The E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2020

29 January, 2020

Brands By Amelia Erskine

A lot can happen in 20 years.

Something as ubiquitous as the payphone can suddenly become extinct. Ads can be replaced with conversations. A search engine can change the way the world works.

And an entire industry can expand from a couple of key channels to an explosion of 100+ marketplaces generating trillions of dollars in global revenue.

Still, when ChannelAdvisor was founded nearly 20 years ago, there was no way to predict just how much e-commerce was going to change. If someone had suggested back in 2001 that we’d soon live in a world where you can pay for items with face recognition and voice-assisted shopping, you might have secretly questioned their sanity.

Yet here we are two decades later, and the way we shop is still shifting significantly. We’re fresh from a holiday season of impressive online spending, at a time when worldwide e-commerce sales were expected to hit $6.25 trillion.

So it’s crazy to think that e-commerce still makes up just 14% of all retail sales.

There’s undoubtedly more industry growth to come. Which means that now more than ever, sellers need to stay future-focused.

And so, as we head into yet another decade of change, it’s time to consider the key e-commerce trends that have the potential to impact the industry in 2020.

Who will be the most influential forces of change?

First, there are the obvious influences: Amazon, Google and Facebook. These three giants will continue to play a central role in shaping the e-commerce industry as we know it, though in ways that may differ from years past.

To see what we mean, consider what’s happening with Amazon. Just as brands and retailers are becoming accustomed to approaching the marketplace giant as an essential channel for both sales and marketing — Amazon is now the third-largest advertiser in the US — and this part of the business is growing in the UK too.

From drone deliveries to an expanding air fleet to an enormous network of delivery vans, Amazon is no longer challenging the Google-Facebook duopoly alone. It’s fast becoming the gold standard for how orders are delivered as well, and is threatening long standing stalwarts like DPD, Royal Mail and Yodel — something that may have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago.

Meanwhile, Google is continuing to inch consumers further away from “I found it on Google” interactions toward “I bought it on Google” experiences.

And with Checkout on Instagram, Facebook is now letting consumers purchase products right within its mobile app in the US, it won’t be long before it’s available this side of the pond too.

What other trends will impact the e-commerce evolution?

While transitions among the “Big 3” are all important ones to plan for, they’re far from the only forces for change.

Within the realm of expanding e-commerce marketplaces, even bigger trends are unfolding. Shoppers already have well over 100 marketplace options, and that number will continue to grow. From new third-party marketplaces like Target+ to category-specific sites like Farfetch, brands and retailers will need to spend even more time deciding where to market and sell.

Other trends worth watching include:

  • Friction-free commerce: From mobile and social commerce to voice-assisted shopping, numerous trends are continuing to reshape selling strategies. Friction-free commerce is here to stay, which means consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to making purchases that are fast and furious, without roadblocks or delays.
  • One-handed commerce: As consumers continue to see more of their needs met within the same single mobile apps, 2020 will be the year to keep an eye on one-handed commerce — the rare but rising ability to search, discover and “tap to buy” while armed with nothing more than a single smartphone and one set of fingers. Google Shopping, Facebook Marketplace and Checkout on Instagram are already accelerating this trend, and similar advancements are sure to follow.
  • Fulfilment of the future: Behind virtually every evolving e-commerce trend is the fact that fast, free shipping is officially old news. The new norm will soon be automated home deliveries, Click and Collect will continue to grow in popularity and other omnichannel, data-fueled options for fulfiling orders far faster than the time it takes to wait in line or scroll through sites. Fulfilment of the future is here, and it’s rapidly changing where, when and how people buy.

These are just a few of the nearly two dozen topics covered in our white paper, 20/20 E-Commerce Vision for the Year 2020. Download it now for a deep-dive into the biggest influences on e-commerce, and to get ready for the year ahead.

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