Nine eCommerce Trends for 2020

Ron Dodby Ron Dod

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According to Statista’s worldwide eCommerce sales data, “In 2019, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 3.53 trillion U.S. dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 6.54 trillion U.S. dollars in 2022.”

With online sales skyrocketing across the globe, digital retail is becoming an exponentially profitable, yet increasingly competitive, industry. For sellers to maintain their audiences and continue to scale their eCommerce businesses, relevancy is a must.

As with everything else online, eCommerce trends follow the same pattern of one day something is in, and the very next, it is no longer fashionable. In the prophetic words of Grandpa Simpson:

“I used to be with ‘it,’ but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now what I’m with isn’t ‘it’ anymore and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!”

To avoid Abe Simpson’s fate, retailers must constantly stay on their toes, watching out for the latest eCommerce trends and adopting them as they gain significance so as to keep their company and products in front of the right consumers.

Following eCommerce trends cannot be a mere hobby for online merchants; it must be an integrated feature of running a digital store.

Moreover, each trend must be analyzed and adopted according to its potential for a company. That said, experimenting with various crazes can be risky business. Therefore, the changes made should always aim to improve the customer experience or outreach process.

With that in mind, there are a variety of eCommerce trends just over the horizon that retailers should be cognizant of come the New Year.

Ready to see how to get ahead of the game in 2020?

Read on.

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Google’s Smart Shopping Ads Drives More Sales

With the exception of the Nike’s and Louis Vuitton’s of the world, most retailers earn their traffic via organic and paid searches for specific items.

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It is for this reason that Google Shopping campaigns account for 76 percent of retail search ad spending and command over 85 percent of all Google Ads clicks.

Because of this, retailers have had to learn to master Google Shopping ads so that they could top the SERPs for relevant queries and drive sales. However, many of the tactics that retailers picked up in developing profitable Shopping campaigns many soon become obsolete.

With Google’s Smart Shopping ads, retailers can reach a much broader audience as these adverts leverage the entirety of the Google Display Network, the traditional search results, YouTube and Gmail. Moreover, Smart campaigns are wholly automated, thereby freeing up advertisers to work on other types of campaigns.

These Smart Shopping campaigns can help boost retail revenue, as well. As Google explains in its “Introduction to Smart Shopping campaigns” video:

“In early testing, advertisers who use Smart Shopping campaigns drove over 20 percent more conversion value at a similar cost.”

Additionally, a 2018 Google Smart Shopping case study found that this campaign type increased conversions by 17 percent.

Given the potential these adverts hold, plus Google’s continual refinement of automation options, this is one of the eCommerce trends that retailers should pay close attention to in 2020.

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Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) Become the Norm

In many ways, progressive web apps are the future of eCommerce.

These applications are essentially a mobile website that mimics the look, feel and functionality of a native app. Because of this revolutionary approach to small screen interactivity, PWAs are redefining the mobile experience.

Highlighting the technology’s growing popularity and practicality, major companies like Twitter, Uber, Instagram and others have all developed their own PWAs.

oscar mayer progressive web app

The reason why so many brands are hopping on the bandwagon is that a variety of PWA case studies have shown that this technology is a powerful force for increasing time-on-site, re-engagement, conversions and other vital metrics.

Because of how effective PWAs are at driving a variety of business goals, this is one eCommerce trend that cannot be ignored.

Therefore, retailers should seriously consider investing in building a PWA for their company. As ever greater numbers of consumers expect an omnichannel experience from online brands, PWAs will become a core component of that ecosystem.

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Increased Focus on Chatbots and AI

While some still struggle with handing over the reins to automation, those that bow down to our robot overlords in 2020 will live long and prosper.

In all seriousness, AI already plays a massive role in people’s lives today. From voice assistants embedded within mobile devices to 118 million smart speakers living in homes around the U.S., AI has rapidly become a revolutionary force in the online retail industry.

As far as eCommerce trends for 2020 are concerned, AI and AI-powered chatbots will only increase in prominence. As it stands, major players in retail already employ these technologies.

