30 Second Summary:

  • It’s safe to say this year’s eCommerce landscape has undergone significant transformation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Over the last several months we’ve seen a number of eCommerce and digital marketing trends begin to emerge
  • These trends point to a major shift in consumer behaviour and the current retail demands
  • While the full impact of COVID-19 is still yet to be seen, businesses must learn how to leverage these emerging trends if they wish to navigate the uncertainty that lies ahead
  • Join us as we delve into the top eight eCommerce trends of 2020 and the lessons we can learn from them

There’s no denying this year’s coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly influenced the marketing and eCommerce trends we’ve seen emerge over the last several months. But the true extent of COVID-19’s impact on the retail industry is yet to be seen. To survive such uncertainty, businesses must learn how to quickly adapt and remodel on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis.

Recently, SEMrush conducted a study into 2,000 of the most visited eComm stores across Fashion, Beauty, Health and Consumer Electronics to determine the new face of digital marketing. The results point to a major shift in consumer behaviour and the current online retail landscape.

So to kickstart the festive retail season, we thought it was only fitting to delve into eight key eCommerce trends and the lessons we can learn from them.

Say goodbye to brick-and-mortar

With lockdown restrictions and social distancing policies in full swing, it’s no wonder brick-and-mortar businesses have struggled to stay afloat in the wake of COVID-19. As the market continues to shift towards a new online reality, eCommerce has become the preferred platform for customers wanting to spend.

In this new age of digitally inclined consumers, the eCommerce market has been inundated by first-time online shoppers as a result of the pandemic. A recent Microsoft report found 73% of Australian households are now purchasing online, with 86% of Aussies turning to eCommerce to avoid offline shopping. And with all this increase in traffic, consumers now have more choices than ever before.

In March this year, leading eComm platform Shopify, saw an influx of 7.3 million site visits in comparison to the previous month. Their global traffic experienced a 29% YoY growth, with searches like ‘Shopify free trial’ growing by an incredible 89%. Rather than viewing this year’s pandemic as a hindrance to business, many first-time retailers have seen it as an opportunity to set up shop.

To fight for their share of the retail pie, companies who previously had minimal online presence have now wholeheartedly jumped on the eCommerce bandwagon. Businesses like Colette, Jeans West and Bardot who failed to adapt to this new digital ‘norm’, could no longer afford to stay afloat and were subsequently forced to shut up shop.

However, building an online store is only one piece of the puzzle. Understanding how to attract qualified traffic, convert visitors into loyal customers and compete with established rivals is critical to online success. In light of Australia’s ‘retail apocalypse’, it’s critical for new eComm entrants to consider how to stand out in this highly competitive market and use digital marketing to their advantage.

Make way for mobile

The mobile revolution has well and truly arrived, and it looks like it’s here to stay. Mobile is no longer an afterthought in eCommerce, so online retailers should waste no time in optimising for mobile.

Recent stats reveal mobile traffic is up by a whopping 70% across all eCommerce site visits. That being said, this number shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nowadays, mobile phones are and will continue to be the preferred channel for consumer research, consideration and purchase.

Not to mention, Google recently announced the big switch to ‘mobile-first’ indexing, meaning the popular search engine will now primarily use a page’s mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. So without a fully optimised, responsive and interactive mobile site for their users, online retailers will risk losing valuable customers in search of a seamless mobile experience.

It’s all about GROWTH

As mentioned earlier – we’ve seen unprecedented changes in the eCommerce landscape, with online shopping booming in March and April, then rising again in early October. If we look over the previous year’s data, we see a natural spike in consumer demand over the November-December festive season.

Monthly ‘buy online’ searches in Google across various retail categories almost doubled in the first month of the pandemic lockdown, from 14,800+ in February 2020 to 27,500+ in March. The year-on-year growth from June 2019 to 2020 for related search terms have skyrocketed 50% throughout the globe, with the average eCommerce traffic growth sitting at 30%.

Source: SEMrush

Consumer interest online is on the rise for just about everything, from necessities to more luxury purchases. As this year comes to a close, global e-commerce sales are expected to reach a staggering $4.2 trillion.

Multi-channel is the way to go

While an increase in traffic is one thing, understanding where your visitors are coming from is another. If online retailers are to truly reap the benefits of higher website traffic, they’re got to be where their customers are.

