The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the movement towards online over in-store shopping. E-commerce sales grew by 14.9% in the US in 2019, and are expected to jump by 18% in 2020, with 62% of consumers shopping online more now than before the outbreak.

This rapid e-commerce growth is accompanied by several new tech trends that are changing the way shoppers make purchases online. From convenient payment methods to tailored customer journeys, there’s a lot to look out for as we plan for a digital-first future.

1. Digital Wallets

Digital wallets, along with credit card and debit cards, make up the top three e-commerce payment methods in the world. Also known as mobile payments and e-Wallets, these popular tools (think Apple Pay and PayPal) allow users to expedite the checkout process, which is often a top priority – 21% of American shoppers have abandoned their cart because “the checkout process was too long/complicated.”

Usage of digital wallets jumped by 77% in North America and 123% in Europe between 2015 and 2018. Those are big figures, but the real pioneer is China. Digital wallets are used by 81.1% of smartphone users there – a strong showing in any case, but especially considering that China is currently the largest e-commerce market in the world!

2. Voice Assistants

Voice assistant technology (think Amazon Alexa or Google Home) is also changing the way customers make digital purchases. Manually typing in credit card details is a thing of the past for some. Or more specifically, for 40% of consumers across the US, UK, Canada, India, and Australia, who have already used voice technology to make online purchases.

According to one survey, 91% of business decision makers are already making significant investments in voice technology, and for good reason. One in five smart speaker owners use voice commerce – a staggering figure, considering there are expected to be 8 billion voice assistants in use by 2023.

3. Multichannel Marketing

Digital wallets and voice assistants are reshaping the end of the customer journey. But there are also a few new trends that come into play earlier on, and multichannel marketing is one of them. In a world where the average internet user owns 2.4 networked devices (like smartphones, tablets, and laptops) and 8.5 social media accounts, it’s important for businesses to communicate with their audience across multiple platforms. The payoff of this effort is high: Marketers using three or more channels in any one campaign earned a 287% higher purchase rate than those using a single channel campaign.

Having a strong presence across social media, email, and text messaging will clearly go a long way – but it’s also important to know what kinds of messaging best suits each platform. For example, texts are great for customized, bottom-of-the-funnel communications, like abandoned cart reminders. Facebook and Instagram, on the other hand, are better for growing your general brand awareness through likes and shares.

4. Personalization and Localization

Another way to meet your customers where they are is through personalization and localization, two strategies designed to tailor a website’s content to a customer’s needs.

Personalization means personalizing a customer’s recommendations based on their browsing behavior and purchase history. For example, a bookseller might personalize recommendations based on genres a reader has purchased in the past. Customers appreciate when a business takes the time to cater to them – 44% of shoppers say they will likely become repeat buyers after a personalized experience with a company.

Localization means adapting a business website to fit the language and culture of a particular market. That could mean translating the website into a different language, or displaying prices in a local currency. Even if you don’t think your business has much of an international audience, localization is something to think about: 33% of consumers are likely to abandon a purchase if pricing is only in US dollars.

5. Chatbots

Almost half of consumers are open to buying items via chatbot, but this tech trend really stands out when it comes to customer service and engagement. Chatbots are preferable to phone and email support because, thanks to automation, help can be available 24/7.

At the very least, chatbots can supplement the rest of your communication strategies – and they’re well appreciated: over half of customers say they’re more likely to shop with a business that they can connect to via chat. Plus, companies could save up to 30% in customer service spending by using chatbots.

Final Thoughts

The coronavirus pandemic has sped up e-commerce’s dominance in the retail industry, but that’s just one of many changes taking place. For small businesses, it’s important to stay aware of rising trends in technology, in order to provide an up-to-date customer experience in our rapidly changing world. By employing one or two of the tech trends we’ve discussed, you can get your online store ready for what’s to come!

Maura Monaghan writes for Website Builder Expert, a resource for individuals and small businesses getting started online. Her favorite topics to cover include web hosting, website design, and content marketing. She believes anyone can create a successful website with the right tools, and strives to provide a helpful place to start.

Consumers stock photo by insta_photos/Shutterstock