E-Commerce Shipping Company

As we leave the first quarter of 2024 behind us, I thought it high time to put out a trends article focusing on e-commerce. The online shopping sector is undergoing rapid technological changes, notably the practical and mind-numbingly rapid application of AI in how we, not only create online webstore but how we search for and shop on them. 

As with most shifts, these technological advancements represent both challenges and opportunities, enabling new ways to engage customers, improve supply chain efficiency, and offer personalised shopping experiences. AI is now being used to accurately forecast shopping trends for example, and AR is allowing customers to experience products in a whole manner of new ways before they make a purchase.

As ever, success in e-commerce depends on your ability to not just adapt but to innovate. 2024 is crucial for e-commerce businesses, as we’re seeing AI changing the whole landscape, making change more rapid than I can ever remember it. It’s fair to say that the next couple of years could shape the future of online retail for a decade to come.

Here are 15 trends you need to know about.

1. Artificial Intelligence and Personalisation

The conversation around AI has come a long way in the last 12 months and as we have collectively become more aware of what AI can achieve, consumers are now almost expecting businesses to utilise this technology in new ways to deliver better experiences. Almost a quarter of consumers believe that retail businesses should be using AI technology to personalise experiences

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the ability to help online retailers to deliver the increasingly personalised experiences that consumers are looking for. There are a variety of ways to personalise consumer experiences, including recommending products based on their purchasing or browsing history, serving targeted messaging on platforms they spend time browsing, and offering personalised offers and rewards.

2. Hybrid Commerce

For e-commerce businesses with both an online and physical bricks-and-mortar presence, devising ways to deliver a seamless customer experience between these two spaces is key to standing out from the crowd. Consumer preferences are increasingly fluid, and so the ability to offer a cohesive journey across digital and physical realms becomes not just an advantage but a necessity. 

One of the most straightforward ways to achieve this is to offer click-and-collect services, which allow customers to purchase online and pick up their order at a time that suits them from an in-store location.

Hybrid commerce also facilitates far richer data collection and analysis, enabling businesses to understand customer behaviour and preferences across different environments and touchpoints. This insight is crucial for personalising your marketing campaigns and enhancing customer service, both in-store and online.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is providing online shoppers with the ability to enjoy immersive experiences and make informed purchasing decisions. VR showrooms can enable shoppers to interact with products before committing to purchasing and AR technology can help shoppers to visualise products within their homes or even ‘try on’ clothing, accessories and makeup products just using their smartphone.

The rise of advanced, extremely realistic Instagram and TikTok filters highlights that the technology is already there to enhance the online shopping experience by providing more options for interactivity and engagement. This technology also has the added ability to ease any uncertainties or anxieties a consumer might have about making a purchase, particularly for high-value and/or large items, such as furniture and home appliances.

4. Managing Relationships with Customers

Consumers understand that businesses are using technology to deliver better online experiences, however it is also important to acknowledge that consumers are also still looking to support brands that offer a distinctly human touch at key points of the customer journey.

One of the best ways to strengthen relationships with your customers is to reward loyalty with a points program. In fact, three quarters of consumers actively prefer to support businesses that have a rewards program. As well as making purchases on your web-store, customers should be able to collect points online in a variety of other ways, including following your social media pages, signing up to your newsletter and referring friends.

5. Customer Support as a Priority

As consumers have become accustomed to personalised online experiences, a one-size-fits-all approach to customer service just isn’t going to cut it anymore. E-commerce businesses using data to refine their customer support services are benefiting from enhanced trust and brand loyalty that comes from making each customer feel seen and valued.

By viewing your customer support provision as an extension of your brand and an opportunity to humanise your business, you have the opportunity to positively impact your customer’s overall perception of your business. In addition to solving the problems your customers are experiencing, it’s important to solve those problems in ways that authentically reflect your brand values. Depending on your brand, this might mean adopting a very professional or a chattier tone of voice, or keeping communications to-the-point or providing more descriptive explanations.

6. Social Commerce

Social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok are making it easy for users to purchase products directly through the app, which is something that is particularly popular amongst younger consumers.

Social commerce strategies can help brands to connect with a wider audience online, boost conversion rates and increase customer satisfaction because consumers can both browse and purchase without needing to venture outside a familiar social space. Social networks also provide businesses with a wealth of user data that can be used to provide consumers with personalised recommendations and targeted ads, which can be used to deliver even more interactive and engaging shopping experiences.

7. Subscription Models

Subscription models are easy and convenient for consumers, which is why they continue to grow in popularity. They also offer predictable revenue on an ongoing basis and are suited to a variety of business models.

As more e-commerce businesses start to offer subscription models, it’s important to differentiate your offering to stand out from your competitors. There are a number of things to look at here, including offering better pricing options, ensuring that your delivery options are suitable for your customers, and personalising bundles based on consumer data.

