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Trends in e-commerce 2020

The year 2020 is approaching and so the current decade is coming to an end. Many technologies and trends have emerged in recent years. The Internet, the mobile world and the rise of e-commerce have changed our society dramatically. But also AI, blockchain, virtual reality, chatbots and omnichannel are terms that have been widely used in recent years. So it's time to find out what the future has in store for us.

Voice search continues to grow

Frederik Claessens, e-commerce manager at SQLI Belgium, wrote about it at the beginning of this year, but the rise of Siri, Amazon Echo and Google Now has not escaped anyone's attention. Voice search continues to gain importance in the digital world. Research by Comscore, among others, says that in 2020 more than half of all searches will be performed using voice search.

This means that e-commerce will have to make a lot of adjustments: as a webshop you obviously want your search results to be at the top of the list. Search engines will have to adapt to this, resulting in drastic changes in the design and especially in the SEO of websites.

The United States is the clear pioneer of this trend. Companies such as Walmart and Dominos are already offering their clients the opportunity to use voice search. Curious to find out if it will also go down that fast in Belgium, if only because of the funny results that sometimes come out of it.

Everything mobile

With the rise of the smartphone, we are now online anywhere, anytime. It has conquered a place in our everyday lives and no longer only serves to make phone calls, but also serves other purposes: to listen to music, look up information, browse our social media, shop. Also mobile payments have known a sharp increase.

"And so nowadays everything has to be mobile friendly in e-commerce as well," says Reginald Roussel, business unit manager Commerce & Service of SQLI Belgium. "All the options that a normal website offers should also be present on the mobile version: be able to choose from various options, view your shopping basket, place an order and pay via your mobile phone. Customers don't want to waste any more time with this", concludes Roussel. Those who have not yet invested in mobile first, are guaranteed to miss out on a lot of sales in 2020.

Research online, purchase offline

A trend that ties in with mobile first is that of research online, purchase offline (ROPO). After all, no less than one in two Belgian consumers look up information online before making a purchase in a shop. Recent figures from the Netherlands state that 82% of consumers use the Internet as their first source of information. Even more striking is that 56% even look up information while they are already in the shop. Our offline purchases are therefore strongly influenced by online behavior at that moment.

It should therefore come as no surprise that consumers still buy in brick and mortar shops. What does play an increasingly important role is that consumers are better informed before they make a purchase, either for inspiration, reviews or to compare prices and products with each other.

From e-commerce to physical shops

Although e-commerce is clearly on the rise, 80% of consumers still prefer to buy offline. In line with the previous trend, we see that the brick and mortar shops remain important for consumers because they can see, touch and try the different products. The e-commerce report of 2019 shows that e-commerce in Belgium is increasing year after year, but the question seems to be whether e-commerce will ever completely replace physical stores, which is not the case at the moment.

And so we expect a new trend for shops that started in e-commerce: the emergence of physical shops of which until recently only an online version existed. Coolblue is the best example of this in Belgium. They now also offer products and services at different locations.

In addition, the pop-up stores are also springing up like mushrooms. Reginald Roussel: "We see that pop-up stores are becoming more and more common. These are often smaller webshops that sell their products or services at a physical location for a short period of time. And that has been successful! This proves that physical stores are still really needed".

The last mile gains importance

Last mile' is a term used in e-commerce to describe the last journey between a repository and the final destination - usually a home address. When it comes to a physical store, it is usually the customer who drives up to the store. "But", says Roussel, "in e-commerce, the situation is different: there, the order is delivered almost by default to a specified address".

Although now, things are gradually changing: increasing attention for the climate is putting pressure on companies to come up with new solutions for transporting their goods. "On the one hand, the price for companies and consumers must remain as low as possible; on the other hand, it must also be ecologically sustainable nowadays. Think, for example, of packaging materials for merchandise, the CO2 emissions of vans, etc. Finally, transport must also be as efficient as possible. From a logistical point of view, this new way of working therefore involves a lot of work. For example, bol.com has opted for a new way of packaging, while PostNL has decided to only offer parcels once at the delivery point. Bicycle couriers, such as Deliveroo, are also appearing more and more often in the streets", concludes Reginald Roussel.

Customer experience in B2B

In the B2C market it has been the case for some time now: customers expect a well-functioning e-commerce platform with personalized content and a positive customer experience throughout the entire customer journey.

"Although this was not the case for a long time, we now see that good customer experience is also really breaking through in B2B," says Roussel. " This makes sense, because companies also increasingly expect the same user-friendliness, speed, service and possibilities as they would expect if they would make that purchase as a consumer. They search for information in advance, go through the website and look at product information".

"But it doesn't stop there," Roussel adds. "Much more important here is that companies can retrieve their order history and track online where the various orders are located". According to Roussel, this requires a strong link between the e-commerce platform and the customer service system (CRM), where all the customer's information is stored. "When a customer calls for support, information or a complaint, the support employee can immediately retrieve all the information and indicate where a package is located. Companies in the B2B sector would do well to also invest in their online business and ensure a well-functioning e-commerce platform".

Unified commerce for the best customer experience

After multi-channel, cross-channel and omni-channel, 2020 will be the year of unified commerce. Commerce 4.0 as it were. Unlike omni-channel - where the online and offline shopping experience is offered uniformly and consistently - unified commerce offers a real-time experience where everything is connected: from mobile to website and physical stores.

Unified commerce focuses entirely on the complete customer experience. Reginald Roussel: "Because all information and data are integrated in one platform, both the customer and the companies get real-time insight into the availability and data of a product across all channels. For example, an employee in the store can search for availability in other locations together with the customer. But also all prices are the same everywhere, both online and offline. Or think of a customer who orders something online and then decides to pick it up in the store itself, ... there are so many more possibilities".

This article was written by Natascha Derese, marketing manager, and Reginald Roussel, Business Unit Manager commerce & service, at SQLI Belgium.

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