Last updated on April 4th, 2022 -
The pandemic caused a huge shift in the ecommerce space. What changes and trends are happening today that can improve your customer’s experience, which in turn will help you grow and expand your reach as an ecommerce business?
Technological developments, economic fluctuations, payment methods, business models, and much more influence the flow of cross-border ecommerce. Ecommerce sales are set to deliver record profits in 2022, so if there was ever a time to follow cross-border ecommerce trends, it’s now.
This blog will cover the following trends:
- Data tracking
- Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR)
- Mobile purchases
- Cryptocurrency as payment
- D2C transactions
1. Data tracking
Data tracking and sharing are prevalent in today’s world of technology and online shopping. However, using data tracking to learn about consumers may soon become a thing of the past, technology users have become distrusting in how their data is being tracked and used. If data tracking is the sole technique you are using to learn about your consumers you are going to have to find new methods to get to know your shoppers.
Why wouldn’t consumers trust how their data is being tracked and used? Well, every time a personal device is used, private information can be accessed. Have you ever been talking with someone and several minutes later, you see an advertisement on your phone for the exact product you were discussing? It’s kind of creepy. Apple explained that a normal day of going to the park and getting ice cream can end with a multitude of companies that you have never interacted with, all around the world, updating their profiles with information about you. The access and sharing of this information is violating and oftentimes nonconsensual, leading to distrust.
Tech companies are aware that users’ trust is dwindling, so some are taking steps in an attempt to regain it. What do Google and your grandma have in common? They both love presenting you with cookies! Google Chrome announced its plan to remove support for third-party cookies. Cookies that pop up on seemingly every page on the internet have led to users’ distrust of how Chrome is using their data, but Chrome stated that they will begin to phase out third-party cookies in 2023.
Additionally, Apple is self-aware of its creepy behavior, leading to Apple’s introduction of two new features aiming to rebuild trust. Apple apps are now required to ask the user’s permission to track their activity. Furthermore, Apple is providing users with transparency to learn how their personal data is used. This allows users to take more control of their data.
While some forms of data tracking and sharing are sure to continue in a more controlled and transparent manner, retailers will need to find new methods to better understand their consumers. You could be halfway around the world from your customers, so advertising may look different in different parts of the world, and without data tracking, there is no way to tell who’s interested in what. You will have to come up with new tactics to know who to advertise to and how. Access to customer data has become, and will continue to be, contingent on trust. New methods to build a reliable and trusting relationship with your shoppers include personalization, artificial intelligence, direct-to-consumer transactions, and more, which we will discuss.
Personalizing emails, websites, and other customer interactions can be extremely beneficial for businesses trying to reach their customers. People appreciate being called by name; addressing them as such can capture their interest. Personalized content is effective because it speaks directly to your consumer and improves the customer experience. If customers associate your brand with a positive relationship, then they are more likely to be loyal to your brand. This is important for cross-border ecommerce because over 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when the business offers personalized experiences. The consumer expectation, no matter their age, is relevance. If you are offering something that isn’t relevant, then they obviously won’t stick around. Understanding where the customer is, what the customer wants, and how they want it shows the customer you remain relevant to their lifestyle, which in turn, keeps them loyal.
Local businesses may be more convenient location-wise but may not put in the effort to personalize the shopping experience for their customers. Therefore, these businesses are missing out on potential customers and revenue because their customers would rather buy from a cross-border business that has created a personalized experience for them. Data backs up the reality that customers highly value a personalized shopping experience, if retailers are willing to integrate personalization into their business, then they are sure to gain a competitive edge.
Data from Digital Marketing Community
How can you start personalizing the customer’s shopping experience?
Acknowledge your shoppers when they arrive on your website. Greet shoppers in their language with a plugin like Zonos Hello to ensure a personalized shopping experience. Zonos Hello welcomes customers and lets shoppers know that you accept orders to their country and even provides information about duties and taxes specific to their country, which gives them an idea about additional costs right off the bat. Hello also uses currency conversion to display your prices in the currency that your international shoppers are accustomed to shopping in.
The Zonos Hello plugin displays a welcome message to customers
in their local language as soon as they visit your website.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR)
Since the cross-border ecommerce shopping experience is not a face-to-face or physical interaction, businesses can use new techniques and technologies in order to effectively interact with their customers.
