Looking back at the past decade, we can only wonder if we’ll ever see as big an eCommerce revolution again in our lifetime. The 2010s not only rounded the corner on making online shopping possible and viable for most people, but they ended with eCommerce accounting for 11% of all sales in the U.S. alone.
And then, as the decade came to a close, mobile devices became a core part of our daily lives, for shopping and everything else. We spend hours looking at tiny screens to engage with our world. This creates a significant opportunity for eCommerce companies to reach new people and share innovative ideas, targeting the people who want your products most, not just those who live nearby.
Our world fundamentally shifted in the 2010s, and there’s a chance it will again this decade, especially considering how vital technology and recovery plans have become to business growth in the post-COVID era. While we can’t predict what those changes will be outright, we can use the past to create clear guidance for what to do now.
So, here’s what we learned in the last decade of eCommerce and what that means for sales, marketing, and more in 2020.
Mobile is a significant driver for all sales, especially eCommerce, and that grew steadily during 2010. While many people were wondering what to do with mobile early on, everyone could see that it was immensely popular.
Amazon gives us a good insight into this development. The company launched the Amazon Appstore for Android devices and its Kindle Fire in 2011 with a focus on games. Ecommerce was still relegated to traditional web or websites that would allow you to manually type in your credit card on a mobile’s screen. Starbucks was one of the big innovators with its 2009 app that allowed people to pay via iPhone in stores.
During the 2010s, mobiles changed the way we do everything. Amazon and others realized this, and we saw a slow, steady progression for custom apps and shopping experiences. There's now a wide array of services to look up. You can even opt for applications that help you get more Amazon reviews. In 2018, Amazon even launched an app store designed for sellers.
The gap between buyers and eCommerce store owners, in the ways they use mobile devices, is now virtually non-existent.
In 2020, look for advanced mobile interactions. You can now sell via social channels and their apps. Ensure you take advantage of the platforms where people can see your ads, as well as the places where they look for you directly.
Customers are demanding more mobile-first experiences, whether that’s site support or your own custom app. With demand being high and plenty of developers now making it easy to build something quickly and affordably, we expect to see these tools break out more in the 2020s.
Adopt a mobile-first approach for your efforts. This will include working with mobile APIs for distinct aspects of your business. Mobile payments are a big item there because you want your customers to be able to shop from their phones immediately, whether that’s native payment options based on device or third-party payment platforms.
It’s unclear if the demand will be for channels to be mobile-first or if customers will want specific apps in the future. That said, every channel we look at is moving to mobile, but if your site doesn’t work or the chain breaks, you’re going to lose out.
The true cyber threat to retailers wasn’t well understood in the early days of big-box e-retail. We saw continuous major hacks and vulnerabilities hitting employees, systems, and even partners. However, the 2010s also showed us small-scale attacks that were smart and highly targeted.
We actually started that remembrance in 2010 when the public was made aware of a spear-phishing attack on eBay that netted employee credentials and led directly to attacks on individual users. It steadily rose with individual stores being attacked and only learning of it when their information was for sale on the dark web to the highly publicized vulnerabilities. At the beginning of 2019, hackers infected 227 eCommerce sites by compromising advertising partners.
Why hit eCommerce? Because there are four rich targets in your platform:
Each comes with a wealth of data. The last two open up automation with APIs and platforms that could quickly drain a bank account under the guise of standard charges, so your team may be slow to respond.
Now in 2020, it’s time to understand that you are a target. People may want data on your systems, partners, customers, or just access to your network to try and harm other companies. They’re also looking to buy your goods with fraudulent credit cards or trick you via refund fraud.
Ecommerce companies need to respond, and part of that happens in your marketing efforts. Not only should you tout security (and use security best practices!) but you should design pages and ads to minimize the information you collect or request. This not only keeps your customers safe, but it also keeps them happy with you.
