But, how much exactly has consumer shopping behaviour shifted over the past year? In South Africa, Mastercard conducted a survey with a sample of 1 000 respondents; 68% of which claimed to be shopping more online since the onset of the pandemic.  

On a global scale, e-commerce is just as popular. Oberlo estimates that by the end of 2021, there will be 2.14 billion global online shoppers

Here, media update’s Taylor Goodman unpacks five emerging e-commerce trends that marketers should be aware of.

Ready, set, shop!

1. Further QR Code integration

QR codes are creeping their way into the average consumer’s life more and more each day — and the retail space is no exception to its reach. 

But before we get into the application of these multifaceted barcodes, what exactly are they? QR (quick response) codes are “machine-readable optical labels that stores the information about the product to which it is attached,” according to Hackernoon.

*Image sourced from BigCommerce 

In a retail setting, QR codes have multiple applications — but let’s discuss packaging first.

As consumers, we love to see aesthetically pleasing and minimalist packaging. Enter QR codes — which allow for just that! “How so?’ you ask? When these barcodes are printed on packaging and a consumer scans it, they can view product details, usage instructions and even product benefits. Talk about being simplistic in the best way possible!

Another application of QR codes in the retail space is using them for cashless payments. In a post-pandemic age, cashless payments are becoming more common, as they encourage as little contact as possible in public spaces. 

This works by letting the consumer scan the code on their smartphone. Following this, a notification will appear with a link. The consumer then clicks the link, which leads them to a web payment form.

Retail stores integrating QR codes into its payment system is not only a cost-effective option, but it's one of the most secure. Additionally, it allows retailers to conduct multiple transactions at once.  

2. AR makes shopping more realistic

Do you ever wish you could virtually try on clothes or see what the coffee table you’re eyeing looks like in your lounge? Well, AR (augmented reality) makes that possible!

The integration of AR technologies into online shopping is another side effect of the pandemic, as people were hesitant to visit brick-and-mortar stores and preferred shopping online. 

Different types of AR tech, like Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) or Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM), are used in retail. They “enable users to see and interact with a product’s specific features” according to Faisal Galaria ,CEO of Blippar. 

This will supplement an in-person shopping experience and make it as realistic as possible for the consumer. This is expected to increase conversion rates for e-commerce stores and result in a lesser return rate. 

IKEA, a furniture and home accessories chain store, is a great example of utilising AR in the digital commerce space. Ever the trend setters, the brand first ventured into the AR space back in 2017 with IKEA Place.

*Image courtesy of Digiday.

This app allows you to place virtual 3D models of furniture in your space, allowing users to picture the pieces in their home before making a purchase. Pretty cool, right?

3. Chatbots are the future of customer service

These days, chatbots are everywhere, from Amazon’s Alexa to Apple’s Siri. In the retail space, they serve as little helpers, there to assist with all your customer service wishes. 

If you’re left wondering how this technology works, wonder no more! Chatbots are an AI-powered computer programme that “simulates human conversation through voice commands or text chats or both,” according to Investopedia.

These days, consumers know exactly what they want, and they want it right now. After all, 44% of United Kingdom consumers claim speed is the most important thing when liaising with a company. This was closely followed by convenience, at 39%.

For this reason, chatbots are the perfect fit for the e-commerce industry as they allow for an always-on, immediate approach. As it would be expensive to have human customer service agents working around the clock.

Aside from the 24 / 7 support these chatbots offer a multitude of other benefits for retail brands and customers alike, such as: 
  • personalisation: Chatbots gather customer insights from site visitors which allows the bots to offer more personalised recommendations.
  • product guidance: These bots can help customers navigate the vast waters of product catalogues — offering guidance on purchasing decisions or giving recommendations to suit the client’s needs.
  • better customer experience: As consumers are receiving immediate feedback on their queries due to the use of chatbots, they have a better experience with the brand. It is all about the customer journey!
  • enhanced productivity: As chatbots handle primary support requests, it frees up time for customer service agents to deal with more nuanced queries.

4. There are more payment options for all

As we’ve previously mentioned, the integration of QR codes in the e-commerce industry is a major trend for 2022. And this is an indicator that having various payment options will become more popular as well. 

Obviously, there are your typical credit / debit card payments, but more retailers are expanding their payment methods to include:
  • EFTs
  • Ewallet services like PayPal, Masterpass or Google Wallet, and
  • Mobile payments like QR codes.
Additionally, as the cryptocurrency scene continues to grow, this is also becoming an accepted method of payment. To make a purchase with crypto, it needs to be kept in a “digital wallet, either on a hard drive using secure software or online exchanges (e.g. Coinbase)” according to shiphero. 

To make a purchase, the consumer simply needs to transfer the crypto from where it’s stored into the vendor’s account. 

E-commerce retailers like Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce have already started accepting payments in crypto, so it is exciting to see how this will develop in the future. 

5. Let’s get personal(isation) 

If you want to be a successful brand, your customers should be at the centre of all your marketing efforts. This is known as taking a customer-centric approach — and at the forefront of this strategy is personalisation

As humans, we are all a tad self-involved. And when it comes to something as personal as shopping for yourself, personalised communications from brands are a major plus. In fact, of consumers are more likely to make a purchase from a brand that provides personalised experiences.

So what does this mean for e-commerce brands? Basically, the more meaningful your communications with buyers are, the better. 

In an age where consumers’ inboxes are inundated with promotional deals, your marketing efforts should be:
  • relevant to their interests 
  • including solid storytelling
  • making them laugh, or
  • offering a really good deal / incentive.
Following this approach will help you leave a lasting impression on the shopper and in time, help build brand loyalty. Showing your consumers that you care makes all the difference!

What is your favourite emerging e-commerce trend? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to learn more about how to dominate the e-commerce scene? Then be sure to check out our article, Five ways to boost e-commerce sales.
*Image courtesy of Pixabay