Artificial intelligence (AI):
Some AI features that you should consider implementing into your ecommerce website to communicate with your shoppers include:
- Smart chatbots
- Real-time A/B testing
- Recommendations tailored to individual consumers
- Machine-learning algorithms that spot counterfeits
- Pricing optimization (based on the supply and demand the AI detects)
Augmented reality (AR):
Different from AI, AR alters reality. It can add electronic elements to your surroundings via a screen. Augmented reality presents shoppers with a whole new way to experience products that are sold online. Consider this scenario: You are selling furniture online, but a customer doesn’t know how a certain couch or fridge will look in their home. With AR, the customer could use a device to scan the layout of their room and have a piece of furniture virtually placed in that space, allowing them to see how products would look in their own homes. Makeup brands are also starting to incorporate AR elements to offer virtual try-on features. Shoppers are given the option to instantly try hundreds of makeup products on themselves from their mobile device or computer. Augmented reality would allow the customer to see and experience how your products look in their own space before purchasing them.
Virtual reality (VR):
Likewise, VR creates a new way for shoppers to experience products, but it is a fully immersive simulated experience. Customers are able to virtually shop in-store. This technology digitally recreates the benefits of shopping in person. Allowing customers to try before they buy reduces the probability of returns and exchanges, which is extremely complicated and expensive for cross-border retailers. Consumers want to be 100% sure about a product before buying internationally, and the VR experience can seal the deal. For example, Vroom, an online car retailer, provides their customers with a fully immersive online/virtual experience. The customer can put on a VR headset in their bedroom and be presented with a full showroom with several different car models to view. The VR experience allows the customers to listen to the sound of the engine as well as virtually open the car’s trunk. Big names such as Vogue and Dyson implementing VR retail experiences suggest that soon, VR shopping experiences will become the norm.
Offering artificial, augmented, and/or virtual shopping experiences will provide your customers with a more memorable shopping experience. Additionally, if customers are able to see and try products “in person” they are more likely to purchase them.
Term to know
Global inflation: The median quarter-on-quarter annualized rate of change in the prices of goods and services among 168 economies.
Global inflation is upon us. Over the last 12 months, the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 7.9%, which is the largest increase since 1982; and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Prices for certain goods are at record highs, and inflation has not hit this hard in numerous countries in decades. Inflation causes more consumers to shop cross-border to find lower prices. Shopping online gives consumers the freedom to easily compare prices, which increases the number of people making cross-border purchases. In the past, ecommerce has not been affected by inflation because retailers have been more hesitant to raise prices online than in stores. Unfortunately, recently, inflation has been affecting ecommerce prices as well. This pushes consumers to search more extensively to find lower prices, which means that consumers will be looking at cross-border alternatives.
5. Mobile purchases
Shopping via phone, AKA mcommerce (mobile commerce), has become extremely popular over the past five years. This rise in mcommerce has increased cross-border ecommerce as well. The cause for this rise of purchases via phone is because smartphones have become more easily accessible to a wider audience, and buying by way of phone is more efficient and convenient. Mcommerce sales were upwards of $3.5 trillion USD in 2021, and it’s estimated that in the next five years, nearly half of all ecommerce sales will take place via phone/tablet.
Purchases via phone mean easier and quicker access to digital wallets. Digital wallets, or ewallets, are a type of electronic card used for transactions, and its utility is essentially the same as a credit or debit card. An ewallet needs to be linked with the individual’s bank account to make payments and is usually accessed via phone. If customers are buying and shopping on their mobile devices, it’s easier to complete the purchase with a digital wallet that is already on the customer’s phone. Within the past five years, over 20% of purchases were made with digital wallets, and purchases by digital wallets are expected to continue to increase. Customers have presented a demand for mobile cross-border payments, so new and robust digital infrastructures are going to be required to satisfy these demands and to remain competitive in the cross-border ecommerce space.
6. Cryptocurrency as payment
Have you heard of cryptocurrency, or have you been living under a rock for the past couple of years? Cryptocurrency seems to be the hottest topic in every corner of the media. Cryptocurrency may simply appear as a great commodity to have in the stock market, but it’s much more. Here’s the simple definition: Cryptocurrency is a digital form of currency created to perform as a medium of trade through a computer network that is not dependent on any central authority, such as a bank or government, to sustain and manage it.
