The value of online business (or E-commerce) has increased hugely over the past two years as worldwide government lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic forced people online for all their entertainment and shopping.
As physical business operations became heavily impacted, businesses had to adapt to the ever-changing situation by the way of online technology and remote operations. While a large number of industries suffered from the associated challenges, E-commerce experienced enormous growth. This in turn proved a major boost for the software used to assist online selling platforms.
And the good news for this industry is most consumers claim that they are more likely to continue buying online long after the pandemic. This demonstrates just how versatile and important E-commerce is – it has evolved at a lightning pace since the first online stores appeared 25 years ago.
Today, the industry is valued at around $4.2 trillion and is as profitable now as it has ever been. The retail sector, especially, has benefited the most from having an online presence as it reaches ever more consumers. Manufacturers, suppliers, and consumers alike all benefit from online sales.
But the E-commerce industry is not strictly limited to the model of selling to consumers. No, there is also the business-to-business (B2B) model whose market is expected to become even bigger due to the increased numbers of online sales.
The industry was already on an upward trajectory before the pandemic but reached a peak of 27.6% in annual revenue growth in 2020 – a rise of over 7% in 12 months – as more and more people did their business online. This revenue growth has been complemented by the development of technologies and strategies adopted by businesses to do much more online.
So, what do we think will be the top trends for online business for the rest of this year? Let’s look at some of the main trends in store for the industry…
1. Online sales across all markets will continue to increase
Sounds obvious, right? As we have pointed out, E-commerce is the most popular online activity and has been growing at an incredible rate with online sales have increased from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to around $4.5 trillion in 2021.
This popularity boils down to the ease and comfort that online services provide, allowing more and more consumers to save their gas and parking charges and save their time visiting stores, malls, and casinos, among others. Now it’s not only about online purchasing activities – ranging from clothes and furniture shopping to visiting places like the cinema for those who are inclined to do so, even having fun at the Casino while playing some hands or slots.
In fact, the boom in online gaming at US gambling sites over the last couple of years since the relaxation in the laws across many US states – also in Canada since August 2021 – has seen a major increase in dollars spent gambling online. Businesses are raking in revenue in the billions, and as more and more states begin to look into relaxing laws and opening themselves up for their own budgets’ riches via the associated tax returns, it is likely we’ll see an increase in the number of gaming businesses operating in the US.
This will mean the ability to place bets at the tap of a button looks set to reach many millions more Americans this year.
Nowadays, trust in online platforms and their user-friendly websites has increased markedly when it comes to parting with money over the internet, especially in the gambling sphere which had previously been looked upon in a bad light. Not anymore. Such platforms have become more popular due to the fact that they offer various secure payment methods such as PayPal and Google/Apple Pay, and the strict security measures provided allow far more comfort to any consumer wishing to partake.
Plus, the ability to browse, shop, and bet from anywhere at any time on mobile devices will only enhance the numbers of consumers of ALL forms of online spending. In fact, mobile sales are expected to account for almost 75% of all online commerce because of this.
2. So will the Influence of Social Media
Figures show that social media can potentially increase online business sales by as much as 70% – proving a highly powerful digital marketing tool that can drive sales forward and foster long-term brand loyalty.
The advent of TikTok – alongside Instagram – as a key driver for product placement and marketing using “influencers” has been a real game-changer for the industry. Social media is now not merely a channel by which people connect with others, but has evolved into a marketing tool that enables brands to expand their target audiences.
And online stores have been ensuring they establish links with social media platforms to include “buy” buttons for consumers browsing their feeds to instantaneously purchase products that catch their eye.
Online businesses from global brands to local independent retailers are coming up with irreverent and eye-catching social media strategies as these platforms are now becoming the first point of contact that consumers have with any business. They have real reviews in the comments section, consumers are following brands that they like and become loyal to those brands’ products, whilst “influencer” endorsements are also huge.
3. AI and AR to make big strides in business
Increasing numbers of organizations are beginning to look to artificial intelligence (AI) in order to improve their processes. Online retailers have recognized the benefits of including AI in their locker and forecasts predict a spend on this technology of up to $7.3 billion by the end of this year. The key factor in all of this is retailers’ wish to offer a fully personalized experience for their customers.
AI is currently used in everything from customer service to sales and marketing of products, but it also assists businesses in learning more about their customers by collecting instant data on browsing and shopping habits in order to provide that fully personalized experience. The next step would be for the software to be able to provide the right kinds of products based on customers’ moods and feelings – and the tech is out there to start that development.
AR (augmented reality) is also seeing a boom in use by businesses who wish to bring their products and services to life. AR grants a consumer the ability to not just see a 3D model of a product but to also actually visualize how it looks if that product was on them, or in front of them. Some products and industries may be better suited to traditional shopping methods, but AR is going to shake things up sooner than later.
Consumers can essentially have a virtual tour of how a product actually looks in reality.
And with the ability to purchase for home delivery at a click of a button, AR added to this equation makes the entire online shopping experience better than ever before, which can only prove majorly beneficial for online businesses. With 35% of consumers saying they would shop online even more if they could try a product out for size it is a complete game-changer for the industry.
4. Voice-activated shopping to take control
Voice shopping is arguably the newest of all of these online business trends and is gradually becoming a mainstream method for the next generation of online shoppers. It is believed that more than 50% of all searches will be voice-driven by the end of this year, hitting $40 billion in revenue in the United States alone.
The likes of Amazon, Walmart and others have already introduced voice shopping as a development from the original Amazon Echo device which reacts to voice-activated instructions. In fact, over 30% of American consumers have used such a voice assistant to search and then purchase products.
When it comes to online shopping for the consumer what matters most is ease of use. We have seen that the ability to purchase for super-fast delivery by a simple click of a button is immensely popular, so to add voice shopping to the equation makes perfect sense for online businesses. The number of voice shoppers will undoubtedly increase going forward.
5. Business-to-business set to outperform customer sales
The global B2B E-commerce market is forecast to expand over the next five years as wholesale distribution companies see their wares fly out to online sellers thanks to its ease of use. Businesses are using online sales portals to buy and sell from one another, generating increased online presence, and the industry is expected to hit around $1.8 trillion by next year.
There is now no longer a requirement to fill out forms and send faxes to salespersons from distribution or wholesale organizations – more businesses are seeing the value in operating solely online.
This automation through E-commerce sites allows manpower to move away from processing order entries and dealing with email spreadsheets or hard copy forms to now focusing on the important matters of engaging with customers, providing an excellent customer experience, and establishing ongoing client relationships.
So there you have it – just five of the many trends to look out for throughout the second half of 2022 where online business and E-commerce is concerned. It is up to retailers and organizations both big and small to latch on to these trends quickly as we fully expect even these to be outdated soon enough as consumer demands are constantly changing.