22 Ecommerce Trends for 2020 [Survey Report]
Every year people across all industries try to guess and estimate what the new year will bring; the eCommerce industry is not an exception. Probably all of us are familiar with the sweet idea that implementing new eCommerce trends can get a company ahead of its rivals. This year we decided – no more guessing! As the sole purpose of our company is to help online retail companies to have the best possible site search experience, we wanted to provide even more guidance. How?
In 2019 we started a global initiative to help online retailers prepare their businesses for the future: Ecommerce Trends 2020 Survey.
Of course, COVID-19 heavily impacted the industry, and a survey was conducted before that, but results are still highly relevant and interesting.
About Ecommerce Trends 2020 Survey
The survey was conducted in October 2019 and collected feedback from nearly 160 online retail leaders. They were contacted from across the globe (37 countries in 5 continents) and granted full anonymity for their responses. We only reached out to decision-makers to obtain the most reliable information about new eCommerce trends.
The goal of the Ecommerce Trends 2020 Survey Report is to show possible directions, explain why different cases happen, and enrich it with opinions from other sources; thus, we didn’t want to form an opinion from our perspective, as it wouldn’t be objective. We decided to let our readers make conclusions themselves, based on rich survey data. With the knowledge gained from research questions, readers will be able to incorporate their own ideas about the future.
In the full report, you’ll find 32 survey questions that cover latest eCommerce trends, businesses’ thoughts, plans for future technology, and more.
We intend to make this survey a beautiful annual tradition so that every year, industry people all over the world won’t need to wonder what is waiting for the industry in the future.
In this article, you will find a summary of the Ecommerce Trends 2020 Survey Report. A complete and comprehensive analysis can be found in the PDF file. Enjoy!
22 Ecommerce Trends For 2020:
- Ecommerce Budget: 2019 vs 2020
- Top Ecommerce Platforms For 2020
- Top Ecommerce Technologies For 2020
- Environmentally-Friendly Ecommerce
- Competition Level Overview
- Free Returns
- Multi-Vendor Platforms
- Ecommerce Marketing Channels With Most ROI In 2020
- Omnichannel Strategy
- Ecommerce Personalization
- Ecommerce Site Search
- Direct Selling in Social Media
- Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
- Dynamic Pricing
- Price Scraping
- Building Technologies In-House
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Ecommerce
- Product Subscription Ecommerce Model
- Social Media Influencers
- CryptoCurrency Is Dead For Ecommerce
- Economic Recession Influence For Ecommerce
1. Ecommerce Budget: 2019 vs 2020
2019 Financial Overview
Because the survey is primarily interested in eCommerce trends and strategies for the coming year, we asked respondents about their 2019 financial success up until the end of October.
- 68% said that it was financially successful for their companies.
- 25% of the respondents answered that they had not experienced financial success in 2019.
- 6% of the companies could not accurately claim whether 2019 had been financially successful or not.
- Interestingly, one company (>1%) claimed that their online infrastructure had been successful last year, while their physical locations were struggling.
It’s normal in business for fast-growing industries such as retail and similar spheres to include winners and losers. In fact, it’s a good sign for online retail and other online business industries that most companies reported financial success. It indicates a high likelihood that success is likely to continue, at least in the near future.
2020 Focus: Profit Over Revenue
One of the most common direction among eCommerce trends is that companies must always focus on growth to remain relevant in a shifting economic landscape. We wanted to know what aspects of growth would be most pertinent to the respondents.
- A majority of 55% answered that increasing profits will be the most important in 2020, even over increasing revenue
- Only 37% of the respondents said that increasing revenue will be more important.
This may be mainly because increasing profits from eCommerce can be challenging. Information parity is just one aspect of this dynamic; online shoppers can immediately check a competing site for different pricing information. This necessarily drives prices as low as they can possibly go. It’s also incredibly easy for new competitors to enter the market, although achieving scale is much more difficult. Online commerce return rates are also much higher than in-store return rates due to convenience for the consumer. Finally, shipping costs drive consumer traffic down.
All in all, it makes sense that businesses and companies with a significant investment in their eCommerce platforms will focus on increasing their profits above all other aspects of growth.
2020 Ecommerce Budget
For many years now, the trend seems to be that the eCommerce market continues to rapidly grow, therefore, whether a company will increase its overall budget in 2020 will drastically impact their next year’s chances of financial success.
