The future of online shopping
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The future of online shopping

Are you ready for a post-COVID-19 e-commerce landscape?

Recently, we talked about if delivery and sustainability are compatible in e-commerce. Since the pandemic, a lot has changed in online shopping. Forever? That is quite likely to be the case. Not only did COVID-19 change how and where we shop; it also had a major impact on ‘ethical consumerism’. There is no doubt that the collective power of consumers forces even the most profit-driven companies to pay attention to issues like the environment and social responsibility. But when shops are closed, when the only option for getting a certain product is to have it delivered to your doorstep, even if more traffic on the road is a consequence – do people really still make purchasing decisions based on the origin of the products or the ethical values of who they buy from?

Research under online consumers shows that indeed they do. Making choices that limit an environmental footprint still overrule pragmatic decisions. Less packaging, reducing carbon footprint and eco-delivery vehicles still seem to be as important as before the pandemic.

A company’s ethics play an active role in purchasing behaviour

International home delivery is the area of e-commerce that has the biggest impact, from an environmental perspective. The more order deliveries are made, the more trucks are on the roads making more journeys to consumers. With its “Amazon Day” delivery service, Amazon is seeking to play its part and offering a more eco-friendly option to its next day delivery Prime service, by allowing customers to select a single day for receiving all their ordered items.

Sadly, more than 50% of trucks in Europe circulate partially or totally empty. By using this wasted space, delivery could be made more environmentally friendly and less expensive. Increasing the efficiency of last mile logistics is an unstoppable solution and one that can also benefit individuals. Although combining cargo is a recent trend in logistics, it is a significant way to optimise the use of equipment. In addition, when properly organised, this new delivery method logically contributes to the reduction of CO2 emissions. At B2C Europe, we’ve managed to raise the average fill rate to 73%!

We might expect last mile delivery to be an area where eco-conscious consumers were most keen to apply pressure on brands, then. But actually, consumer behaviour seems to be a little more ambiguous.

On the other hand most consumers would like more focus on the environment, if given the chance to change one thing about e-commerce.

Online customers often feel that the country a product is being delivered from is an important purchasing consideration. However, this could be influenced by concerns about long delivery times from far countries as much as by wanting to choose a more sustainable option. On the other hand most consumers would like more focus on the environment, if given the chance to change one thing about e-commerce. But we still see that the most popular demands for online shopping include a faster or cheaper delivery.

So, what is the future of e-commerce after the pandemic?

As the world begins to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, a key question facing is what success will look like in the changed world we enter, and what the ingredients for that success will look like.

For much of the pandemic, commercial operators’ minds were focused on short-term survival and meeting the immediate needs of their customers. Now we should look further ahead and ask ourselves what innovations and emerging trends are likely to shape commerce in a post-COVID-19 world. We’ve already seen how a majority of shoppers feel more comfortable using digital technology as a result of the pandemic and plan to use more digital shopping channels in the future. That’s as clear a signal as brands and retailers can get to embrace digital innovation and run with it!

We expect that consumers’ demand for innovation will continue. Cashless payments, no-checkout, no queue stores. Consumers want to see digital tech taking over in stores, too. And what about retailers and brands to use purchase history and preference data to send consumers free samples of products. This means that we’ll keep pushing the boundaries of how far the trail of data you leave behind online can be used to predict buying preferences.

Wherever you look geographically, online marketplaces are leading the way, whether it be Amazon in the West or Taobao in the East. They are getting the service right, and they are attracting and retaining consumers from inspiration, through search to purchase. But that’s not the whole story.

As much as the idea of buying everything from one place appeals to many consumers, marketplaces aren’t the sum of what digital shoppers want. Most consumers still want the option of being able to buy from the same brand in a brick store as well as online. Over the course of the pandemic brand-owned, direct-to-consumer channels have enjoyed an increase in popularity. And delivery apps offer a ready-made, last mile fulfillment solution that could revolutionise retail in the same way it has the restaurant sector. It’s pretty clear that there are still opportunities for brands to thrive in a digital world, even as the giant marketplaces continue to grow.

Conclusion

To take advantage of the opportunities available, brands and retailers will need to focus on a balanced omni-channel strategy, one that treats all channels, online and offline, as complementary parts of larger whole rather than separate operations in. It will take a willingness to embrace innovation and new technology at every stage of the customer journey, and the will to explore partnerships at the same time as driving your own offer. Above all, it will take a deep understanding of your market, your customer and buyer persona, your local and regional conditions, to give you insight into how best to respond to the challenges laid down in the post-COVID-19 e-commerce landscape, and to lay the foundations for future success.

From: The Future Shopper Report

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