The COVID 19 pandemic has continued to drive growth in European online commerce in 2021. Due to restrictions in public life, consumers have massively adjusted their shopping behavior since the start of the pandemic – and bought even more items online than they had already done before. This development offers international retailers attractive growth potential. We give you an overview of which e-commerce trends you should keep an eye on in 2022.
European online retail on course for growth
The e-commerce sector in Europe grew strongly in the first six months of 2021 – with sales figures rising by up to 23.2 percent. Sales were already disproportionately high in the same period of 2020 due to the Corona effect. In view of this development, the sales mark of 100 billion euros could be exceeded for the first time this year, according to the Bundesverband E-Commerce und Versandhandel e.V. (bevh).
What is particularly striking is the fact that, despite the relaxation in stationary trade, the growth trend in online trade is unbroken. Customers have come to know e-commerce as a reliable partner in the pandemic and uses it even more naturally than before. Above all, European platforms such as OTTO, Zalando or Joom crystallized as safe havens.
E-commerce trends in Europe
However, in addition to the enormous potential, the challenges for retailers that want to enter new markets in Europe are also growing: While national borders are becoming increasingly unimportant, demands concerning the user experience are rising continuously. As a result, it pays off for international retailers to get to know, support and advise their customers comprehensively. In addition, it is important to tap into new buyer groups and leverage the potential that lies dormant here: In addition to still reticent, older consumers who are only slowly turning to e-commerce, retailers should also intensively target so-called one-time buyers.
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To tap the full potential of the European market, retailers should also keep an eye on the following developments in order to secure a profitable place in the market in the long term:
Sustainability in e-commerce
The issue of sustainability remains extremely relevant for retailers, and the pandemic and global climate crisis are making it increasingly important. According to the results of a study conducted by the University of Saarland, it is important to around 77 percent of respondents that products used do not harm the environment. Almost 67 percent of the study participants said they would prefer more sustainable products when shopping in the future – even if they had to pay more for them. Younger people in particular pay attention to environmental compatibility when making purchases.
Against this background, retailers are well advised to avoid unnecessary plastic and oversized outer packaging and to rely on recyclable packaging. Retailers who have already switched to environmentally friendly packaging should communicate this to their customers. This creates transparency and trust, as well as an enormous competitive advantage.
Best practice examples can provide impulses as to which efforts in this regard are already being realized in European e-commerce.
M-Commerce & Co: Using communication channels
In addition to the rapidly increasing use of mobile devices for online purchases, industry experts observe that customers – especially the Millennial generation – are increasingly using multiple channels for shopping. In doing so, they are taking a situation-based approach. Their credo: They want choice and flexibility – retailers should meet these wishes and offer a mix of brick-and-mortar, online retail, and mobile services.
Providers who are present on the relevant digital channels can address their customers where they feel most comfortable. In doing so, companies should make effective use of existing data and personalize the approach.
AI in e-commerce: using digital technologies to increase customer satisfaction
Speaking of personalization: A friendly greeting and personalized advice – just a few years ago, these were the most important benefits of brick-and-mortar retail. Nowadays, online stores are also capable of this: digital technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) make it possible to offer customers individually tailored merchandise offers in real time. The latter, in particular, has a key role in this context. This is also confirmed by Divante’s Global E-Commerce Trend Report 2021.
With the help of AI, companies are able to optimize the user experience of consumers and thus gain a competitive advantage. The easiest way for online retailers to benefit from AI is through chatbots. They enable customers to communicate with a virtual employee via interfaces such as Facebook Messenger or Alexa.
In addition, innovative approaches such as augmented reality are also coming into focus. And that is not only because the convenience for consumers increases when they can virtually place sofas or TV sets in their own homes. Studies also show that the use of augmented reality can effectively reduce conversion rates.
Voice commerce as a success factor – when the user experience is right
What once sounded like science fiction is already part of everyday life in many households: the use of voice assistants. Voice commerce in particular offers real potential in the wake of the current online shopping boom. A recent study conducted by OMD Germany, a communications, advertising and marketing services group, found that more and more people are gaining their first experience of shopping by voice control via smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant: 28 percent of intensive users and 17 percent of occasional users have already made use of v-commerce in 2021. But the survey also revealed that the experience has to be right! If you approach users with an immature user experience, you risk losing them for further purchases.
Social commerce indispensable especially for young target group
Social commerce – the direct sale of products via social networks such as Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok or Twitch – offers retailers the opportunity to address their customers directly. While social commerce has long been successfully established in the USA and Asia, European social commerce is still in its infancy – and offers companies enormous growth potential: in 2021, one in five Germans has already shopped via social media, and a total of 42 percent of respondents can imagine doing so.
The largest shares of social shoppers have so far been secured by Facebook (54 percent), Instagram (36 percent) and YouTube (40 percent), according to the results of a recent study by the international market research company YouGov. Social commerce is particularly popular among millennials and Generation Z.
Score with influencer commerce
However, the big trend for 2022 is influencer commerce. This involves selling products directly via the social media channel of high-reach influencers. Discount campaigns that encourage people to buy have proven to be particularly successful. Companies have responded to this trend in recent years by intensifying their cooperation with influencers and have once again allocated more budget to influencer marketing in 2021 – and the trend is continuing to rise.
E-commerce in Europe: seizing opportunities, meeting rising customer demands
In addition to these developments, the focus of retailers should be on improving the user experience: European consumers want to be served individually – preferably across channels and in real time. Providers must inevitably adapt to these rising demands. To do this successfully, they should rely on new technologies such as AI and big data,and build up expertise in the profitable use of data. Particular attention should be paid to the young target group, as they are the purchasing power of today and tomorrow. But there is also great potential in the target group of best agers, which companies should not leave untapped.