- 69% of the respondents will opt to increase their budget in 2020.
- 25% will keep their budget about the same.
- Only a mere 6% are unsure about their budget or will decrease it.
Interestingly, 48% of those respondents who said that 2019 had so far been financially unsuccessful will still accompany their more successful contemporaries and increase the budget for 2020. This indicates that they at least see the potential for growth in the market, even if the returns haven’t yet shown up.
Overall, it seems that the respondents are largely in agreement: eCommerce is one of the key ways to financial success in 2020.
2. Top Ecommerce Platforms For 2020
Running a successful online store depends on having a platform you can rely on. Since there are many eCommerce platforms to choose from, we expected quite a lot of diversity from the respondents. Indeed, 30 different platforms were mentioned at least once.
- The most popular platform – custom built (44%)
- The next highest answer was Magento 1 (12%)
- Most of the other platforms received fewer than ten answers
So it seems that the majority of companies find it more profitable or more critical to the proliferation and recognition of their brand to develop their own platforms for their digital commerce strategies.
3. Top Ecommerce Technologies For 2020
In the survey, we asked respondents about technologies that they plan to implement, improve, or change in 2020 to determine what will be trending in the coming year. This can lend some insight as to the overall strategy of most for some of the responding companies for one’s own personal economic analysis.
- Respondents focused on both: well-known and innovative technology fields;
- Among the most mentioned were such well-known technologies, as personalization (76%), site search (60%), and omnichannel (49%);
- On the other hand, quite innovative technologies, such as payments (44%), analytics platform (41%), product visualization (39%), are all very high on the list as well;
- Smaller for lesser-known technologies accordingly received less attention.
Thus it’s clear that the trend is that newer eCommerce technologies are just as important as the fundamentals. This is especially true since consumers are fickle in this day and age and are likely to move on to different institutions or businesses once offered something better.
4. Environmentally-Friendly Ecommerce
As consumers focus more on the environment and the challenges that it presents to business and our way of life, digital commerce companies must also become conscious of these aspects to remain trendy and, therefore, profitable.
- 72% of the companies who responded to our survey are taking at least a single action to become greener, such as plastic-free packaging or efficient transportation;
- 28% of the respondents are not addressing climate change or other environmental considerations at all;
- A minority of the respondents (24%) are taking more than two actions to become eco-friendly;
- Only 2% are doing more than three actions.
All this indicates that most respondents are aware of this eCommerce trend. Still, only a few are likely to have a dramatic and positive impact soon.
5. Competition Level Overview
As mentioned before, the barrier to entry for a new eCommerce competitor is extremely low. The survey respondents were asked to evaluate the competition level in their sphere or market.
- 86% said that the market is very tough or tough.
- 10% indicated a moderate competition.
- Only 4% view their market as not particularly competitive.
This essentially limits many online retail businesses’ growing ability; they aren’t able to grow as large or as profitable as Amazon but also can’t be as cheap as temporary market disruptors if they want to remain in the game for the long term. The resulting strategies for success will necessarily be carefully thought-out. Even the best business strategists will likely need a little luck to succeed in the eCommerce arena.
6. Free Returns
Naturally, balancing the inevitable cost of free returns against the possibility of greater consumer traffic is something that every online retail site must consider for the future. In just the US, the trend shows that return deliveries will cost $550 billion in 2020, which is up 75.2% from the previous four years.
As a result, many companies are trying to get rid of free returns entirely:
- 31% will not offer free returns in 2020
- One respondent said that they will stop providing free returns
Companies who eliminate the service entirely are doing all of us a favor. Consumers will stop wasting time and money on the part of the company. In addition, free returns make up a huge proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.
However, because many customers have come to expect free returns as a standard service, many companies are doubling down on free returns:
- 56% of respondents will offer free returns in 2020
An appealing compromise, allowing customer to be responsible for some of the expenses of the return from the comfort of their home, and negating a lot of the cost for the company:
- 1% include free returns at physical locations and only offer paid returns through online infrastructure
It would be inspiring to imagine that this may be the way of the future for eCommerce trends, but it’s definitely a minority. For now, at least, free returns will continue to be a largely negative force for eCommerce companies and one that many will struggle to survive with.
