By all accounts, 2018 has been a fantastic year for many online merchants. But online commerce is not standing still and 2019 will bring new challenges and opportunities.
We asked influencers (experts) in the eCommerce industry to give us their predictions for 2019 and hope their insights will give you ideas and help formulate strategies to make your business stronger and more profitable in 2019.
Jimmy Duvall, Chief Product Officer – BigCommerce
Headless commerce – where merchants blend their front-end content and back-end commerce engine of choice – will have a coming out party. The shopping experiences and compelling content that consumers expect demand it, and it’s the most versatile, cost-effective way for retailers, lifestyle brands and even publishers to get the best of both worlds.
Instagram, Facebook and, to some extent, Snapchat won’t let off the gas pedal in their commerce pushes. Consumers continue to spend an incredible amount of time on social platforms, so making those brand interactions more shoppable makes Instagram and friends even more indispensable as quasi-marketplaces.
Amazon will push the bar ever-higher on consumer expectations. From in-house brands that are constantly stocked and cost less to one-hour delivery in more localities, Amazon will continue to lead and leave its mark on every step of ecommerce, from discovery to checkout to shipping and fulfillment.
From a technology perspective, merchants will gravitate even further towards open platforms that work well with other tools, rather than closed ones that trap merchants in the undesirable “walled garden.” Open platforms afford the flexibility and interoperability that retailers need in order to use ecommerce tools to their full potential and truly personalize online shopping experiences for customers.
Dominic Lozano, General Manager – ShipWorks
There will be a greater push by sellers to leverage 3PLs and other shared warehouse solutions, providing them a more cost-effective way of meeting the quick delivery expectations of their customers.
Over the last couple of years, sellers have seen increased pressure to meet the aggressive delivery expectations established by Amazon. While Amazon continues to gain market share and raise consumer delivery expectations by significantly investing in their end-to-end delivery solution, (roughly twice what their revenue is) other sellers are forced to explore alternative solutions for keeping up without breaking the bank.
This push to keep up requires sellers to be laser-focused on the location of their product. Specifically, with the need to limit shipping costs, how close is their product physically located to their consumer? Can they distribute their product in such a way that they are in close proximity to each of their largest geographic markets? When they start to gain traction in a new geographical area, how quickly and economically can they attain nearby warehouse space?
The better a seller becomes at leveraging available shared resources, the better off they will be at quickly and cost-effectively getting their product into the hands of their buyers.
Chris Vaughn, VP Marketing – ShippingEasy
Voice technology will have a major impact on e-commerce in 2019, on both sides of the transaction.
In their everyday lives, people are becoming more and more comfortable with artificial intelligence. Consumers are using voice commands with Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google Home, and Facebook Portal to perform tasks, order items, and control other devices. This is something online sellers will really need to start considering when it comes to product descriptions and site content.
How would someone speak a request to find your product? Is that how you’re describing it on your site and in your stores? It will become crucial for online sellers to evaluate the differences in syntax and descriptors when customers speak searches for their products and make necessary adjustments.
We will also see a proliferation of this technology moving into the business side. ShippingEasy is particularly anticipating adoption in shipping departments and warehouses, which is why we introduced an integration with Amazon Alexa earlier in 2018.
When business owners and shipping managers can speak commands to purchase postage, process orders, check rate quotes, and check how many orders they had this week/month/year, they become vastly more efficient. That efficiency can allow them time to work on maximizing their business (or perhaps work on figuring out how to solve for the voice search dilemma mentioned above).
Greg Chapman, SVP – Avalara
In 2019, we’ll continue to see marketplaces and traditional retailers converge. It’s happening both ways, where marketplaces like Amazon are moving to forms of traditional retail, and traditional retailers like Albertsons are making the move to marketplaces to stay relevant in the digital economy. This creates complexity for businesses and governments alike – especially when it comes to how marketplaces are taxed. By 2020 every U.S. state will have a law forcing marketplaces to collect sales tax in that state – whether they have a physical presence or sell remotely.