Big businesses such as Home Depot, BMW, Tesla, and Starbucks all accept certain forms of cryptocurrency as payment. Research from CoinMap shows that over 30% of small business owners and top-level executives currently accept cryptocurrencies as payment, and that number is only expected to grow. With ecommerce being the online form of shopping, and cryptocurrency being the online form of currency, they seem to be a match made in heaven. Cryptocurrency has been popping up at checkouts alongside credit cards as a payment option.
This is a major development for cross-border ecommerce because one of the main struggles that cross-border ecommerce businesses face is the challenge and impermanence of currency conversions. Cryptocurrency does not require conventional currency conversions, which allows for efficiency and cost benefits. The cost benefits come from the transfer/convenience fees that most banks charge when credit/debit cards are used on international purchases, which cryptocurrency eliminates. You may want to consider implementing cryptocurrency as a payment option for your ecommerce business.
7. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) transactions
You may have heard of B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) transactions, but have you heard of D2C transactions? D2C stands for direct-to-consumer sales. This form of commerce takes out the middlemen, such as shipping agents, freight forwarders and consolidators, etc. B2C usually relies on retailers or wholesalers to step in between a manufacturer and customer. D2C eliminates the need for intermediaries or entities that tarnish the connection and relationship between you and your customers.
For example, Addidas operates as a B2C company when you see their products being sold in a sporting-goods store, or when you’re buying an Addidas item off of Amazon. Interestingly enough though, Addidas also functions as a D2C business by having its own outlet stores and its own website. Purchasing directly from the Addidas outlet or website is coming directly from the Addidas business, not a different entity.
Another example is makeup brands. Sephora and Ulta have their own private labels, but they both sell dozens of different makeup brands. One of those brands is Morphe Cosmetics, but you could buy a Morphe product directly from their website as well. If you take this route, then the experience would become a D2C transaction, which is more personalized and builds a relationship with the brand.
It’s no wonder why even the biggest retailers are shifting to D2C; tech-savvy consumers prefer this method of shopping. D2C transactions are more efficient. People are spending more time on their devices than they are in brick-and-mortar shops, which is why ecommerce growth is not slowing down. Ecommerce continues to grow at an unprecedented rate; online sales increased from 2019 to 2021 by nearly 50%. To maintain this growth, you will have to be able to provide your customers with competitive prices, which is achievable by removing intermediaries in transactions. The cost of an intermediary can be expensive. In addition to more cost-friendly products, getting rid of intermediaries and transitioning to D2C results in more efficient delivery times.
Another advantage to switching to D2C commerce is fewer returns. Return policies are a significant factor for customers in deciding where to purchase their online products. Avoiding returns in cross-border ecommerce sales is crucial because paying to have the products returned to their originating countries is oftentimes too expensive and time-consuming. D2C brands are able to avoid returns and abandoned packages more easily because of their close relationship with their customers.
This relationship is direct from you to the consumer. You are able to make offers and communicate directly with the consumer instead of having to talk to someone that works at an intermediary company and doesn’t know your customers and probably doesn’t care about them. D2C brands are able to present their customers with more personalized preferences because they actually know their customers’ needs.
Following 2022 ecommerce trends = a better experience for your customers
Cross-border ecommerce customers want nothing more than a simple and positive shopping experience. You can reduce friction points by reducing the number of extra steps that are required in the purchasing process. Implementing any of the trends that have been mentioned above will provide your customers with a more convenient, immersive, and positive experience. The incorporation of these trends will not only help your customers but will improve your experience as a retailer in streamlining your cross-border process. If you are only shipping within your country’s borders, your company’s growth and survival may falter. Global selling has become a necessity, and many businesses have not tapped into the huge market opportunity that exists outside of their domestic sales; the benefits of cross-border ecommerce are evident.
- Guide to expanding your ecommerce business internationally – Learn how to successfully compete and grow your business among global ecommerce businesses.
- Zonos’ cross-border products – Learn about the leading products in cross-border technology.
- The 3 C’s of cross-border ecommerce success – Learn the aspects that are crucial to implement in order to prosper within cross-border ecommerce.