From evolving consumer buying channels and new digital payment systems to buzzworthy trends and tactics in marketing, how we understand and use e-commerce technology has changed dramatically over the last 10 years.
As any veteran in the retail space can attest, the only constant in this industry is change. But we can still get a sense for where the trends will take us.
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From what we’ve seen over the decade and what we can predict, here are the most impactful trends for retail entrepreneurs to watch for in the 2020s.
Raising the stakes
If you were asked to name the most dominant e-commerce platforms, Amazon would probably top the list. The retail giant relentlessly won the hearts, loyalty and cash of consumers by giving them what they truly want: the power of choice.
But consumer preference wasn’t the only thing driving that dominance. Amazon has led the way in providing brands with operational efficiency at scale as a unified sales, marketing and fulfillment channel.
The rest of the retail industry has been scrambling to keep up, and we’ve watched as other major online retail platforms have implemented look-alike tactics in an effort to replicate the model and magic of Amazon’s approach. We can thank that “Amazon Effect” for the ubiquity of two-day shipping, among other conveniences.
We’ll continue to see more e-commerce marketplaces look more like Amazon as the competition heats up for ad dollars and consumer wallet-share.
Brand story meets product sales on social
Social platforms, meanwhile, are turning themselves into e-commerce platforms, too, offering new point-of-sale tools for brands. Look no further than Pinterest’s IPO to see the hope and revenue potential investors have pinned to the shift from social site to online retail channel.
The competition from unique brands that sell on Amazon, along with the emphasis on private label, applies greater pressure to aspiring startup brands to compete when it comes to price, and social commerce provides a platform for new businesses to build brand differentiation—and sales.
The approach, largely led by Instagram and Facebook Marketplace, will evolve and become more widespread in 2020.
Consumers appreciate the opportunity to engage more deeply with brands while being able to products in the same environment. Meanwhile, businesses become more efficient with the ability to showcase their brand story, expand their reach, and sell all at the same time.
Target is a primary example here, with its clear focus on brand partnerships and the evolution of point-of-sale opportunities on social properties like Pinterest.
So, what can startups take from this?
Social feeds are becoming the go-to digital environment for e-commerce browsing and search.
Multiplatform data in unified dashboards
A limited view of your sales and marketing ecosystem creates blind spots that have an impact on your company’s bottom line. I encourage any business maintaining its status quo analytics regime to update its approach to include marketing and sales metrics across all channels.
Performance analytics today requires the assimilation of millions of discrete data points from multiple platforms, so be mindful of complex customer journeys and analytics from various platforms in order to make sound data-based decisions for your business.
At Stackline, we often say that managing the Amazon channel is more like managing a hedge fund than a retailer. You have to be ready to run fast if you’re going to successfully track, analyze and react to the vast amounts of data moving through the platform.
I predict that part of the solution will be a closer union between brand, retail and social media teams. While the borders between these teams were once distinct, we expect to see them collaborate far more closely on what they create and how they measure company impact.
Brands will also benefit from utilizing analytics providers with access to anonymized data spanning more of the digital marketing and retail ecosystems.
By then analyzing those merged datasets, brands will be able to define profitable growth strategies and determine which platforms deserve more of their energy and spend.
What does this all mean?
For new businesses, connecting your brand’s advertising, performance marketing and sales efforts has never been easier. We will continue to witness major changes and shake-ups in the e-commerce industry, but the future is more exciting than ever.