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For instance, Sephora’s chatbot on Kik helps to personalize shopping experiences while H&M’s chatbot aids shoppers in building stunning outfits. Similarly, Pizza Hut and Whole Foods social media chatbots enable hungry consumers to order pizzas and obtain healthy recipes, respectively.

Moreover, as HubSpot notes, “By 2020, the average revenue from messaging apps is anticipated to be more than $15 per user, driven mainly by chatbots.”

The usage of AI and chatbots allow retailers to reduce the demand on customer service teams and answer queries around the clock. Meanwhile, AI assistants can complete tasks that would otherwise require human oversight, thereby using marketing automation to a brand’s advantage.

While some eCommerce trends are brand new, others (such as this) will continue gaining steam in 2020 and beyond.

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Video is a Content Marketing Necessity

Building video marketing campaigns has become a core element in many brand’s online promotional efforts. While this will continue to be a popular strategy come 2020, all retailers will have to learn to integrate video content into their product pages as well.

As it stands, some retailers already leverage on-site video. However, over the next 12 months, this will become less of a luxury and more of a necessity.

When it comes to building better product pages, video content elevates the entire shopping experience by giving consumers a closer look at a product, thereby helping to info purchasing decisions in the affirmative.

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Additionally, given that consumers would prefer video content to learn about products, this content is nearly certain to increase conversions.

In fact, as is stated in HubSpot’s 2019 State of Video report, when consumers are asked, “how they’d most prefer to learn about new products or services – and video was the runaway winner. Over two-thirds (68 percent) said a short video would be best, way ahead of text-based articles (15 percent), infographics (4 percent) presentations and pitches (4 percent) eBooks and manuals (3 percent).”

Furthermore, a 2018 Brightcove survey found that 76 percent of consumers claim to have purchased a product after viewing a video. Among millennials, that figure goes up to 85 percent.

The bottom line here is that video content on product pages is an eCommerce trend that is here to stay.

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Augmented Reality Brings Online Shopping to Life

While the technology has been trying to find its footing for several years, augmented reality (AR) is poised to transform the user experience in 2020. In fact, it seems that eCommerce is the realm in which AR will find its home.

As is reported by Digital Commerce 360:

“A recent Vertebrae consumer survey found that 78 percent of people who’ve experienced AR actively prefer these virtual experiences over video content. When asked to create their ideal AR experience, more than half (57 percent) stated that they’d like to place items they are considering purchasing in their own environment. This was the single most popular response, outpacing AR games (45 percent) and Snapchat-style filters, lenses and effects (32 percent).”

Part of the reason that AR is apt for eCommerce is that it helps to quash the consumer’s concerns that drive ROPO (research online, purchase offline) as this technology gives shoppers a much closer, more realistic look at specific merchandise.

Moreover, brands as diverse as Sephora and Ikea have each implemented AR and increased conversions substantially.

When looking at the trajectory of current eCommerce trends, augmented reality is a feature that retailers should absolutely consider adding to their arsenal.

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The Battle Over Voice-Activated Supremacy Rages On

As mentioned earlier, there are hundreds of millions of devices in homes and people’s pockets that utilize voice-activated technologies.

Moreover, these devices are set to drive a considerable number of sales in 2020, making voice search optimization one of the most crucial eCommerce trends of the year.

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Backing this claim is a 2018 PR Newswire report that highlights data from OC&C Strategy Consultants, which shows voice shopping generating a staggering $40 billion by 2022.

So, how can retailers capitalize on this explosive growth?

Outside of optimizing sites for voice queries, building an Alexa skill is currently the most accessible option for retailers to break into the smart home assistant market. Moreover, when this strategy is partnered with integrating headless commerce into a brand’s marketing blueprint, retailers will be capable of efficiently managing this new channel (in addition to future channels).

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Topic Clusters (Re)Gain Importance

Every eCommerce business should have a content marketing strategy in place to help earn visibility in the SERPs.

