2013 has been a big year for e-commerce, with figures from IMRG Capgemini showing that the UK’s online retail sector will hit a total sales value of £87 billion by the end of the year, marking a 12% year-on-year rise.
With this growth likely to continue into the new year, James Hardy, Head of Europe,Alibaba.com, outlines the top e-commerce trends he predicts retailers will be embracing in 2014.
Shift to B2B
Historically, consumers have dominated the trend for online shopping, but a new study from Hybris and Forrester Research shows that businesses are now following in their footsteps and sourcing products via the web – creating huge opportunities for B2B retailers to move online. The study showed that 50% of B2B companies are currently selling direct to business partners online.
The researchers concluded that failure to embrace e-commerce could see companies suffering serious losses so make sure you factor this into your selling strategy moving forward.
Making use of big data
Many companies have been collecting data for years but are not necessarily putting it to good use. 2014 will see a greater number of e-tailers making use of this information to personalise their offerings to customers and predict market trends.
Tesco is a good example of a retailer making the most of big data to innovatively increase sales. It uses weather records and detailed sales data to help predict demand for certain products based on weather forecasts.
Thanks to the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets, more people now want to be able to shop using many different channels. A recent survey by SAP highlighted that three-quarters of shoppers think being able to use different channels cohesively is important. The research also showed that in just five years almost half of all purchases will involve more than one channel, with people using physical shops as showrooms, buying online and being kept up to date about delivery via mobile phone.
Tmall.com is an example of one retailer embracing multi-channel shopping and bridging the gap between online and offline. For this year’s Singles Day in China, Tmall extended its promotional activity to 30,000 bricks and mortar stores, encouraging people to visit the stores in the run up to November 11 to try out goods. They could then scan product QR codes with their mobile phones to add goods to their virtual shopping cart and automatically receive the appropriate discount.
In bricks and mortar stores shoppers can turn to sales assistants for help and advice, and they want the same level of service from online stores. In the coming year, more e-commerce retailers will be making use of big data to offer customers personalised suggestions, while others will provide 24-hour chat assistance to offer guidance to customers as they shop.
Take a leaf out of Amazon’s book – as well as providing phone and email help, it offers a chat service around the clock, seven days a week.
Crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are giving e-tailers the chance to tap into trends early and garner opinions on products before bringing them to market, meaning stores can get must-have products into consumers’ hands quicker.
The Dim Sum Warriors comic books and tsaiclip tie pins are two examples of products which started life on Kickstarter and are now stocked by retailers.
2014 is all about improving the user experience, starting with retailer’s websites. With increased competition, boring repetitive product descriptions and lacklustre images will send people running from your site, and possibly straight to a competitor.
Excusive, high quality and genuinely engaging writing, images and videos will help drive people to online stores.
Next day delivery
As the e-commerce market becomes more crowded, a growing number of e-tailers are likely to try and satisfy people’s desire for immediacy by offering next or even same day delivery. The Micros Online Retail Delivery Report showed that 68% of retailers currently offer next day delivery, compared to 61% last year.
Get ahead of the curve by improving your delivery times and setting the standard in consumers receiving goods ordered online.
Do let me know if you would like speak to James about his e-commerce predictions for 2014, or to find out more about Alibaba.com.