E-commerce has revolutionized the way we shop forever. Today, you can buy almost everything online – from essentials to luxury cars, as brands embrace digital retail in hopes to succeed in the post-pandemic world.

Data indicates that e-commerce accounts for over 14% of worldwide retail sales, and this figure is estimated to reach 22% by 2023. COVID-19 has further pushed the move towards digital retail with governments shutting stores worldwide and restricting individual movement to flatten the curve. However, this is not a short-term trend. More people have tasted the convenience and comfort offered by online shopping during this period, which is likely to cause a permanent behavioral shift towards digital retail for many shoppers.

Customer Experience data - Worldwide ecommerce sales chart
Image Source

Undoubtedly, the world of e-commerce is full of opportunities, and brick and mortar stores are increasingly moving online to cash on this trend. However, increasing opportunities also mean increased competition – which means you need to work harder than ever before to retain your customers and gain new ones.

It’s go digital or face demise in a post-pandemic world

That’s also why monitoring e-commerce trends is more important than ever before to ensure your digital experiences are up-to-date and relevant. Besides developing a solid customer experience strategy, you must observe and analyze various trends in the e-commerce industry and adopt them in due course to take your brand forward.

Let’s look at  five e-commerce trends for 2020 (and leading into 2021) that you need to catch up with or risk lagging behind your competitors:

1. Customers Prioritize Experience Over Product or Service

Customer experience is the new battlefield of e-commerce. According to Gartner, most executives believe they’d be competing on customer experience alone in the very near future. But does your customer experience match your customers’ expectations?

To start with, it is vital to understand what customers want from e-commerce brands. Detailed product pages, real-time support during shopping, fast and efficient deliveries, and hassle-free returns are just the basics of good e-commerce customer experience.

What extra can you do to connect with your target audience better?

Let’s start with your customer service – which is the cornerstone of your customer experience. Many shoppers prefer e-commerce sites that offer live chat support to answer their queries while shopping on the site.]

It is also vital to focus on omnichannel experience over multichannel. Today, consumers switch between multiple devices regularly. I may like a pair of shoes on your mobile app and decide to check them out later on my PC in the office. When I visit the site during lunch, I like another pair and decide to compare the two when I get home. Finally, I open my tablet to complete the purchase at night, but I find myself logged out of the website. Do you think I would go through the pain of logging in again and finding the pair of shoes?

That’s why it is essential to make sure your site is not only responsive but also offers a connected experience across devices to make the shopping process more comfortable. The same goes for customer support, which should be consistent across devices and platforms.

2. Hyper-Personalization will Become Crucial

Customer experience trends - personalization data
Image Source

In 2017, in a study carried out by YouGov, it was found that 43% of the surveyed consumers were comfortable sharing personal data if it meant additional savings through personalized promotions or discounts. 39% of users also agreed to share data for faster problem-solving.

Indeed, customers are increasingly getting wary of senseless emails and promotions. They want brands to reach out to them with personalized emails and product recommendations based on their past shopping behavior (just like the product suggestions thrown up by the e-commerce king, Amazon).

Shoppers are comfortable sharing personal data if it enhances the customer experience

But how can you achieve such a high level of personalization? The answer is data. Using proper technology, you can identify customer pain points and expectations from their buying habits and interactions to offer highly personalized services.

For example, you can use an analytics-based tool on your site to track and collate user activity on every device and touchpoint. This will tell you what content they viewed, which sections they skipped, where they spent extra time, etc. Based on this information, you can create personalized marketing messages and offers to improve engagement and retention.

You can see such personalization in several industries today. For example, on the Lego Facebook page a digital assistant asks you several questions before suggesting the right Lego product for your requirements.

Customer experience - Lego Facebook chatbot
Image Source

3. Increased Usage of Voice Assistants for Shopping

Voice assistant technology has been widely adopted, with the Amazon Alexa Skills marketplace having over 100,000 skills to choose from currently. Especially in the last couple of years, voice assistants have become extremely popular, with 72% of people (who own such devices) using them daily.

But what does this mean for your business?

Simply put, voice-based assistants give you another platform to connect with customers and improve their shopping experience. For example, Domino's allows customers to order and customize their pizzas through its Amazon skill. Consumers don’t need a saved account with Domino’s. They just have to use the phrase ‘Alexa, open Domino’s’ to customize and submit their order.

You can try something similar for your site by building an Alexa skill for your business with a platform like Blutag that provides simple integration with existing eCommerce platforms in a no-code development environment.

4. Increased Preference for Chatbots

Automation is the key to success in the future, which is why chatbots are getting popular, especially in customer service, to make the process more streamlined and cost-efficient. Modern chatbots can answer up to 80% of straightforward or repetitive queries without human assistance. This reduces your team’s workload, leaving them free to solve more complicated questions and innovate for the future.

For customers, chatbots provide 24/7 service and instant query resolution by directing them to relevant FAQs or connecting them with live agents for complex concerns.

Chat-bots can bring together personalization, customer service, and automation for a world-class customer experience

Chatbots can also drive hyper-personalization by evaluating thousands of customer touchpoints for deep behavioral insights that can be used to develop highly targeted marketing messages.

During the ongoing pandemic, chatbots have also helped in lead generation by capturing user information 24/7. Many companies use bots for pre-qualifying leads through a set of pre-decided questions to determine user intent and move them along the sales funnel.

If you still haven’t caught on to this trend, start by building a basic chatbot from the several free platforms available. To skip this hassle, integrate with Acquire’s chatbot and get started now.

5. Drive More Transparency in your Transactions

Sprout Social did some research to determine that 86% of consumers prefer brands that are honest, while 83% want them to be friendly in their social media communications.

Customer experience consumer behavior expectations
Image Source

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn – people love to hang out on these sites and learn more about their preferred brands, which calls for a well-thought-out social media strategy. One good idea is to organize giveaways and competitions to engage your user base on Instagram and Facebook. You may also ask happy customers to share video testimonials on your social media handles for honest publicity and reviews. Of course, what you choose to post will also depend on the type of product or service you offer and the platform you are posting on.

Besides posting on social media, it is always good practice to respond to user queries and comments on your social handles to come across as a caring and responsive brand.

Changing consumer behavior and preference for digital retail, further shaped by the pandemic, have created many opportunities in the e-commerce world. However, larger players have already set consumer expectations to a certain level, and it falls upon you to meet these expectations or even exceed them, by investing in your customer experience and keeping an eye on the top e-commerce trends as they evolve.

This is a Guest Post by Savan Kharod, a Digital Marketing Professional at Acquire. He loves to share his knowledge and experience in digital marketing, social media marketing, customer service and growth marketing. You can reach out to him on LinkedIn or Twitter.