The E-Commerce Trends to Watch in 2020, and What It Means for the Future of Buying

by Alton Zenon III
December 17, 2019

By 2020, 100 million consumers will be using augmented reality to shop online and in-store, according to research by Gartner. 

While imposing a computer-generated couch into your living room might feel futuristic, this is just the tip of the iceberg for virtual reality use cases in e-commerce: The same Gartner survey notes that 46 percent of retailers plan to incorporate some form of AR or virtual reality into their customer experiences by next year.

And AR is just one of the many emergent technologies shaping e-commerce: Social media platforms are transforming consumer shopping behavior through influencer marketing and new payment infrastructures. Mobile wallet integrations are proliferating as well.

We spoke with senior directors at Home Chef and ShopRunner, who shed light on why these e-commerce trends — among others — are worth paying attention to. 


ShopRunner team chatting in their office

Shreena Amin said consumers today expect faster deliveries. As such, the senior director of product management at ShopRunner said more companies will soon become their own warehousing and distribution centers to keep up.


What are the top three e-commerce trends that are impacting the industry?

Social shopping is transforming how customers discover and buy products and how brands find and connect with customers. Instagram has a vibrant influencer community and a growing toolset for brands, which includes checkout within the social media platform. 

Omnichannel is finally becoming a reality as retailers turn their stores into fulfillment centers. Customers can increasingly choose whether they’d like to buy online or pick-up in-store, or get same-day deliveries. Big retailers like Target are leading the way, but smaller brands and department stores are investing to catch up. 

Finally, the wide adoption of mobile wallets is making both mobile and in-store shopping easier. Retailers are starting to integrate Apple Pay into their websites so that checkout can be as easy as a fingerprint scan. 

Adoption of mobile wallets is making phone and in-store shopping easier.”


What under-the-radar e-commerce trends are you watching?

Advances in computer vision technology have the potential to transform e-commerce. Searching with pictures instead of words or seeing how a product will look without trying it on are a fraction of what computer vision could enable. A natural extension of this technology is bringing the best parts of an in-store experience to e-commerce via augmented or virtual reality. The visual and experiential nature of shopping makes it a great playground for augmented reality. 


How will these trends impact the way consumers buy things online in the future?

I see a future where all these technologies come together to create a new golden era for shopping. Shopping online can be just as immersive as shopping in-store. It can be more social and more convenient than going to the store.

We are making product investments to make it easier for retailers and brands to participate in social e-commerce ecosystems. We are exploring ways to turn our two-day shipping into same-day delivery and partnering with Apple to bring Apple Pay to more retailers. 


Home chef team in outdoor outing
home chef

Almost 23 million Americans will be using voice commands to buy products by the end of this year, according to eMarketer. 

Home Chef’s Senior Director of Digital Marketing Shane Smith said customers will expect better shopping experiences by asking Siri or Alexa to order products for them in the next year, so optimizing voice commands is an initiative more e-commerce companies will adopt soon. 


What are the top three e-commerce trends that are impacting the industry?

The first is the continued rise of direct-to-consumer and subscription-based e-commerce models. Companies continue to see the value in owning their own customer data and brand perception. So it will be interesting to see if more brands leave marketplaces in favor of their own home-grown, DTC sites and apps. I think it’s also likely that subscription-based e-commerce companies will continue to multiply as investors and executive teams gravitate toward the recurring revenue nature of subscription-based businesses.  

The second trend is evolving attribution solutions. The silver bullet for marketing attribution remains elusive but the quest will continue in 2020. You’ll see brands double down on efforts to bring media mix modeling in-house, along with vendor partners improving their incremental testing abilities so that brands can get more accurate at measuring the effectiveness of their customer acquisition channels. 

The third is augmented reality adoption. One of the obstacles of e-commerce shopping is the inability to touch the product before purchasing. As augmented reality and mobile technology evolves, consumers will have better opportunities to get a sense of how they will interact with products in real life without having to leave their homes. 

Companies will become more cognizant of their carbon footprint.”


What under-the-radar e-commerce trends are you watching?

Facebook and Instagram have been easing their way into social commerce for years. It’s possible that social commerce goes mainstream in 2020 with more consumers making purchases directly within social apps rather than on brand websites or apps. 

Similarly, voice search and in-home assistants have burst onto the scene, but consumer adoption fails to keep pace with the buzz. In 2020, we will likely see steady growth as consumers will continue to expect better experiences when searching for products via voice.

Companies will also become more cognizant of their carbon footprint as employees and customers push for more eco-friendly solutions. It’s likely we will also see increased growth from rental e-commerce brands and “recommerce.” 


How will these trends impact the way consumers buy things online in the future?

Customers will continue to expect personalized, seamless and curated experiences from e-commerce brands. They will search for products however and wherever they want, with technology-enhanced experiences that bring products to life through their mobile devices. They will want to easily ask questions and get timely answers using chatbots. Customers will also expect a quick checkout process via one-click or social checkouts. 


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