Marketplaces will continue to be the new “department store.” 2018 saw the death of the beloved Toys R Us. Sears and JCPenny are having their fair share of struggles as well, despite once being successful forces in retail. Marketplaces are continuing to thrive. In 2019, we will continue to see marketplaces take over as top revenue drivers in retail versus the traditional department store. Even though some retailers like Walmart or Target are working to innovate beyond their traditional business models, this won’t be enough to save most department stores from slight (or in some cases, rapid) decline.
2019 will see consumers as the driving force behind where businesses need to collect and remit taxes. We’ve moved beyond this old historical world where it was the retailer’s choice based on where they had property and people. Now with the South Dakota v. Wayfair case, where the Supreme Court ruled that states would be allowed to collect internet sales tax, that control is in the hands of the consumers. In 2019 every retailer needs to know what is and isn’t taxable everywhere because consumers are determining where a retailer needs to collect. Retailers don’t know where their next customer is coming from, so they need to be prepared.
By 2025, real-time tax approval and remittance will be a global topic of conversation. Countries like Brazil, Italy and Poland are already implementing real-time compliance and accounting. However, the United States has always been steps behind when it comes to digital taxation. I predict while definitely a topic of discussion, the US government will not approve real-time taxation at the time of sale, because this would be a massive technology issue that our current infrastructure cannot support and that the government is not willing to invest in.
Brooks Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO – Springbot
SMBs and independent retailers will thrive by providing exceptional experiences. While marketplaces provide a forum for low prices and same-day shipping, direct to consumer brands are getting creative with content and perks, adding unique treatments to every aspect of the customer journey that leave a lasting impression and inspire repeat purchases.
Omnichannel marketing must advance from buzzword to reality because consumers live an inextricably blended digital and physical life. Only recently has reliable technology become available to help merchants easily integrate marketing and sales operations across online and offline channels. Brands will strive to provide a consistent experience anywhere they encounter the customer, and smart merchants will supplement their digital strategies with offline opportunities to engage, whether that includes a physical store location or one-off events like a pop-up shop.
Personalization and localization will become more effective as automation, data and machine learning allow marketers to understand behavior and speak to specific customers on the right channels at the right time. In parallel, consumers will become more educated on how organizations collect and utilize data, will decipher whether companies’ uses are of value or inappropriate, and will purposefully opt in or out depending on their experiences.
Eric Erway, Product Manager – Adobe
While mobile shopping continues to skyrocket, conversions are still a major pain point. According to an Adobe survey, over half of retailers plan to invest in mobile and nearly two-thirds forecast it positively will impact their online revenue in 2019.
Many of these merchants will turn to progressive web applications (PWAs) as part of their mobile strategy. PWAs offer many benefits that mobile users demand, including faster browsing, instant “app” gratification and push notifications. These features help transform in-store retail experiences, which is exactly what consumers are looking for in modern day shopping experiences.
In 2019, we will see a huge influx of retailers and brands incorporating PWAs into their mobile and ecommerce strategy, and as a result, the “mobile conversion gap” will noticeably narrow.
Scott Gifis, President – AdRoll
Brands of all sizes will embrace Direct to Consumer strategies. The world is changing and with it consumer behaviors and expectations. Brands that aim to survive, let alone thrive, will need to prioritize developing deeper, more meaningful connections with their customers.
This will require deeper investments in personalization and connected storytelling across all touchpoints, automation and tools to enable those interactions, and strong measurement platforms to help them optimize and realize growth for their business.
Video will continue to grow in popularity because it works at every stage of the customer journey, cuts through the noise of banner blindness and drives higher engagements.
In fact, shoppers are 64 percent more likely to buy a product online after watching a video ad and 80 percent more likely to purchase when a landing page includes a video.
In 2019, we should see a higher use of video in the marketer’s toolkit, especially as it becomes easier to create and edit high quality assets. Further, marketers will need to harness the power of video by understanding both the individual impact on acquiring customers, to a more cohesive strategy, meaning how it impacts the entire journey,especially with the increased collision of video and connected TV.
Ultimately, video will be seen as more than a brand effort. When it becomes available to more brands, the question will be in the quality of content and targeting precision.
