The pandemic rapidly accelerated the way we consume goods and services and the e-commerce environment is only going to grow in new and exciting ways in the year to come. This has affected not only what we buy and how we buy it, but also how fast we need it. So what are the 5 trends that online retailers should be aware of while preparing for the year ahead?

1. M-Commerce

In South Africa, 78.6% of South Africans are accessing online sites via their mobile phones and over the next 5 years, this number is set to increase to a whopping 90%. M-Commerce, therefore, refers to the move from e-commerce on other devices to increased mobile shopping. This means that websites need to be optimized for mobile-friendly websites and apps, which are both safe to transact on and easy to use. Many apps are modular in that they can be grown systematically as and when more functionality is required. This means companies can start out with fairly basic apps and then plug in new features as they are needed like voice assistance, wish lists, AI and push notifications. 

2. Web automation and AI

In the online space, customer service and efficiency are key. More and more companies are opting to use artificial intelligence (AI) to handle the bulk of customer queries and only escalate more difficult customer concerns to human operators. This will alleviate the pressure on staff and leave people to do things that require a more personal touch as well as focus on other operational and strategic functions. 

3. Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web Apps (PWAs) empower businesses to sync their apps with their websites without information, layout or functionality being compromised. The upside of this is that the PWA loads immediately regardless of the user’s internet reliability and it is far more user-friendly. This means that customers are encouraged to engage at a higher rate and this converts sales more efficiently. 

4. Social media marketing

Influencers who are trusted and have strong communities are continuing to influence the way consumers spend online. A recent survey by GlobalWebIndex (GWI) reported that 27% of younger consumers use social media as a way to shop around and buy through apps. Social media is a way for younger users in particular to engage with a brand in an experiential way and so more and more companies are using it to connect with their consumers in a more personal way. 

5. Web 3.0

Previously, there were only a few bigger businesses which had a strong footing in the online space. But with Web 3.0, all this is changing.  Essentially Web 3.0 is combining activity online into one huge virtual space so users can move around more easily. This evolution is decentralising the online space and individual players are able to get creative with their virtual businesses and web presence, increasing market share and bringing more diversity into the space. 

The bottom line

These key trends are already in the works and businesses can already begin to implement changes which support these trends. This will put companies in stronger positions to harness the enormous opportunity that e-commerce offers retailers. To find out how Merchant Capital can help you grow your e-commerce business, contact us today. 

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