7. Multi-Vendor Platforms
Becoming a marketplace offers a potentially huge competitive advantage in the market, as it is incredibly efficient and possibly financially profitable since inventory is generally handled by sellers. Furthermore, they can afford it to have the lowest possible prices for a given product around and still earn a piece of the pie since the transaction happened in that marketplace.
However, becoming a marketplace can be quite tricky perhaps this is why, the majority of the respondents will not be transforming to a marketplace in 2020:
- 65% of the respondents answered with a flat, “No.”.
- But 27% will be a marketplace in 2020.
This may indicate emerging eCommerce trends that could, within a few short years, overtake the majority that currently isn’t planning on transitioning. Still, since this is such a small piece of the data, it’s impossible to draw meaningful conclusions. For now, it seems that most eCommerce companies will let the sleeping giants like eBay lie.
8. Ecommerce Marketing Channels With Most ROI In 2020
We asked survey respondents about the most successful and trending marketing channels for their company in terms of return on investment (ROI).
- A majority of our respondents – 34% named organic search marketing as the channel with the best ROI;
- More direct or bolder marketing efforts, like email advertising or paid search engine results, had a much higher return on investment, based on our respondents;
- Most companies find subtler marketing strategies, such as a referral or social, to be less effective in terms of ROI.
By far, organic search traffic has the highest return on investment, according to the respondents. This indicates that increasing your online business’ traffic for general organic searches is likely the number one way to increase your marketing ROI and general profitability for 2020.
9. Omnichannel Strategy
Omnichanel strategy is a popular topic, when thinking about eCommerce trend. The significance of it cannot be denied – research shows that 47% of shoppers who engage with retailers across ten or more channels make purchases from their favorite retailer’s website at least once per week. This is compared to 21% for shoppers who only engage across one to four channels.
- Naturally, with most of the responding companies focusing on profitability, a majority of the 79%, said that the omnichannel strategy will be relevant for them in 2020
- Only 11% said it would be neither important or unimportant
- An additional 10% of companies don’t think the omnichannel strategy is very important.
As competition is at least perceived to be very tough (recall the earlier question on the matter), most eCommerce companies will want to invest at least some resources into their own omnichannel strategy.
Perhaps because of this focus, it’s no surprise that 49% of the respondents said that they would make improving, implementing, or changing their omnichannel technology in 2020, as was revealed in the previous question.
Overall, omnichannel technology is likely to play a key role in 2020 and beyond for the majority of digital commerce companies or business models.
10. Ecommerce Personalization
With so much competition on the market, consumers are faced with more choices about where to spend their money than ever before, personalization can help to stand out from the crowd. In addition, personalization can improve customer loyalty and can even boost online traffic conversions significantly, particularly if the user enjoys the personalization experience and feels that a relationship has been made.
- 78% of the responding companies stated that they plan to not only keep their personalization technology but improve or increase their investments;
- Another 14% are planning to hold their personalization levels about the same;
- Only 1% of the respondents will decrease personalization investments in 2020.
All in all, it’s clear that personalization is important topic in eCommerce trends. Online retailers will want to at least investigate some aspects of personalization, if only to remain relevant compared to their direct competitors.
11. Ecommerce Site Search
Site search can be critical for driving conversion and for ensuring that your site’s visitors have a pleasant shopping experience. So we asked the survey respondents about their satisfaction with their current site search experience.
- 31% are very satisfied or just satisfied, with their site search
- 30% in total are not satisfied at all or not really satisfied
- This drove the overall average for all respondents to a mean score of 2.9 out of 5.
This suggests that most companies sense a healthy room for improvement at the very least, either because of perceived loss in conversion or customer complaints.
To determine the reasons behind the satisfaction levels, we also asked the respondents about the nature of their site search functions:
- 50% built it in-house
- 44% use technology or solutions developed from the outside.
- 4% don’t even have search functionality
To dive deeper into the data, we examined the response spread among the companies from those who used in-house technology and 3rd-party providers separately:
- Third-party users were actually more satisfied than in-house search users: 3.2 vs 2.9 points out of 5.
Companies who build it in-house can experience many difficulties from finding qualified enough people to build the search to maintaining infrastructure. Often, the real challenge lies in not being able to keep up with ongoing maintenance tasks, bug fixes, or innovations.