However, remarkably few utilize topic clusters as an optimization tactic.

The topic cluster strategy, colloquially referred to as the “pillar-and-cluster” technique, came into existence back in 2017. Given its age, many are probably wondering why the heck we would be talking about it when discussing eCommerce trends for 2020. 

Allow us to explain.

This tactic places topics at the center of a content strategy, as opposed to keywords. Therefore, the topic cluster model is far more intent-based than other types of content marketing blueprints as the aim of discussing a particular topic in-depth is to resolve consumer queries.

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(Image from Hubspot)

The reason why this approach, which is closing in on three years old, will gain steam in 2020 is because of Google’s BERT update. Under the BERT paradigm, the search giant has altered its algorithms to better understand the language utilized in queries, and therefore, the user’s intent.

Therefore, content production and topic clusters will become a central focus of eCommerce content marketing efforts in the years that follow. Because of the fact that users frequently conduct in-depth research on their pain points and the products and services that provide solutions to those issues, focused, long-form content that contains concise answers is a must in 2020.

Moreover, by creating a series of pieces, each with a specific subject that relates to the overarching topic, retailers can create a net of content that speaks to user intent, reaches different points in the buyer’s journey and ranks well in the age of BERT.

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Multichannel Engagement

According to Statista research on social media account holders, “internet user[s] in 2018 had an average of 8.5 social media accounts, up from 4.8 social media accounts in 2014.”

Naturally, eCommerce trends show similar patterns in shopping styles, with consumers interacting with a multitude of different companies on different platforms.

Therefore, given the trajectory of online consumer behaviors, creating an omnichannel strategy that integrates various social channels and sales platforms like Amazon, eBay and others is a requirement for success in the decade to come.

To prosper with this tactic, retailers must not only maintain a presence on various platforms but create platform-specific messaging that is most likely to resonate with targeted audiences.

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For instance, while platforms like Instagram are most conducive to images and short videos, retailers might find that live-streamed, long-form videos perform better on Facebook and YouTube.

Find where your audience lives and aim to be omnipresent on the platforms where interested consumers reside.

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Customizable Products: The Next Big eCommerce Trend

Personalization is already a critical component of eCommerce marketing efforts regarding email, customer service, on-site experiences and other brand-to-consumer interactions.

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However, in 2020, the level of personalization that consumers will demand is set to hit a fever pitch with customizable products. As of now, the health and wellness industry is already speaking to this eCommerce trend with brands like Curology building customized product lines based upon the consumer’s specific needs and objectives. Similarly, personal care companies like Native employ quizzes to create custom products for consumers, stating:

“We’ll ask a brief series of questions to understand your personality so we can create a custom scent made just for you. Once you finish the quiz, your deodorant will be hand poured in our lab in the USA, labeled with your name, and then shipped directly to your door.”

In 2020, customizable products will see a substantial increase in popularity as shoppers will become capable of creating personally designed clothing items, laptops, scents, dishware and just about everything else for which there is demand for personalization.

What some retailers will foresee as the biggest hurdle to this eCommerce trend is the fact that personalized products will cost more than standard items. While this is true, there are plenty of consumers that are ready to throw their hard-earned dollars at something that they can call their own, unique, personal product.

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Moreover, personalized products will become a strong element in engendering customer loyalty. When a brand caters to a consumer’s precise wants and needs, those shoppers are more likely to feel a connection to the company. Additionally, when people spend the time required to personalize their purchases, they are more likely to convert as there is already an investment made in the merchandise.

In 2020, personalized products will be a significant draw.

Running a profitable online retail outlet requires keeping up with the latest eCommerce trends. Fall behind, and you are destined to be forgotten. As digital stores push their way into the next decade, employing the most popular tactics is a prerequisite for success.

While this list could very quickly change as the whims of internet culture tend to do, the key is to continually keep one’s finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the eCommerce industry.

Get to work employing these strategies to help position your brand as a trendsetter in 2020.

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