E-commerce is continuing to grow, evolve and disrupt. The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index forecasts a 12% growth in online sales, totalling an estimated £116bn by the end of 2015. Significantly, British people are the most frequent online shoppers in Europe.
In recent years, the e-commerce market has been volatile, fluid and unpredictable. The rise of mobile device usage has disrupted the retail sector by blurring established patterns of purchasing behaviour. Having first been confronted by showrooming (the concept of window shopping in stores but buying online), the industry is grappling with the reverse process, webrooming, which Forrester valuated at $1,200 billion in the US in 2012, growing to $1,800 billion in 2017.
Retailers, therefore, need to adopt effective and agile new strategies to seize new opportunities.
In the quest to stand out from the competition, brands such as Nutella, Nike and Coca-Cola have helped popularise personalised products. Why? Over the last few years, the consumer purchase path has shifted.
Previously, shoppers tended to go online to buy specific items. Today, e-shopping has become more of a leisure activity, where the consumer browses and compares products on offer, resulting in a regular shopper but irregular buyer. This can be a challenge for the marketer and new marketing initiatives are needed to achieve conversions.
Personalisation, therefore, means not just tailor-made products but also a strategy that includes customer service adapted to specific consumer behaviours, the personalisation of web pages and automation of what products to display according to user profiles and shopping history.
The growth of cross-border trade
Online retailers are looking more and more towards international markets, especially given the increasing growth of e-commerce in countries that were, at first, slower to embrace online shopping. The rise of mobile and the development of new technologies are breaking down geographical borders and accelerating the emergence of cross-border trade. The sales records registered during seasonal peaks have confirmed this. Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US, as well as 11.11, the Singles Day in China, have created colossal sales figures; 11.11 saw around $9bn in sales alone. This offers opportunity to UK retailers to embark on high growth potential markets such as China, Russia and Brazil.
The advantage of marketplaces
According to a report by the Ecommerce Foundation, retailers expect marketplaces to represent nearly 40% of e-commerce by 2020. Online marketplaces mean retailers can benefit from increased visibility and reach, including new audiences, at a low cost and with minimal investment. Moreover, at a time when comparison shopping engines are struggling, they represent a distribution channel independent of Google.
All of these new developments make the e-commerce business complex, fluid and technical. The new realities of buying and selling online make it essential to invest in the platforms, approaches and solutions to centralise, optimise and manage the distribution of product catalogues on ecommerce channels worldwide, with a single, user-friendly interface. It may be quick and easy to create an online shop but being visible and efficient is more complicated.
In our ever-changing industry, retailers need to stay ahead by investing in technologies, approaches and processes that bring control, insight and simplicity in order to work smarter.
Mickael Froger, chief executive and co-founder of Lengow