19 Things That Changed Ecommerce Forever in 2019

We’re nicely into 2020 and it’s time for a little bit of reflection on last year. What follows are 19 things that changed ecommerce forever in 2019.

It’s been just over a week since we popped the bubbly, watched fireworks and rang in the next decade in style. As we wave goodbye to last year, there’s plenty of nostalgia to go around. Here’s our rundown of 19 things that changed ecommerce forever in 2019. Expect these trendsetters to crossover and continue well into the New Year and beyond.

No.1: Amazon

You can’t start any list of how ecommerce changed forever without mentioning Amazon, the biggest player in the game today. Amazon forever changed the ecommerce game by creating its own logistics network to support the more than 2 million merchants and big brands that sell on this veritable marketplace.

So it comes as no surprise that about 50% of all ecommerce sales go to Amazon, which has 310 million active Prime members as of 2019. With innovations ranging from Prime Day – Amazon’s very own version of Cyber Monday – to newfangled approaches, like Amazon Prime Air, a drone delivery service, Amazon has changed—and helped to improve—ecommerce forever.

No. 2: Same-Day Delivery

Juggernauts like Amazon have paved the way for a more superfluous online shopping experience, where, in some cases, you can except to receive your order on the same day or on the next day. Consumers love same-day delivery and it’s a relatively new amenity that many online retailers are still testing.

It’s no mystery that customers want to get their orders fast (with shipping included in the cost of the product) and be offered a hassle-free returns policy. With new competition arising for same-day delivery, retailers are scrambling to make their shipping and returns policies as efficient as possible to win over new customers.

No. 3: Buy Online, Pick up in Store

While this fad certainly didn’t begin in 2019, it sure picked up pace. A concept that that’s newish to most retail brick and mortar stores is buy online and pick up in store. Popular places like Best Buy, Target, Walmart and Macy’s already let you do this. But the trend became even more faddy this past year.

Now, you can buy online and pick up in store from a growing number of locations, and new stores are being added all the time. Retailers that offer this amenity benefit in several ways.

For starters, customers are introduced to new items they can by when they stop in a retail location, and 76% of consumers report that they showroom (compare products they see in a retail location to those they can find online) when they’re doing their shopping.

No. 4: Social Shopping

We’ve already extensively covered this topic, but once again things changed in 2019. One way that this year changed it all was that stores without social proof stand to miss out on the 92% of customers that connect with brands and find reviews on social media before making a buying decision.

Notable mentions also include the social shopping options now prevalent on Instagram and Pinterest, which appeal to an estimated 2.2 billion shoppers worldwide. Even more interesting is that these two social media sites now dominate the product discovery search arena, helping an estimated 78% of shoppers find new products they want to buy.

No. 5: Affirm

Certainly, there are plenty of copycat services like Affirm that are out there today. How did these services help change ecommerce forever in 2019, though? Well, lots of people want things that they may not have the immediate funds to buy, even if they have a solid income stream coming in. Services like Affirm give people easy credit options with instant decisions and low or zero interest borrowing options to pay the purchase off over time.

In the case of Affirm, they get the top nod from us because of their partnerships with hundreds of the top online retailers worldwide. Whether you want a flashy new pair of earrings, that fancy smartwatch, a new Peloton or even a vacation, you can checkout with Affirm and get an instant approval and purchase option with reasonable monthly payments. The lending standards are lax, and the intuitive AI approval model is helping this company ascend the ranks as a top lending partner for leading ecommerce merchants.

No. 6: Virtual Shopping

You might be nodding your head and saying to yourself, “Virtual shopping, please! Really?!?!” But it’s becoming a new trend that could reshape online purchases in the not so distant future. There are ample reasons why virtual shopping will change ecommerce forever, and here are a few of our top picks.

  • Virtual shopping will replace high street shopping by 2050.
  • Virtual shopping offers a robust and three-dimensional, virtual shopping experience.
  • Virtual shopping creates a digital shopping mall that lets shoppers rove in an AI generated world.
  • There are currently 100 million users of the popular virtual shopping platform, Virtway World.

No. 7: Chatbots

Sure, chatbots have been around for a decent amount of time. But they didn’t really become intuitive until this past year. Thanks to massive advancements in artificial intelligence—and a variety of emerging companies that have perfected this disruptive technology—chatbots in ecommerce have become a surefire staple.

Even better is that Chatbots are now being used to market online stores. You see, chatbots offer a myriad of benefits that can help answer shopper’s questions while providing them with viable suggestions on their shopping as well as helping to cross-sell and upsell to prospective shoppers.