Having a multi-channel approach is no longer a trend, but rather a necessity for businesses to survive in this COVID-19 world. Retailers today are leaning into the importance of having multiple touchpoints to connect with their consumers, like eComm websites, marketplaces and social media.

Source: Shopify

Free Shipping and returns are more important than ever

On average, small businesses using Google Ads spend approximately $9,000 – $10,000 per month on their ad campaigns. While it’s all well and good to splash the cash, finding the right emotional trigger and call-to-action (CTA) is what ultimately will encourage users to click through.

We’re now seeing an avalanche of ‘Free shipping’ and ‘Free returns’ messaging dominating the CTA landscape for paid campaigns. Data from SEMrush suggests 32% of online ads are now placing a strong emphasis on free delivery to keep up the rise in consumer expectations.

High shipping costs or delayed delivery times is a big no-no for today’s ‘instant shopper’ persona. Nowadays, consumers aren’t too keen on waiting any longer than a week for their order to hit the doorstep. For businesses, this means discounted shipping rates or free delivery is now a critical component of customer acquisition.

A shift in brand loyalty

With so many options to choose from, McKinsey research shows 75% of consumers are now shifting their brand loyalty as a result of this year’s pandemic. The reasons for this shift are all down to value and convenience; brands boasting the greatest deals and discounts are a step ahead in turning acquisition into advocacy.

Through social media, email marketing and various other online channels, consumers can follow every movement of their favourite brand to know exactly when the next sale is coming. SEMrush statistics revealed approximately 60% of all eCommerce traffic is now Direct, meaning brand recognition and customer loyalty plays an essential role in any online business.

The rise of sustainable shopping

Fortunately, the demand for sustainable products has made its mark in 2020 with sustainability becoming a particularly hot topic in recent times. Retailers today are encouraged to look into options such as biodegradable or reusable packaging, local suppliers, organic materials and shipping efficiency.

Source: Sustain Your Style

In their 2020 Conscious Fashion Report, fashion search engine Lyst analysed both its global data, as well as Google search terms, page views, conversion rates and social media coverage in an attempt to gain an insight into consumer spending behaviour.

The data revealed it’s Australians who are paving the way for a more eco-conscious retail future, with online searches for sustainable clothing increasing by a staggering 110%.

Since the early days of 2020, we’ve seen a 37% increase in sustainability-related search-terms, with the average monthly searches jumping from 27,000 in 2019 to over 32,000 this year.

Over the last three months, keyword searches for ‘upcycled fashion’, ‘second-hand’ or ‘pre-owned’ have grown around 45%. Sneakers, handbags and watches are the most popular categories alongside those keywords.

This trend has already had a significant impact on many Black Friday marketing strategies, with some brands choosing to roll out more eco-conscious campaigns. This year, retail giant IKEA bought back used furniture at double the normal rate during its Black Friday sale. The buy-back scheme launched in October last year in an effort to build a more sustainable profile and attract customers in this new environmentally-conscious market.

Personalisation is key

These days, customers have come to expect personalisation. With the ever-increasing competition and rising consumer expectations, 76% of online shoppers feel companies should have an understanding of their individual preferences. 84% of customers say being treated like a person, as opposed to a number, is an important factor in winning their loyalty.

Successful eCommerce brands are now leveraging personalisation to give a unique and individualised experience for their customers. Through analysing consumer purchase history and browsing behaviour, businesses can showcase relevant content, product recommendation and targeted offerings.

Rather than having a salesperson recommend specific products based on preferences, interest and taste, online shopping often lacks the human element that traditional retail provides. So providing plenty of personalised touch-points throughout a customer’s online journey can help mimic that of an in-store experience.

Tying it altogether

With all this digital noise and changes in consumer behaviour, keeping up with the latest eCommerce trends is paramount to a business’s success in today’s current and future retail landscape.

There’s no denying 2020 has brought with it a whole lot of surprises, uncertainty and unexpected changes. For new entrants, breaking into the eCommerce scene is by no means an easy feat. But if there’s one key takeaway from this year’s pandemic, it’s that the show must go on(line).

With a strong multi-channel approach, solid data-driven strategies, personalised marketing campaigns and inspiration from industry leaders, businesses can effectively prepare for the ongoing uncertainty that lies ahead.