E-commerce is a highly competitive and rapidly evolving market. Each year, new trends emerge that you should be aware of. If you don’t keep up with these changes, you could fall behind. We’ve summed up 10 tactics to ensure you stay competitive and even grow your cross-border e-commerce business in 2020.

1. Sell on social media

Millennials are highly influenced by social media content. Half of them browse social media for shopping inspiration, product reviews and promotions. While until now, social media sites have mainly been a place to promote products, in 2020 they are set to become true sales platforms. The signs are already there. A Facebook shop lets you sell products directly on your Facebook page, and Instagram allows you to tag products in photos and link to a product page. In China WeChat is booming – a social media app that allows you to buy items, book tickets and pay for them immediately with just one fingerprint. As a retailer, you can take advantage of these possibilities right away. Instagram is even using its @shop account to get up-and-coming brands to sell on the platform.

2. Be personal and relevant

When it comes to enhancing customer experience, personalization and relevance are key. 43% of consumers prefer webshops that personalize the experience, and three in four shoppers find it irritating if offers aren’t adapted to their preferences. Basic customisation – using a first name or mentioning a recent purchase – is a step in the right direction, but you’ll have to do better to meet your customers’ rising demands. Use all the available data points, or customer insights, to increase your ad’s relevance. A good example is Amazon, which advises customers based on their buying history, browsing history, wish list etc.

3. Automate your marketing

Marketing automation enables you to automatically create and distribute messages that resonate with the unique needs of each of your customers, based on their behavior. Shopping cart abandonment emails, for example, are easy to automate. You can easily adapt your approach depending on the target group, the language or the country, and whether you send 10 or 1,000 emails, it takes the same amount of effort. By tracking open and conversion rates, you can easily perfect your strategy. So, if you haven’t yet jumped on the automation bandwagon, 2020 is definitely the year to do so. You can start small and gradually become more and more automized. 

4. Enable voice searches

‘Hi Alexa’, ‘OK Google’, ‘Hey Siri’ … Since the introduction of virtual assistants, voice search has been growing year after year. This year, 50% of all searches across the internet will be voice-based. And of course that has an effect on e-commerce. Take Russia, for example, where 40% of millennials currently use smart home voice assistants for online purchases. 13% buy products via these devices at least once a month and 11% at least once a week. As a retailer, it will be critical to figure out the way your audience speaks when searching for your products and to optimise your content for voice searches, such as question-based keywords. Bear in mind that not every voice assistant supports every language.

5. Use video, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

One of the main concerns customers have when shopping online is the fact they can’t visualise and touch the products they are interested in. That’s why a good product description is crucial. Research shows that 72% of consumers prefer watching video descriptions to reading them. In addition to video, companies are increasingly deploying virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to bridge this gap. Warby Parker and Ikea use these technologies so customers can ‘try on’ different glasses before ordering or test out how pieces of furniture will look in their own homes. Something to consider for your business?

6. Provide delivery flexibility

Consumers want to receive their parcels where and when it suits them. At 68%, home was the most commonly used delivery location worldwide. But make no mistake: pick-up points such as post offices, postal service points, courier’s parcel shops, parcel lockers and e-retailer’s physical stores are also popular. Want to make your customers happy? Choose a parcel courier that offers delivery at different times of day (evenings, Sundays, etc), via different methods (at home, at a pick-up point, etc) and provides transparent communication about deliveries (estimated time of delivery, etc.)

7. Go mobile first

65% of shoppers say they use their mobile phone for online shopping. They prefer to use a tracking app to monitor their packages. And they want to be able to return parcels via their mobile device too. Belgian parcel courier bpost is already responding to this. They have introduced a ‘mobile return service’ to simplify returns by giving customers the option of receiving a QR code for a return label. The label can then be printed in the branch or the courier’s parcel shop when they return their parcel. So 2020 will be the year to put mobile first.

8. Get people to subscribe

Another trend we’ll be seeing break through in 2020 is subscription services: consumers subscribing online to receive physical products at fixed times – monthly or twice a year, for example. Men with a subscription to Dollar Shave Club get a new supply of razor blades delivered to their home every month. And The Honest Company offers diaper subscriptions. Based on the child’s age, customers receive diapers in the right size at set times. As an e-retailer, it could be worth your while introducing a subscription model.

9. Use marketplaces

Marketplaces are big business. They already control more than half of global e-commerce. What’s more, the customer journey increasingly starts and ends in a marketplace. 49% of American shoppers start on a marketplace when they begin a product search online – compared to 22% who start on a search engine. In Europe, we see the same trend. As a retailer, it can therefore be interesting to sell your products via a marketplace.

10. Be sustainable

60% of consumers worldwide want parcels with sustainable packaging and 47% want carbon-neutral delivery. Three out of four online buyers in the Nordic countries consider sustainability when buying. There is no question that sustainability is moving up the agenda. Particularly when it comes to delivery, you can make sustainable choices as an e-retailer. You can bundle (international) shipments where possible and work with logistics partners who are committed to sustainability.


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