Rebecca Martin, Chief Marketing Officer – Calabrio
Companies Will Learn the Art of Listening. In the midst of what many call the fourth industrial revolution in which digital, physical and biological worlds are colliding, companies must consider the impact technology has on the customer experience. There’s no doubt ecommerce shopping is growing: according to Shopify, this year, ecommerce market share as a percentage of all retail sales was expected to increase to nearly 12 percent, up from 3.5 percent a decade ago.
But, with the majority of communication and interaction with customers taking place digitally, companies can’t forget the value people bring to the business. While consumers expect digital self-service options, they also want an emotional tie to a brand, and that comes through a human connection.
2019 will see ecommerce companies finally learn the art of listening by developing a strategy that engages customers in the right way, at the right time and on the right channel. Leveraging analytics, smart companies will monitor the entire customer journey across channels––both digital self-service and person-to-person––to ensure a consistent experience that drives loyalty.
Chris Lueck, CEO – FastSpring
When it comes to the future of checkout, get ready to see AR/VR becoming more integrated, which will help the seller visualize what their selling and the end-user visualize what they’re buying. This will be beneficial for digital good or software sellers, as they will be able to better showcase the impact of their products, as well as buyers.
With the rise of subscription-based selling and usership, there’s a fundamental shift occurring in the way people purchase, especially when it comes to digital goods (Spotify, software subscriptions, etc.).
In order to keep up, online sellers must embrace and understand how this shift in purchase behavior will help or hurt their business model, and know when, if and how to make a change.
Brian Deignan, VP Sales – FastSpring
Dynamic commerce will be required for online sellers to stay afloat. Consumer expectations now require brands and online sellers to deliver a fast, easy, secure and personalized shopping experience from browsing to checkout.
2019 will be the year of dynamic commerce, which allows the ability to have your customer-facing pages to dynamically update based on multiple factors, such as browsing history and geolocation. This will ensure a personalized experience for the shopper from content to currency.
Daniel Mintz, Chief Data Evangelist – Looker
Identifying trends from your data and responding in real-time has truly just started to become a reality for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
The cost and difficulty of getting real-time data have gone down tremendously as an after effect of the ‘big data revolution’ that was all the rage a few years ago.
In retail, the real time availability of data has the power to transform business operations and the overall customer experience. By 2025, this will be even easier, more accessible and more decentralized.
Through instant and predictive insights, retailers will have the power to make immediate decisions – from supply chain management to targeted marketing efforts – that will impact the bottom line and serve the end customer with exactly what they are looking for.
Tien Tzuo, CEO and Founder – Zuora
The rise of new retail will change how we shop. In 2019, we will inevitably see more deaths of companies a la Sears and Toys R Us that never figured out how to forge deep and lasting relationships with customers and deliver new, exciting and convenient experiences on an ongoing basis.
But we’ll see the continued rise of brick-and-mortar retail by companies that started online, established ongoing relationships with customers and then wrapped what they already know about customers into the anywhere retail experience. This new wave of retail will result in mind-blowing new concepts.
Amazon has already opened cashier-less stores. And Walmart, which has been slow to catch on to competitors who have forged deep and meaningful relationships years ago, is testing its first concept store — also cashierless — where perhaps it can start to right the ship. That’s just the beginning of retail innovation that will change the way we shop in the next year.
We would like to thank everyone that participated for this story and greatly appreciate their time and insight to eCommerce and retail.
To learn more about each company’s services and how they may help your business, here is a list of links for each company.
- Adobe / Magento (eCommerce Platform / Creative Software)
- AdRoll (Digital Marketing)
- Avalara (Sales Tax / VAT Automation)
- BigCommerce (eCommerce Platform)
- Calabrio (Call Center and Workforce Management)
- FastSpring (eCommerce Platform)
- Looker (Analytics / Business Intelligence)
- ShippingEasy (Shipping & Order Management)
- ShipWorks (Shipping & Order Management)
- Springbot (Digital Marketing)
- Zuora (Subscription Services Management Platform)