Allow me to take you back to the time when e-commerce had just begun making its presence felt. Retail outlets, window shopping, street shopping and going to the mall were the norm back then; what changed everything was the convenience of accessing a variety of things under one roof at the touch of a button.
Ecommerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart, Alibaba, IndiaMart and so on, not just domestically but globally, fit the entire world of necessities, luxury, and basic purchases into one screen. All these were byproducts of the introduction and easy access to the internet and smartphones. While some may believe that e-commerce is for those in metropolitan cities, the truth is that even our next-door ‘kirana stores’ have tried, tested, and adopted this concept either by being sellers on these giant platforms or by having something as simple as a WhatsApp group to take and deliver orders.
Consumers, thanks to e-commerce today, are spoilt for choice. It may be the Great Indian Sale or a Pink Fashion Sale, something as particular as the Black Friday Sale or just another festivity sale – both aggregators and consumers wait to make the most of it. This has essentially led to a mindset change among the masses.
The pandemic saw another wave of mass acceptance and adoption of the model. Be it food delivery apps such as Swiggy, Zomato or Dunzo which is a synonym for transferring products from point A to point B, the number of users on board grew multifold in 2020. This change in the bigger cities has caused a ripple effect in the smaller cities, towns, and even rural areas. The density of orders may not be as high, but the need for such business models is on the rise.
The e-commerce industry has been around for 30 years now and has seen huge growth in the last 10 years thanks to advancements in technology and the internet. Thanks to its easier accessibility, e-commerce is part of our everyday lives. The question, however, is where do we go from here?
The upcoming decade will be fascinating, mainly because of the open hands towards cutting-edge emerging technologies. Metaverse will redefine how we buy stuff online in the near future. We cannot discuss eCommerce’s future without delving into the debate — physical retail space versus online. Technology is constantly growing, and there are many factors that will ensure brighter and bigger e-commerce.
E-commerce is an extremely competitive industry. Every day, it gets easier to start your own online business, which is a great advancement for the economy. But it comes at the cost of higher marketing costs for the entire industry, which means a reduced return on investment (ROI).
This means that as we move forward, there will be more and more e-commerce businesses following similar marketing strategies with very little opportunity to differentiate from their competitors. Soon enough, online shops and businesses will have to focus more on retaining their current customer base and appealing to their needs than investing in finding new ones. Therefore, the future of e-commerce will evolve to become more customer-centric, focusing on improving customer services and the customer experience to optimize retention.
Optimize mobile ecommerce experience
Mobile responsiveness has always been important, but this year is different. An estimated 54% of total e-commerce sales are expected to come from mobile devices this year. It’s essential to make all e-commerce experiences, present and future, mobile-friendly with customer engagement being a core factor. Your e-commerce store could be getting between 70-90% mobile traffic. Naturally, you’ll want to convert those visitors into loyal customers, and your best chance is to create a mobile-friendly shopping experience. Here’s the thing, responsive design is only one aspect of a good mobile experience. A growing number of mobile shoppers expect a seamless and immersive virtual shopping experience using elements like precise location and augmented reality (AR).
The race to find new delivery systems
Despite the reduced costs of operating online, the cost of fulfilment has made even the largest players struggle to turn a profit. The retail winners of 2026 will be those that can get goods to consumers the fastest and most cost-efficiently. The largest players will invest in their own delivery systems in order to gain differentiation, as Amazon has already done. However, the use of drones and driverless cars for delivery will not be widespread by 2026, largely due to security and safety issues and added regulatory requirements. Concerns on this front will be a catalyst for investment in another model; for example, Uber-style delivery will reach the mass market. By 2026, though, the click-and-collect model will be well established at all the major retail chains in key markets, and the other winning methods of collection will be clear, so delivery service is unlikely to remain the key differentiator at the retail level.
E-commerce growth trends are already catching up to sales at traditional brick-and-mortar shops. However, shoppers aren’t ready to totally abandon the in-person shopping experience altogether. Especially when excitement can be generated around a limited-time opportunity. This presents pop-up shops, interactive kiosks, and multichannel shops as important pockets for online store marketing. E-commerce giant Amazon has jumped on the trend with Amazon Go Grocery. The popular pet subscription service BarkShop.com embraced the chance to bring its internet shop to life with a popup shop called BarkShop Live.
Beyond these, there are numerous other possibilities and combinations that will eventually disrupt the e-commerce space for the better, such as new marketing channels, voice search, automation, AI & AR, sustainability, subscription models, post-purchase experience and much more. It will be exciting to see what untapped potential e-commerce holds for the future.