The world of global e-commerce is changing rapidly.
New technology, major geopolitical events, and shifting customer expectations are dramatically reshaping how cross-border e-commerce and logistics look for online merchants and buyers alike.
The biggest e-commerce trends of 2020 will change how retailers sell and ship to consumers around the world in the years ahead. Here’s a closer look at some of these events and how they’ll change the international e-commerce and logistics landscape in 2020.
The future of e-commerce
These e-commerce trends of 2020 are set to significantly impact the future of online merchants around the world. Many trends, such as evolving technology and changing customer expectations, have been on the horizon for years but are now growing rapidly. Additionally, factors such as Brexit and the U.S.-China trade war that are largely outside the control of online merchants leave them at the mercy of high-level political dialogue.
But no matter the nature of these major trends, there’s no doubt that they’ll greatly impact how e-commerce companies conduct business around the world. Online merchants should keep close tabs on them to properly prepare for the year ahead and stay competitive in the increasingly global world of online commerce.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the current key e-commerce trends, how they’ll impact online merchants, and how e-commerce businesses can cope with and even leverage them to thrive in 2020 and the years to come.
The ongoing Brexit debate poses a significant geopolitical challenge for online merchants, disrupting global logistics and e-commerce despite the fact that it’s yet to be finalized and implemented.
Since the United Kingdom public shocked the world by voting to withdraw from the European Union in 2016, many online merchants have wondered how this tumultuous development will impact how they do business with the U.K. and the EU.
Though tentatively scheduled to come into effect on January 31, 2020, the exact details of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU remain in flux. However, there’s no question that Brexit will continue to greatly disrupt cross-border e-commerce and shipping in many ways.
First off, Brexit will likely cause the pound to depreciate. While this could theoretically boost the U.K. economy by making exports more affordable in cross-border markets, the U.K. will almost certainly face tariffs from the EU, which could increase the prices of British goods, and consequently, reduce demand for them. If Brexit results in new trade barriers between the UK and the EU, which is almost a certainty – this will likely impact eCommerce by delaying cross-border shipments.
Value-added taxes (VAT) on British products could also increase the price of British goods in the EU, posing another challenge for online retailers based in the UK.
While the details of Britain’s departure from the EU are still being worked out, online merchants should keep a close eye on developments, update their shipping policies for both the U.K. and EU countries, offer multiple types of currency and checkout options for their online stores, and identify additional suppliers to help cut costs and minimize disruptions as much as possible.
U.S.-China trade war
Another major geopolitical event that’s shaking up global commerce and logistics is the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.
Import tariffs imposed by the governments of both countries have raised prices for online merchants in both nations and greatly disrupted trade between them. Small retailers are being hit especially hard. As a result of the trade war, fulfillment and manufacturing may move to other Asian locations like Vietnam and Hong Kong, while online shoppers in both China and the United States may increasingly decide to buy domestic products to escape the increased prices of foreign imports.
Despite what appears to be a recent easing of tensions between the U.S. and China, the trade war is set to continue. Online merchants should keep a very close eye on developments while also looking for workarounds like avoiding products in the affected categories, fulfilling from Hong Kong, and building the increased costs of the tariffs into the prices of their goods.
Universal Postal Union changes
Navigating the upcoming changes to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) will also be one of the major e-commerce challenges of 2020 that online merchants need to take into account.
After U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the UPU, the organization that has regulated international postal services since 1874 scrambled to try to keep the United States as a member. The UPU even considered reforms that would entice the superpower to stay.
The result was a series of intense negotiations that lasted several months. These culminated in September 2019 with the signing of a new deal that reformed the organization and kept the U.S. as a key member. Under the deal, the UPU agreed to let the U.S. set its own postal rates for imported parcels weighing less than 4.4 lbs. in exchange for contributions to the organization’s pension and security funds. The deal also allowed other nations to adjust their rates for inbound parcels from the U.S. and other countries annually starting in July 2020.
For e-commerce companies, this will likely result in higher prices when shipping via postal services. However, by comparing couriers, online retailers can choose more affordable options to effectively cut their shipping costs and protect their profits.
Automation is another key e-commerce trend for 2020 that will have a major impact on businesses. Automation technology is quickly changing the world of e-commerce and logistics and will affect the way e-commerce companies do business in the future.
For logistics, automation means shipping is faster and simpler and customer service issues can be resolved faster and more economically using chatbots. With robots replacing humans in warehouses and drones delivering customer orders with increasing frequency, automation is also transforming warehouse operations and fulfillment around the world.
Online merchants should embrace these changes as a way to cut their shipping and delivery times and improve their customer service.
Mobile and voice search
The way in which online shoppers search for and buy products is evolving every year. These days, mobile and voice searches are an increasingly popular method of finding and purchasing products.
When it comes to mobile searches specifically, customer habits are shifting quickly. Forty-nine percent of consumers prefer using mobile phones for shopping, and smartphones accounted for 34% of U.S. e-commerce sales in 2019. Voice searches have also grown rapidly in recent years – it’s estimated that voice shopping will see a 20-fold increase to $40 billion annually by 2022.
With these figures in mind, it’s obvious that mobile and voice searches offer huge potential for e-commerce merchants. Optimizing e-commerce sites for mobile and voice searches in 2020 could result in significant sales growth, so it’s important that merchants take advantage of this. Specifically, this means ensuring your website loads fast and is mobile-friendly, simplifying the checkout process, and structuring your pages in a way that places the most important information first.
Merchants can also optimize for voice search with on-page SEO tactics like capturing more Quick Answers in Google searches for target keywords, using structured data, switching to HTTPS, and optimizing their websites to answer questions.
Same-day shipping and same-day delivery
Customer expectations are changing quickly and online merchants need to change with them to survive.
Same-day shipping and same-day delivery are increasingly common. In fact, statistics show that a staggering 80% of consumers prefer a same-day delivery option at checkout. There’s no doubt, then, that this e-commerce trend will continue in 2020.
To better meet these fast-changing customer expectations, online merchants should adopt same-day shipping and delivery best practices to stay competitive and boost customer experience and satisfaction. This means auditing and optimizing your supply chain, automating your fulfillment process to slash delivery times and reduce human error, outsourcing to professionals, bringing on additional staff if fulfilling in-house, and clearing customs in advance for international shipping.
Adapt and thrive in 2020
All of these trends will have a significant impact on global e-commerce in 2020 and the years beyond. Having a strong understanding of them now and how they’ll affect e-commerce and logistics in the future is crucial to succeeding in the increasingly competitive and globalized world of online commerce.
While these trends may seem complex and outside the control of online merchants, keeping a close eye on them and being an early adopter of these trends will be the key to success for e-commerce in 2020.
Online merchants must have a good understanding of geopolitical factors like Brexit, the UPU changes, and the U.S.-China trade war. They should also embrace automation and same-day shipping and delivery, and optimize their websites for voice and mobile search. Then, they can be prepared to tackle the complex world of global e-commerce in 2020 and beyond.