The main eCommerce trends of 2021 include social commerce, local inventory advertising, retargeting, vertical and niche marketplaces. This year’s word to watch for is “omnichannel” and the role of data quality is essential to optimize the customer experience both online and in-store.
This post has been translated from a publication located at Digital 4 Biz.
Below is an interview with the Business Development Director at Kipcast, Federico Vittadello.
The COVID-19 pandemic of the last year, along with travel restrictions, has encouraged consumers to make greater use of online shopping.
Data from Politecnico di Milano’s B2C eCommerce Osservatorio show that the number of eShoppers grew by over 2 million during 2020, with a peak of more than 1.3 million during the two months of the first lockdown.
Today, 29 million Italians, 48 percent of the nation’s population, buy online more or less regularly.
New habits, new purchasing behaviors
These new daily habits are mirrored in increasingly complex and varied purchase paths. Omnichannel marketing has become the norm in the customer journey and, according to various research projects, consumers use an average of six touchpoints before finalizing their purchase.
The tendency of past years to search for product information on the web before going to the store to buy (so-called webrooming) is even more popular, during this era of restrictions, except the final purchase is online instead of in-store. It doesn’t matter that the last mile of the customer journey is a purchase with a PayPal account on a marketplace or a credit card swiped on the POS at the point of sale. The objective of the brand is to be able to intercept the customer wherever they are, at the exact moment when they are most inclined to buy, accompanying and supporting them throughout the process of purchase decision maturation.
eCommerce to mCommerce
For those businesses that want to sell online, therefore, it is increasingly crucial to be able to intercept the new habits of consumers and their expectations of the brand.
In the months to come, an analysis conducted by The European House –Ambrosetti, on behalf of the Netcomm consortium, highlights how companies that sell online put the importance of the user experience (22 percent of responses) at the top of their investment priorities. This is followed by the creation of greater value from sales data (19 percent) and the development of omnichannel marketing (16 percent). For the user experience, a great deal of work still needs to be done on mobile platforms, to evolve what are often sites that can be consulted from smartphones and tablets into truly mobile-friendly and, above all, responsive sites. Mobile is at the center of the new purchasing paths.
That said, according to the eCommerce B2C Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, in Italy, as much as 51 percent of online purchases were completed via smartphone.
The role of marketplaces
“The evolution of eCommerce sees an increasingly important role of marketplaces, places of purchase, that are in fact the digital equivalent of department stores,” said Federico Vittadello, Kipcast Business Development Director. Kipcast has developed a platform used by more than 200 brands to integrate different data sources in order to increase the sales of e-commerce sites. “Marketplaces are standing out for their ability to attract users and offer services that many brands alone would not be able to support,” he continued. “Today, 50 percent of eCommerce revenue from the sale of products is generated through marketplaces. Food, design, home furnishings, and fashion are the most active sectors on these platforms, with the use not only of generalist online stores but also niche marketplaces that, especially in the world of luxury and fashion, are having great success.”
eCommerce marketing: The five trends to watch
What are the main eCommerce trends that are going to change the market scenario this year?
Vittadello, as an expert in this field, has identified 5 trends:
1. Content: There is a need to support the product proposition, not only with cold data but by also developing a storytelling component. This means integrating into the product offer a descriptive component made up of text, interactive videos, and, increasingly, voice content. Rich content helps to give a more detailed perception of the product, making it better known to the customer and contextualizing it within a certain purchasing experience.
The certainty of the purchase is linked to the fact that the conditions of return in online purchases are not always optimal. The consumer wants to ensure that the product they purchased is what they want, so they do not have to return it and perhaps pay extra for doing so.
Adobe’s latest brand content survey highlights the fact that consumers looking for information about a brand do so through different sources at the same time. Consumers spend 48 percent of their time on the company’s website, 40 percent in the physical store, 38 percent on online comparisons and review sites, 22 percent on social media, and 19 percent on video platforms. The landscape, therefore, is quite varied. The ability to monitor channels with a view not only of completeness of information but also of completeness of content are elements that brands will have to work on in the future.
2. Social commerce: Social media is a very powerful marketing tool, and, for some time now, brands have understood the potential of these touchpoints as an additional sales channel.
Although Facebook and Instagram have not yet integrated the ability to finalize purchases directly into their platforms, the path has been laid out. Instagram, for example, has recently extended its one-click functionality to shopping in reels, the short videos lasting up to 15 seconds that are very popular among Generation Z users.
TikTok, on the other hand, has sharpened its tools in this sector, thanks to its partnership with Shopify that integrates the technological elements that encourage impulse purchases: links in bio, fast checkout, and integration with social payment tools. “Social [media] is being used more and more relevantly, not only as a platform to search for information but as part of an integrated purchasing process,” said Federico Vittadello. “In the U.S., 35 percent of users between ages 25 and 34 already buy through social and 25 percent have already used the ‘shop now’ features.”
3. AI & analytics: The option to track customers during their purchase path in real-time, through machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, ensures an increasingly effective personalization of the ad. The analysis of the huge amount of information these touchpoints produce, implemented through mathematical algorithms, allows marketers to operate toward the greatest efficiency. This data helps in identifying and anticipating sales trends in different geographies and targeting the brand’s marketing messages.
4. Retargeting: The conversion path is almost never linear. More often it is a highly varied and heterogeneous path, influenced both by the stage of the funnel where the brand intercepts the user and by the different ways the user experiences the advertising message.
Retargeting effectiveness lies in the brand’s ability to intercept the needs of a user who has already interacted with the company, through one or more contact points, in various moments preceding the actual purchase. “The ability to organize the channels in a synergistic way ensures the most effective marketing actions, with a conversion around 70 percent higher for retargeted users compared to those who are not,” said Vittadello.
5. Local Inventory Ads: Locally available product listings use digital channels to target the potential customers nearby. Local Inventory Ad campaigns include the availability of a product in a given store and the location of a user near that store. Local Inventory Ads offer an excellent possibility of conversion, as they are created on the basis of explicit user behavior. In the past, a user searched online for a specific product, or using implicit behavior, because they, at that moment, are in the catchment area of the store and the product could actually be of interest to them.
Why quality data is necessary
Where do companies stand today? “Today, organizations are divided in two,” explained Federico Vittadello. “ There are those who consider omnichannel as an opportunity and those who are light years behind. This polarization is linked, more than anything, to the size of the company. An omnichannel strategy requires a rather complex technological architecture at its base. There is a need to make channels that were born and developed in different eras, and with different strategic approaches, talk to each other, so often the logic of silos still prevails.
“Another important issue is corporate culture. An omnichannel approach requires physical store managers to be able to talk to those in charge of the online business. But the truth is that today these two areas are competing with each other, as the company sets vertical revenue targets internally. To guarantee a true omnichannel experience takes enlightened management, something that’s not always easy to find. This conflicts with the expectations of an increasingly evolved consumer who wants to relate with the brand in a fluid way through increasingly sophisticated touchpoints.”
This is precisely where Kipcast fits in.
“Ours is a role of technological enabler, since, with our help, the client is able to distribute all the product information to platforms outside the company and to third-party marketing channels,” said Federico Vittadello. “Our goal is to solve the technological problems of the data quality. This means removing duplication and unifying the data present in the different applications and backends, integrating them and eventually enriching them with video and voice functionalities, which makes them more accurate and reliable. This also means creating a bridge between the different elements of the architecture, solving problems from the outside, without affecting the daily operations of marketers. The advantages are evident. Above all on the time-to-market with the possibility of accelerating the omnichannel paths without having to endure long IT lead times. It is also good for costs, as our experience has allowed us to industrialize and standardize many complicated processes.”
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