot be tested without costs for the customer or loss of value for the company. Since 2017, for example, the furnishing group IKEA has been offering the possibility of placing pieces of furniture virtually in your own home using its “Places” app. Another example is the cosmetic chain Sephora’s “Sephora Virtual Artist”. It allows users to try out different make-up products and entire looks using your own photo.
Both applications not only create buying incentives, but also serve to prevent negative customer experiences and costly returns. However, retailers should not only seek to lower return rates for pricing reasons. Dealers can use the improved environmental balance positively for their marketing purposes. For cross-border e-commerce, shipping and returns costs are even decisive for sales: the more likely the customer is to return goods, the less willing he is to order abroad.
In the e-commerce year 2020, the focus will remain on improving customer relations. The success of retailers will increasingly depend on the degree of digitization of their own processes and the related use of new technologies. Whether retailers improve the user experience through a cross-channel and personalized offer or put together secure payment options: In order to position oneself successfully in the market in the long term, retailers should not underestimate the potential of AI, Big Data and AR.