Don’t forget to implement easy subscription management and cancellation options, too. Although you naturally want your customers to continue with their subscriptions, failing to make it easy for customers to pause or cancel their memberships will only create lasting ill-will and disappointment.

8. Headless Commerce

Headless commerce is an architecture that decouples the front-end presentation layer of a website or application from the back-end e-commerce functionality. This separation allows developers to use APIs to deliver products, blog posts, customer reviews, or any other type of content to any screen or device, while the back-end manages all commerce functions like payment processing, inventory management, and customer data securely and efficiently.

Headless commerce architecture can serve content to all front-end frameworks, which can be used to unify shopping experiences and create new sales opportunities. Crucially, this architecture ensures that ecommerce shopping isn’t limited to mobile, laptop or desktop browsing, as it can also support devices, including smart fitness watches and smart speakers.

9. Flexible Payment Options

Online shoppers want to be able to pay for their purchases using their preferred methods, which means that you need to provide plenty of options when your customers reach your checkout page. The most popular payment methods will almost certainly vary across different regions, so conducting some market research will be essential to ensuring that you are covering all the most popular methods in your chosen markets.

It will also be beneficial to consider allowing customers to pay in instalments, particularly using solutions that offer this service on an interest-free basis. By 2025, instalment payments are forecast to reach more than $650 billion worldwide, and will continue to rise thereafter.

10. Voice and Visual Searches

Smart speakers and digital assistants are becoming even more intelligent as technology develops, so it’s no surprise that one in every four people currently use voice search on mobile and 90% of consumers state that voice search is more convenient than text search. In order to capitalise on this increasing trend, it is important to develop a voice search strategy which leverages natural language patterns and long-tail keywords.

Visual searches, which involve using a drawing or photograph to search for information online, are also increasing. Investing in a visual search strategy can be particularly beneficial for e-commerce businesses eager to increase their online visibility and secure more sales because a consumer, for example, might take a picture of a pair of trainers they like and use a tool like Google Lens to find them – or similar styles – online.

11. Conversion Rate Optimisation

CRO has always been important to e-commerce businesses but it is becoming an increasingly game changing tactic. 

With the digital marketplace more crowded than ever, standing out to capture and maintain consumer attention is essential. Enhancing the user experience by making your e-commerce store more intuitive, and streamlining the path to purchase is essential to establishing this.

Secondly, customer acquisition costs have risen significantly. Improving your conversion rate is effectively a way of increasing your revenue without necessarily increasing your traffic and making your marketing pounds go further. 

Furthermore, the availability of advanced data analytics and AI tools has made CRO more accessible, trackable and impactful. Businesses can now leverage detailed insights into customer behaviour to make data-driven decisions, tailoring experiences to meet consumer expectations better and predict future trends.

12. Marketing Automation

Machine learning technology can help businesses to automate everyday marketing tasks and utilise data to create personalised messaging suited to each stage of the consumer’s purchasing journey.

Marketing automation strategies can achieve a variety of positive outcomes, including minimising cart abandonments by sending emails reminding customers to complete their purchase. These results can often be further enhanced by incorporating free shipping offers or discount codes as an additional incentive.

13. Free and Fast Delivery Options

One way to keep your conversion rates high is to provide your customers with a variety of shipping options at a number of price points. Online shoppers increasingly want their purchases to arrive in a timely manner, but cart abandonments inevitably rise when extra costs including shipping are too high.

Conducting some market research to find the sweet spot here will likely be beneficial over the long term. Offering a variety of shipping options, including both fast options that might cost a little more as well as free options that may take up to three business days to arrive, is key to getting sales over the line and keeping cart abandonments down.

14. Zero-Party Data

More than 85% of consumers want to know how businesses are using their data and want to support brands who are committed to keeping customer data safe, according to Cisco research conducted in 2021.

Zero-party data is information that has been directly collected from customers who have expressed their explicit consent, which provides the level of transparency that will satisfy both current and future data policies. There are numerous ways to collect zero-party data, including via polls and quizzes.

15. Sustainable Online Shopping

As consumers are increasingly looking for more sustainable and eco-friendly options when shopping online, e-commerce businesses would do well to start taking the steps necessary to reduce waste, implement sustainable processes and boost their planet-friendly credentials. As we move towards a net zero future these businesses will invariably find it easier to secure a competitive edge in what is a very fast-moving online landscape.

With damning research from Reuters, suggesting that more than 50% of green claims are misleading or deliberately vague, scepticism amongst consumers is growing. To avoid damaging your reputation irrevocably, it’s imperative to avoid greenwashing at all costs and ensure that every statement you make about your eco-friendly credentials can be substantiated by facts and data.