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5 Trends That Will Drive Online Shopping In 2019

(Source: forbes.com)

Virtual carts filled with groceries. The ripples created by big box retail’s downfall. Voice shopping getting a little help from screens. Now’s the time to gaze deeply into the e-commerce crystal ball and uncover the tech-fueled trends that will drive online shopping in 2019.

But before delving into what’s trending online, let’s note one interesting shift in the opposite direction. The coming year will see even more integration between brick-and-mortar retail and e-commerce, according to Alice Fournier, VP of eCommerce and Digital Insights for Kantar Consulting.

“We’re seeing a lot of digitally native brands either opening a strong retail presence or launching pop-up showrooms in big cities,” she said. “Look for more connections between on- and offline, with brands using retail for more engagement.”

Further, to compete in the e-commerce dominated landscape, retailers are going small in an effort to fit in. Big names like Ikea and Nordstrom are introducing micro-concept stores, and others like Target, Sephora, and even Taco Bell are following suit.

Fournier cited a recent collaboration between Facebook and Macy’s to bring small brands born online into real-life retail.

“That intersection will be interesting,” she added.

For those who enjoy staying ahead of the curve, here are five trends to watch out for in 2019.

Reeling In The Fallout From Big Box Retail

Perhaps the most exciting e-commerce development for 2019 will stem from the fall of big box retail.

Consider this: Toys “R” Us is no longer in the shopping picture, and by 2019 almost all Sears stores will be gone, too That’s a significant chunk of consumer dollars available to be spent elsewhere, much of it online.

“It will be fascinating to see who will pick up the bulk of the holiday business this year and beyond,” Fournier said. “I’d expect that a portion of that category will drive additional online sales.”

Toys “R” Us is certainly not the only retailer that’s faced challenges. Best Buy is closing more stores; Sam’s Club abruptly closed stores earlier this year without warning; Bon-Ton Stores Inc. liquidated all of its stores this year; Gymboree in 2017 announced plans to close 350 stores; and Gap/Banana Republic will be closing 200 stores in the next few years.

With these big names in financial distress, look for this trend to continue.

Social Media-Driven Purchases

According to 2017 stats, there are 209 million U.S. social network users. Despite these numbers, many social media users still aren’t pressing the “buy” button on their social feeds.

But that may be about to change in 2019, said Meaghan Werle, Kantar’s senior e-commerce analyst.

“We’ve seen platforms like Snapchat and Pinterest rolling out retail experiences over the last year, with ads in Facebook and Instagram connecting you directly to consumer or retail sites,” she said.

But the catalyst for purchasing via social will be the ability to load your credit card information up into your Instagram or Snapchat account.

“It’s all about ways of making the checkout experience even easier,” Werle said, who also noted that 2019 would continue to see the rise of challenger brands on social platforms.

Social’s largest roadblock, Werle said, is that many people don’t associate social media with shopping.

“It’s a big barrier that should be overcome next year with more shoppable tags in social media feeds,” she said. The simple act of checking out with one button — as offered by PayPal, Amazon Pay, AliPay and Venmo—will drive shopping through social, which is primarily impulse-driven.

Venmo, in fact, takes the social aspects of commerce a step further. As more and more retailers—including Shopify merchants—add Venmo as a payment option at checkout, they not only offer the large millennial demographic a way to pay that’s as easy as sending money to friends and family. They also create the word-of-mouth marketing halo that comes when those buyers share their purchases with their networks.

Rise Of The Voice Assistants

Millennials and Gen Z’ers often occupy the spotlight for online shopping, but one demographic that’s regularly overlooked is seniors. While not usually early adopters, Fournier said, older people do eventually catch on to new tech. And Kantar has some interesting data on how shoppers are using voice devices.

“Older shoppers are more engaged with their voice devices for entertainment and music, but we think it may become a trend for shopping,” Werle said. “Voice is a much easier way for them to engage with online technologies.”

And across all demographics, the breakthrough for voice devices in 2019 will be the technology’s ability to interact with screens on smart speakers. Kantar’s research predicts that the visuals presented by products like Amazon Echo Show and Google Home Hub will help overcome the barrier for shopping online with voice assistants and eliminate the present uncertainty of using voice to order goods without being able to see the products on the screen.

Explosion Of Online Groceries Purchases

Amazon didn’t buy Whole Foods for fun.

The move was strategic and based on foresight into the burgeoning grocery e-commerce market.

“There will be a much higher penetration of online grocery,” Fournier said. “Here in the U.S., it’s shaping up big, and it will be interesting how it will evolve as big retailers align with what shoppers are looking for in enhancing the experience.”

“Click-and-collect is going to be big in 2019,” added Werle, referring to the option of buying goods online and then going to a physical store to pick them up. She said to watch out for initiatives from big players like Walmart, Kroger and Target.

Augmented Reality: Not Quite Ready, But Getting There

When IKEA began implementing AR back in 2013, the use of augmented reality in retail seemed ready to flourish: By laying digital information like product images, text, and video over representations of the physical world, AR would provide retail with a major opportunity.

The technology has been slow to catch on, however.

While some retail stores are experimenting with AR applications, the technology is going to see more development in 2019.

“AR is starting to be used and represents opportunities for retailers on and offline to increase engagement,” said Werle.

Analysts think AR it will drive engagement with younger shoppers as soon as brands start rolling it out.

Beyond 2019

As companies like Braintree continue to eliminate the friction from online transactions, it’s never been a better time for online retailers to forge partnerships with the right payment provider. Giving your customers the freedom to pay in a variety of methods can not only lead to tremendous financial rewards, but can also spark new possibilities, and new opportunities for seamless and secure sales.

Online shopping has undergone several significant transformations since Amazon revolutionized the industry almost 25 years ago. And as Internet use on a global scale — especially via mobile — continues its march toward ubiquity, market incentives will likely drive innovations that we haven’t even considered yet.

The year 2020 isn’t too far away, and we’re in for a wild ride if next-generation 5G networks achieve their promised super-fast internet speeds at the start of the next decade.

Mark Stone worked in information technology for many years before deciding to make a career out of writing about it. He lives in Canada.

More Info: forbes.com

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