If you’ve ever bought anything online – given that over 30% of UK retail sales are completed online, then chances are you have – you’re experience will have been powered by an eCommerce platform of some description.
From Shopify to Magento, Wix to WooCommerce, there are no shortage of platforms out there, but how has eCommerce changed over the decades and what could it look like in the future?
Where it all started
Whilst we may think of eCommerce as being born out of the internet, it actually started over 40 years ago, with the introduction of teleshopping paving the way for the modern-day eCommerce we know today.
It’s history, however, is closely intertwined with that of the internet. Online shopping became a possibility when the internet entered the public domain in 1991. Closely followed by the launch of Amazon and later, in 1998, PayPal launched its eCommerce payment system which revolutionised online payments.
The newfound convenience, safety, and enjoyable user experience of eCommerce have gone on to improve exponentially since its inception all those years ago.
The growth of eCommerce
As more and more people began trading online, the need for more secure communication and transactions became apparent. In 2004, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI) was formed to ensure businesses were complying with various security requirements.
But it wasn’t just online security efforts that stepped up, in 2000 Google introduced Google AdWords. With the help of short-text ad copy and display URLs, online retailers were able to use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to promote their business to Google search users – a brand new form of paid advertising that is still widely used by businesses today.
Throughout the 2010s the face of eCommerce was transformed, thanks to the introduction of 3G, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram utilising the power of eCommerce, and Apple launching a mobile payment method.
Of course, one of the main reasons for the growth in eCommerce is the role that smartphones play in a country’s eCommerce market. In fact, around 55% of the UK’s eCommerce shopping is conducted on a mobile device with Gen Z and Millennials leading the charge in shopping via smartphone.
The impact of lockdown
When the UK went into lockdown on March 23, 2020, it caused a ripple effect on UK eCommerce. The effect of spending the majority of our time at home and the closure of non-essential retail increased consumer willingness to shop online with new retailers, as well as embrace completing common tasks such as grocery shopping.
Over the last few years, internet sales have accounted for around 30% of total retail sales. The pandemic is expected to have a boosting effect on the UK’s eCommerce industry by around £5.3 billion in sales in 2020, bringing the total market volume to £78.9 billion.
Lockdown also impacted our desire to have our products delivered fast – despite holdups caused by the sudden surge in orders, 19% of millennials still expected to receive their online-purchased goods no more than 24 hours after ordering them, compared to just 7% of the general population.
The future of eCommerce
While some believe that the shift towards an eCommerce centric marketplace is only temporary, consumer polling would indicate otherwise. Buyers enjoy the convenience of online shopping, and many will be reluctant to return to old shopping habits even as restrictions are lifted.
The reasons why someone prefers digital shopping may vary from person to person, but the result is the same. Retailers who have been reluctant to have an eCommerce presence could lose significant revenue in the years to come as buyer habits become increasingly oriented towards digital.
Of course, this will create a competitive marketplace with many businesses vying for the attention of a captive audience, leading to customer experience becoming imperative in the digital word. Today’s consumers expect easy-to-use, intuitive digital experiences across all channels and devices. Yhe brands that understand and act on this can expect to see the best ROI.
The pandemic brought about intrinsic changes to lifestyle and consumer spending habits, with sectors such as health, hygiene, home essentials, and food and beverage now topping the list of online purchases. As well as amplifying the consumer’s increasing desire for convenience, immediacy, and simplicity, with 63% of consumers citing the importance of direct home delivery.
In order to stay relevant, its important companies focus on creating innovative digital experiences that make life easier for consumers, after all it’s the consumer who is now in control.