On the contrary, third-party users may have some issues as those solutions could lack autonomy and flexibility, or don’t have some key features that they may require for their business. Besides, third-party solutions are not always very scalable, which can be essential for growth.
In summary, it appears that most eCommerce companies have more difficulties with site search as opposed to trusting third-party providers or architects. This data makes it clear that you should prioritize excellent site search functionality regardless of how you decide to do it.
AI chatbots are quickly becoming a popular direction among eCommerce trends, as they get more innovative and useful and may represent a possible cost-effective method of customer engagement and traffic directing. Chatbots are already being used in many eCommerce spheres for specific tasks, such as getting quick answers, or resolving problems or complaints.
We asked survey respondents about their chatbot plans to see what the market generally thinks of these curious new developments:
- 39% don’t think that they’ll implement chatbots in 2020
- 27% not certain either way.
- 33% of companies who are planning to use AI chatbots in 2020 or already use them.
Overall, time will tell whether chatbots genuinely revolutionize the way we do business over the internet or if it will eventually fizzle out like a passing fad. With social media adopting AI and chatbots increasingly automating payments, however, usage of chatbots may grow significantly in the following years
13. Direct Selling In Social Media
Companies are starting to consider direct social selling as an important tendency in eCommerce trends. With social media’s meteoric rise only continuing as the years go on, and with user engagement higher than ever across all social media outlets or platforms, it’s a valid strategy from a blank marketing standpoint. It’s potentially an easy way to get thousands or millions of eyes on your site or product.
- 40% of respondents replied that they either were going to start implementing direct social selling in 2020 or are already using it;
- Despite all of the potential advantages, another 39% answered negatively;
- The remaining 22% of responding companies have not yet decided about the adoption of this strategy.
All in all, whether direct social selling is right for your business may depend on what you sell and your bottom line. It may be critical for online retailers looking to get ahead of the competition.
14. Progressive Web Apps (PWA)
As progressive web apps (PWAs) are trending throughout the eCommerce market. Because PWAs allow consumers to purchase products across devices, connections, or even operating systems in the future, they’re likely to replace web or native apps eventually. That may mean that all the time you spent developing an app specifically for your site went may subsequently be unnecessary as PWAs spread.
We asked survey respondents about their plans to invest in progressive web apps in 2020:
- Most, 35%, said that they had either already implemented PWA or were planning to
- 29% – a significant proportion of the respondents said that they weren’t planning to invest in PWAs
It likely indicates a significant market shift in thinking for many digital commerce companies, as it implies that more and more companies are coming to discover the value of PWAs for their own business platforms. It may be wise for your own business to invest in this technology ahead of time before you’re forced to adapt or become irrelevant.
15. Dynamic Pricing
Dynamic pricing can be incredibly helpful to avoid bringing your prices too low for a profit margin or raising them too high for consumer acceptance. Your conversion rates are likely to improve with dynamic pricing implemented to your eCommerce platform since it enhances the likelihood that any consumer eyeing your wares will find the best possible price.
To determine the market’s opinion about dynamic pricing trend, we asked survey respondents about their 2020 plans or lack thereof for implementing the technology:
- Curiously, 49% said that they are not planning to start using dynamic pricing in 2020
- On the other hand, 36% of the respondents said that they were already using dynamic pricing or will do so in 2020
It may be that dynamic pricing does not yet have the trust of many online stores, who may want to rely on more traditional price strategy models or personalized scouting. In addition, some companies may have fixed costs for their products to produce a minimum bottom line at the end of each quarter.
16. Price Scraping
The other side of price competition involves price scraping. No longer are we in a small-town marketplace where you could scout out your competitors’ prices in person. Price scraping is the solution for many. In a nutshell, it involves extracting data from the internet to determine general or specific pricing information for use with your own pricing analyses. Price scraping tech or tools are trending in the eCommerce industry, taking up 48% of the web-scraping market alone.
Naturally, we wanted to find out if survey respondents used price scraping frequently or planning to in 2020.
- Majority of 44% already do it or are planning to use it in 2020.
- However, a significant portion of 36% is not planning to use price scraping
Overall, it seems that price scraping will remain commonplace in the online retail marketplace. Until dynamic pricing or some other method of ensuring competitiveness comes into frequent practice, this trend may stay the same or increase.