The rise of cybersecurity threats is making all of us more cautious. Facebook, for instance, has come under (more) public scrutiny because of its microtargeted advertising, including charges that it allowed racial discrimination in marketing.
We’re doing more shopping online than ever before. Embrace that but also do your best to protect people. And when something goes wrong, be honest and proactive. Get an emergency plan that shuts down accounts, forces people to change passwords, or takes other steps to limit the harm caused.
Mobile payments took off in the 2010s and we learned a lot about what customers want and what they don’t. We also saw that it was often best to leave security here to industry best practices instead of trying to build out unique elements or to just rely on the security used for desktop websites.
In a new report from divante, they laid out that 70% of traffic happens on mobile devices, making them the best way to market to customers, sell to them, and finalize payments. Right now, about 37% of all global internet users pay for goods or services with their smartphones. It’s most popular in South Korea where more than half the country uses their phones to pay for goods or services each month.
For 2020, it’s time to do your homework. Figure out what your customers already use and support it. In the West, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay, and PayPal are the most popular mobile payment systems currently, but there are also custom solutions from Walmart, Starbucks, and others.
Those last two are where you might look for inspiration for your branding efforts. Loyalty and mobile wallet systems go hand in hand. Offering a branded solution includes startup investment, but it can increase the use of loyalty programs and sales overall.
On the other hand, if you’re not ready for your own digital wallet, you still need to pay attention. That same divante report notes that roughly 20% of people who have difficulty using your mobile checkout options will abandon your shopping cart. Smartphone conversions are still under half of desktop conversion rates, so 2020 should be your time to focus on getting mobile branding/marketing and payment right.
Amazon was a scary force for eCommerce players in the 2010s. No one understood how to compete and feared that its major sales days, especially Prime, would harm non-Amazon business. Then, in 2015, Amazon created its own Prime Day sales to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the site’s launch.
This birthday sale scared even more companies as Amazon chose what to highlight and began a growing trend of pushing its own products.
However, we’ve since learned that the data on Prime Days leads to overall increased eCommerce sales, even for brands not on Amazon’s marketplace. There’s an opportunity in these events and they bring greater awareness of the overall eCommerce market. When someone is looking at Prime Day sales and don’t find what they’re after, there’s a good chance they’ll go to Google next.
In this sense, it’s all about the marketing.
With Amazon’s own product lines accounted for 68% of all Prime Day sales in 2019, other eCommerce companies will want to focus their ad buys and promotions around those search results in the 2020s. We think that this decade will be one where companies start to treat Amazon as just one channel and work on building their own site and services so they’re always able to capitalize.
This includes running promotions on your own site during sales events from major brands or cultural hallmarks, not just Prime Days but Singles Day too. Memorial Day is still one of the best times to buy a car, but that doesn’t mean your eCommerce store with jeans or garden supplies should skid its own sale. Instead, touch on the holiday traditions and position yourself as the perfect thing to haul in that brand-new car or truck.
Now, we want to talk about something that’s close to our hearts: the amazing people that get your products to shoppers, especially the workers in warehouses. The 2010s were filled with stories about abused warehouse workers, and mistreatment designed to push people to hit unrealistic metrics. Paired with this was often a realization that these folks were paid poorly and put in danger. Warehouse deaths even caused some companies to be listed among the most dangerous employers.
The good news that came from small businesses and eCommerce stores who were using innovative business models for developing eCommerce warehouses. New fulfillment practices and equipment were able to reduce strain, robotics and scanning devices helped minimize some repetitive work, and reward systems started to remember that employees are people.
Our hope for 2020 is this: treat your people well. We think that’s the best way for an eCommerce business to succeed. It’s something we believe in for all of our teams. That includes giving workers breaks and nice spaces to take them, help sales teams meet realistic goals, and look for ways to prevent harm. Think big in terms of employee safety and think small about the daily, compounding stress that causes frustration that lasts when the workday is done.
In 2020, let’s be good to each other. The rest will follow.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.
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