Among numerous benefits, chatbots:

  • Personalize your customers’ online shopping experience
  • Boost your sales and lower shopping cart abandonment rates
  • Receive feedback about your store and your products

Why are chatbots so popular? A recent study by Forrester on chatbots for ecommerce found that they offer a:

  • 10% increase in average order value when customers engage in live chat before making a purchase.
  • 48% increase in revenue per chat hour.
  • 40% increase in conversion rate.

No. 8: No Questions Asked Returns

We’ve been preaching this line for eons now: Consumers want hassle-free, no questions asked returns. It didn’t seem like many retailers were getting the memo, however, until just this past year. Thanks to Amazon (the top-heavy entry on this list), more retailers are now aligning their return policy to be easy, hassle-free and fast, so they can stay competitive.

Retailers have finally gotten the message and have realized that when returns are easy, shoppers are 44% likelier to buy from them in the future, with some making a new purchase during the same visit in which they processed a return. The hard truth is that easy returns can increase sales and repeat shoppers by 25% (or more) in just six months.

As more retailers get onboard, ecommerce is slowing changing to become a shopper-centric model that doesn’t punish the consumer for having buyer’s remorse.

No. 9: Comparative & Predictive Shopping

A smaller of many entries on this list, comparative and predictive shopping really took off in mid-2018, when the technology was being fine-tuned for large online retailers. Powered by primitive AI (at the time), this newer shopping trend used big data, cookies, shopping habits and more to help shoppers find something or a list of things they might like when visiting a retail site.

It took things a step further by retargeting to consumers with comparative shopping ads that worked as come-back ads to get bounced users to revisit the retail site they left and to encourage them to complete the purchase. Hand-in-hand with this technology was another one that Amazon (and a few other large retailers) used called a persistent shopping cart. Together, these technologies have been greatly refined and helped generate billions in otherwise lost revenue in 2019. They’ve changed the game then and they will this year, too.

No. 10: Apparel Sizing Apps

A relatively newer concept for online apparel retailers is sizing apps. The goal of these apps are twofold: help shoppers find the right fit the first time and reduce returns in apparel ecommerce. Popular retailers that helped change the mold include merchants to the likes of House of Frazer, Running Warehouse, SoJeans and many others.

Complementary to these sizing apps are the retailers that piggyback them with a hassle-free returns policy to ensure the proper fit for their customers. This burgeoning technology is reshaping apparel ecommerce and will assuredly become a mainstay in the years to come.

No. 11: Product Videos

It’s rather surprising how many online retailers fail to offer product videos. But this trend started to slowly and surely change in 2019 as merchants stepped up their game. Amazon has prominently featured ecommerce product videos for ages, but it seems like everyone else was late to the game until just this past year.

How do product videos increase conversion rates?

  • Videos have a 16.85% conversion rate as compared to standard banners (2.14%) and mobile (1.62%).
  • 58% of consumers trust brands with videos more.
  • 59% of consumers will watch a video that is part of your website content.
  • 96% of shoppers rely on product videos when making a buying decision.
  • 6% of shoppers rely on visuals when making a buying decision.
  • Consumers who watch a product video are 1.7 times likelier to convert.
  • 12% of consumers will watch a video on an ecommerce site.
  • 57% of shoppers will return less and buy in confidence when product videos are offered.

No. 12: Influencers

While social influencers are nothing new, they’re also changing ecommerce forever, especially over this past year, where social commerce has nearly doubled in growth, helping 80% of online consumers make a buying decision.

Influencers, especially Instagram social commerce influencers, are popular because the average per-sale conversion value on this social platform is $65, among the highest that’s out there. What’s more, influencers that deliver favorable product reviews increase average order value by at least 9.5% (or more) and can influence as many as 71% of prospective buyers to complete the sale.

No. 13: Rakuten/Yahoo! Shopping

Remember Buy.com? You probably don’t because it was purchased for a hefty sum years ago and the name was immediately changed to Rakuten. This ecommerce site thrived for a while but then changed its game plan and now is a discount shopping engine that provides instantly redeemable digital coupons and promo codes to its users. Just recently, Yahoo! Shopping piggybacked the idea by launching their own service.

These types of shop, save and earn engines integrate a built-in loyalty platform and digital coupons into the buying experience and hold partnerships with the leading online retailers. Shoppers get great deals on products and earn cash-back rewards that they can cash in or redeem toward future purchases.

No. 14: Interactive Streaming Ads

What are interactive streaming ads and where you can find them? The most popular place that hosts them is the Hulu streaming video platform. Hulu, a wholly subsidiary of Disney, hosts thousands of popular TV shows and movies as well as live programs and users can opt for a variety of plans, including some that are mostly ad-free.