17. Building Technologies In-House
Building technologies in-house can be expensive and time-consuming for any budding (or even successful) eCommerce site, especially if you’re looking to expand. Therefore, we wanted to find out if this is a popular eCommerce trend.
- 57% prefer to build it in-house
- 24% indicated a neutral chance doing it in-house
- 19% indicated low or very low likelihood
This shows us that most online retailers really don’t prefer to use third-party vendors. This is very interesting when you consider the data before that indicated that eCommerce companies were more likely to be dissatisfied with the performance of in-house site-search functionalities compared to those received from 3rd-party vendors. Still, site search is not the only in-house technology needed for a successful online store.
It may be that most companies simply prefer to do everything together as a package for organization or convenience. All in all, the data seems clear: in-house tech is clearly more popular.
18. Artificial Intelligence (AI) In Ecommerce
AI is going to become a fact of life sooner or later. No doubt that one of the earliest areas in which this trend will hit the hardest will be eCommerce as a whole. We decided to find out where survey respondents thought AI would be the most help for their businesses.
- The respondents were most confident that personalization (73%), site-search (58%), marketing (48%), pricing (43%), and chatbots (36%), as the areas most likely to receive AI assistance in 2020.
It’s safe to say that the majority of companies are aware that AI will have a dramatic impact on the market in ways we can only imagine.
19. Product Subscription Ecommerce Model
Product subscription services are a relatively recent eCommerce trend that has become more ubiquitous over the past few years. Most of these service users tend to be younger, affluent, and urbanite. Thus, it may be that online stores who specialize with this kind of consumer base might find more success than businesses with different customer groups.
- 33% of respondents are already offering product subscription services, or plan to offer them in 2020;
- A higher majority of respondents are not planning to provide product subscription services next year.
Only specific online retailers offer products or services that can be effectively or meaningfully packaged into a subscription box or package that can be reliably delivered to a door. This type of model also requires shipping costs, which may be a deal-breaker for some digital commerce businesses.
20. Social Media Influencers
With the advent of direct social selling through social media channels, it may be very profitable for eCommerce companies to forge close relationships with social media influencers to spread their product or service to more customers.
- 75% of respondents are planning to work with influencers in 2020 either because they already do or are planning to.
- Only 11% of the respondents will not work with social media influencers in 2020.
- Another 14% do not know, making the negative respondents the lowest proportion – a rarity from these questions.
It’s safe to say that social media influencers will play a significant role in the success of digital commerce companies in the future, if for no other reason than most companies will be using them.
21. CryptoCurrency Is Dead For Ecommerce
We asked the respondents whether they thought cryptocurrencies would help their companies in 2020. Many online stores do not accept cryptocurrencies as a form of tender, so perhaps it is not surprising that:
- 80% of the respondents did not think that cryptocurrencies are relevant or helpful for their businesses.
- Only a small combined proportion of around 3% of the respondents either do believe cryptocurrencies are helpful for their business or are somewhat useful.
In summary, cryptocurrencies do not currently (and will likely not for the near future) hold a large amount of interest for most eCommerce businesses.
22. Economic Recession Influence For Ecommerce
We asked survey respondents if they were preparing for an economic recession, as this may lend insight into the reasoning behind their plans for technology research trends and development, or growth goals. As economic recessions are cyclical and always return after several years, it’s not a matter of if the next recession will arrive but when.
- Based on the survey results, eCommerce companies are split about equal when it comes to their preparation plans;
- 40% of responding companies are preparing for a particular financial crisis, while 41% are not;
- Another 27% don’t know or are undecided.
It’s clear that opinions about the next economic recession’s inevitability are divided. But as we said above, the next recession will eventually come. It may be smart to take several steps to insulate your business from the worst parts of a recession, particularly if you are a small business. Small businesses, of course, are those most susceptible to bankruptcy or other issues during a downturn, since they typically rely on a lower number of customers.
Final Word About Ecommerce Trends
It’s clear that 2020 and the years beyond will be quite interesting for anyone in the eCommerce industry. It may also be turbulent and evolve in ways that we cannot expect. But with the right information and preparation, it’s possible to not only survive but thrive.
Good luck, and thank you for reading the summary of the eCommerce trends survey results!
Disclaimer: This is only the summary of the Ecommerce Trends 2020 Survey, if you’d like to read the full report, with more detailed analysis and commentary you can download the eBook below.
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