For obvious reasons, 2020 was a huge year for ecommerce, as well as online communications in general.  According to Statista,  in June last year, worldwide retail e-commerce traffic hit a record monthly high of 22 billion visits.

In addition, Shopify reported that nearly 50% of customers surveyed by the Global Web Index said they would shop online more frequently, after the pandemic is over.

The survey uncovered a number of reasons why these shoppers, many of whom were new to the online experience, will stick with ecommerce:

So, as we begin a new decade (yep – any pedant worth his salt will tell you 2021 is the first year of the ’20s),  how will the e-commerce landscape change?

Will the brands that benefited from the pandemic consolidate themselves, grow and invest in being at the forefront of online? And how will the new kids on the block make a splash?

Amazon Will Still be Massive, But Vulnerable

It’s a one stop shop for everything, with a superb structure that means the shopper has access to reviews, competing companies and products, plus a checkout process that has been refined endlessly by the iterative genius that is Jeff Bezos.

Build, test, improve, repeat until perfect. And then improve again.

However, Amazon’s strength is it’s weakness. For all the process-driven perfection and the hypermarket structure it boasts,  it consequently cannot offer the individual brand experience that the customers can get by going direct to the brand itself.

Amazon is a wonderful search engine. I can find what I want, evaluate it and get the best price. But often I will then go straight to the brand’s own website to buy.

It’s often cheaper and, in my experience, the after sales service is better.

Once shoppers have done that a handful of times, they will head straight to the company website, where they’re greeted with open arms by a brand they are beginning to build trust and loyalty with.

However, not all agree with this prediction and analysts at Credit Suisse believe consumers prefer ‘multi-brand’ websites, as users don’t need to save as many passwords or payment details.

Different shoppers have different needs though. For some, the brand experience is worth more than the checkout experience.

Customers Will Become Even More Brand-Focused

Brands have been with us since the dawn of shopping, thanks to the Mad Men and their ilk.

But. as Marty Neumeier pointed out in The Brand Flip, customers ultimately define a brand, not the marketing department, and that instils loyalty in them.

So what about all those famous high street brands that got walloped last year? What will happen to all that goodwill and brand ‘equity’?

Ecommerce companies like Boohoo and Asos are wading in. These two online fashion behemoths have recently snapped up Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge, Warehouse, Karen Millen, Coast and Debenhams – something that would’ve seemed incredible only 12 months ago.

And that means these relative newbies to the fashion industry have access to loyal customers built up over decades.

….But Online Will go Offline Too

In a recent blog by conversion gurus CXL, they put out reasons why the Retail Apocalypse is not here. Yet.

There are still some facets of shopping that you just can’t replicate online. The multi-dimensional experience; touching and smelling the product.

Although they haven’t set up in the UK yet, Amazon’s ‘bricks and mortar’ shops, Amazon Go, are proving successful in the United States. How long before other brands do something similar?

Imagine a MissGuided or Pretty Little Thing pop up store in the Trafford Centre. Just because the brand matured online, doesn’t mean it can’t grow further offline. And we can see fashion brands viewing this as another route to market; mopping up those who are still to be persuaded to buy online, but want to buy into a fashionable brand.

Very recently, though, Asos purchased Topshop, yet declined the physical stores. Some in the industry suggest they should have kept at least a handful.

Anthony Parham of Imagination said they could have kept a flagship store open as “an experiential broadcast studio space for shoppable live streams, exclusive ASOS events and experiential exclusive products drops, giving ASOS a flagship physical brand home with a global reach.”

And who is to say that once the pandemic is over, many shoppers won’t pivot back to physical stores? Shops like Primark etc still had huge queues outside when the last lockdown ended.

Ecommerce is growing and taking a huge share of retail. They need a way of giving a more tangible shopping experience.

AR will transform online purchasing

Whether or not online stores will fully triumph over offline one is debatable then. But one thing for sure is that ecommerce will strive to become a more immersive, less one-dimensional experience.

Of all the evolutions occuring in the world of ecommerce at the moment, the introduction of augmented reality and 3D modeling to how we view products, and engage with online shops, stands to have the most immediate impact.

Ecommerce sites have used multiple picture galleries and even video to try to give the visitor the next best thing to actually holding a product in their hands before buying it.

The more a customer understands and can experience about a product, the more likely they are to proceed with the purchase.

With 3D and AR, a viewer can manipulate a product on screen; they can turn it round, upside down, zoom in, spin it, look behind it and pretty much any other way they can think of.

It is the most complete way of viewing something online. In some ways, it can beat purchasing in a physical store.

If you’re an IKEA shopper, you may already be familiar with augmented reality. Their IKEA Place app enables users to take a product and then view it in their home, positioning it wherever they want in a room to see how it fits in. Something it’s impossible to do while you trudge round IKEA’s endless winding road of picture frames and candles.

And it’s been incredibly successful for IKEA and well received by shoppers. Even Apple CEO Tim Cook said the IKEA app was “the future of shopping”.

Ecommerce companies who have made the leap have seen it transform their sales, particularly given the pandemic situation and we can see this rolling out across many sectors, including those where bigger more complex items must be purchased remotely.

At The Artlab we have worked hard to put together a leading augmented reality offering and believe we are one of the few UK providers who can offer a full start to finish service.

More customisation

Who gets their birthday cards off the shelf these days? Well I do, but that’s because I’m a last minute shopper. However, for years people have been buying cards that they can personalise from companies like Moonpig, Etsy etc.

Amazon, as you’d imagine, offers customisation on a whole range of products with their Amazon Custom section – toys, golf balls, decanters….anything!

Now the big brands are getting in on it. Nike have gone all out with their Nike By You range. The growth of 3D printers, along with developments in augmented reality, are helping shoppers design their own custom products. A gift, designed by you and built by your favourite brand.

Can we help you smash your sales targets?

Over the last 12 years, The Artlab has helped businesses like yours not only take their first steps into e-commerce, but to repeatedly smash through their sales targets, year after year. With a team of multi-platform experienced developers and a results-focused digital marketing team, we can do it for you too. Give Rick a call on 0161 974 0975 for an informal chat about your next eCommerce project.