Interactive streaming ads that are displayed on Hulu are for web-based merchants and give users the option to avoid the standard five minutes of commercials per 24 minutes of air time in exchange for interacting with a 60-second commercial that let’s them click on different sections and learn more, play a game, design a wardrobe, create their next fresh food box, visit the merchant’s website and more.

Since this method of internet advertising is so new, there are not many statistics available. What we do know is that there’s no shortage of them on Hulu and they cost a pretty penny to make. More importantly, they show a new prospective face of ecommerce marketing that eloquently merges ads with streaming video in a personalized manner that consumers seem to like.

No. 15: The Carrier Wars – FedEx vs. Amazon

One of the biggest things to happen to ecommerce in 2019 was the nasty divorce between FedEx and Amazon. As American Shipper reported: “Nine days before Christmas, Amazon said it would bar companies enrolled in its “Seller Fulfilled Prime” (SFP) program from using FedEx’s Ground and Home Delivery services, saying the FedEx unit’s on-time delivery performance has resulted in unacceptable delays. (FedEx Home Delivery falls under the FedEx Ground business unit.)”

What has transpired since is FedEx dropping Amazon as a client and Amazon increasing its own internal logistics to facilitate Prime One Day and Two Day delivery options for its millions of customers. It’s no secret that Amazon has been quietly building its own delivery service for quite some time and the pot seemed to boil over just before the holiday in 2019, changing ecommerce forever.

No. 16: Subscription Box Services

It seems that nearly every third commercial you see on TV these days is for the latest and greatest subscription box service. It all started a few years ago with the rampant success of Dollar Shave Club, followed by Harry’s.

But the bandwagon has become more packed than a clown car at the circus in recent years as more retailers start offering smart ways for consumers to get the products and services they need delivered to their door in a convenient manner.

Nearly everything you can think of has a subscription box service these days. From services like Blue Apron (meal prep) to services like Bark Box (dog toys) all the way to services like Monthly CPAP Club (sleep apnea products); there’s truly something out there for everyone and these services are changing the way ecommerce works forever.

No. 17: Loyalty Programs

While loyalty programs are nothing new to ecommerce, the way that they are being approached and used is. Newer loyalty programs are personalizing the experience and integrating social sharing and review sites into the mix to increase user involvement and offer greater rewards to active users and shoppers.

A wide variety of plugins and add-ons now offer loyalty programs that let users actively participate with rewards being offered in the form of goods, discounts, giveaways and cash. Some programs even have loyalty cards and dividends they issue (commonly in the form of prepaid credit cards) to further encourage participation. These new additions to an aging commodity are helping to reshape online shopping as we know it.

No. 18: User Generated Content

This year, look to see a ton of user generated content popping up all around the net. Retailers that keyed in last year saw a replete return on investment for their time and efforts, and they collectively helped earmark a new way of marketing and reach.

Types of user generated content include:

  • Social media posts, which can reach the massive population of 3.1 billion users.
  • Homemade/fan videos, which are consumed by 45% of people who spend over an hour watching Facebook or YouTube videos every week.
  • Product reviews, whether written or filmed.
  • Blog posts detailing the unboxing effect, user experience or other aspect of a product.

While smaller retailers have fully embraced user generated content, conglomerates have been using it for years, found in the form of online product reviews, social sharing and the employment of influencers to spread the word.

No. 19: Ecommerce CRM Software

The ecommerce world is filled with apps, third-party plugins and a variety of different services, but none are quite as unique as ecommerce CRM software. This software is an orders-based CRM that gives retailers insight into the habits and trends of their customers while providing them with useful back-office tools and remarketing options that help them grow their bottom line.

Premier software suites like this don’t stop at just a CRM. They also include tools for reporting, team management, events, tasks, tagging, POS and even plugins for shipping and returns, customer support and much more. Moreover, they help retailers make the online shopping more personal by personalizing each transaction as an interaction that helps build stronger relationships while improving loyalty and retention, something that wasn’t possible until 2019.

(Bonus) No. 20: Ecommerce AI

As part of our write-up on 2019 ecommerce technology trends, we listed ecommerce artificial intelligence. In 2019, this technology was greatly improved upon to help facilitate things like chat bot marketing, predictive shopping, comparative shopping, voice shopping, product recommendations, product searches, persistent shopping carts, retargeting, remarketing and so much more.

This year, expect ecommerce artificial intelligence to be a primary driver of sales and to become one of the biggest technology trends we see in ecommerce, namely because it has the ability to improve sales thresholds and lift by as much as 70% and also because smarter ecommerce websites appeal more to consumers.

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