Global e-commerce trend forecast for 2012
After a year of technical innovations including the rapid adoption of smartphone and tablet technology by consumers, the shopper/seller relationship has changed dramatically, according to e-commerce giant Rakuten, which has identified six major trends to watch during 2012.
Fuelled by the increase in mobile technology, e-commerce growth shows no sign of slowing, with JP Morgan estimating that its global value will be some US$963 billion in 2012. And during the year cutting edge mobile devices, worldwide broadband penetration and innovative social shopping services will continue to open up global markets, providing huge growth opportunities for merchants large and small, and giving consumers unparalleled levels of choice.
The company's predictions cover the entire e-commerce market and examined six key trends, including:
- T-Commerce and M-Commerce retail therapy In 2011 web enabled mobile devices transformed E-commerce, opening up a new 24/7 channel to the consumer and creating innovative new ways to engage them, from QR codes to location based offers. In 2012 m-commerce will continue to gather momentum, but it is T-commerce that's particularly exciting. The rich functionality of the tablet shifts the traditionally transactional and bargain hunting online experience into a virtual store experience, making the web an almost tactile experience. For example, Rakuten's BuyTV in the US and Rakuten SuperTV in Japan bring video reviews to enrich the tablet shopping experience. Better still, mobile commerce is not exclusively for big brands with big budgets. Better still, mobile commerce is not exclusively for big brands with big budgets. Thanks to affiliate services and marketplaces like Rakuten, merchants large and small can harness the mobile channel without incurring heavy infrastructure costs. Gartner estimates that by 2013, smart mobile web devices will overtake the total number of PC's in use, exceeding 1.8 billion. With 1.8 billion consumers just a click away this too big an opportunity for retailers to miss.
- Bricks and mortar in the cloud The boundaries between online and offline worlds are becoming increasingly blurred, as retailers fuse their digital and real-world offerings. Barcode scanning services such as ShopSavvy help users find the best deal, by allowing them to scan the barcode and search for better offers online. However, the challenge with these applications is they fail to reward the store whose display instigated the purchase. To avoid cannibalising the high-street we believe a new system must emerge in 2012 that rewards offline and online ecosystems.
- Shopping with your social network Getting a second opinion before committing to a purchase is nothing new, but now rather than taking a friend shopping you can take your entire social network with you. Retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of "the fan" and social will form an integral part of the E-commerce evolution in 2012. Data released in July by Hitwise indicated that 1 Facebook fan was equal to 20 additional visits to a retail website in the course of a year. Retailers are now using social not just for brand awareness, but for product development and customer service too. Rakuten's ShopTogether feature lets all merchants capitalise on social service by enabling Rakuten marketplace users to invite friends to view products and live chat whilst looking at the product page.
- Borderless shopping communities The company predicts that 2012 will see the rise of the local global e-marketplace. International marketplace models will provide sellers of all sizes around the world with the opportunity to expand their operations internationally, without the cost intensive outlay traditionally associated with establishing local delivery models, storage facilities etc. Sellers will be able to dabble in international shopping communities and dedicate resources based on real world demand. This will open up opportunities with burgeoning markets, such as China, India and Brazil. In late 2011 Rakuten surveyed international interest in shopping globally online and the results revealed that consumers are open to borderless shopping. Brazil is leading the global e-shopping charge with 81% of consumers keen to shop in different markets online, followed by Indonesia (77%), Thailand (74%), China (69%) and Spain (66%).
- Flexible, local shipping models According to a report by Forrester in January 2011, shipping issues were one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment in Europe. It's true that the internet has created a global marketplace, but local market shopping preferences must be taken into account. In Indonesia for example, locals are reluctant to pay online, to combat this Rakuten set up a shipping model, of local bike couriers, who collected payment on arrival. In 2012, flexible shopping models will be vital for growth, as evidenced by the growing popularity of the click & collect phenomenon, which accounted for 10.4% of all e-commerce sales in the UK during Christmas 2011, according to the IMRG.
- Online shopping gets personal The phrase "information is power" is set to take on a new meaning as retailers seek to capture the fickle attention of information savvy internet shoppers. Gone are the days when retailers tracked consumer behaviour based on loyalty points, the company warns. Today's online retailers can acquire huge volumes of data on both their potential and existing customers based on user browsing habits alone. In 2012 data exchange between retailers and social networks will begin to provide solid business models for social platforms and offer new insights into the psyche of the shopper. What matters most to retailers however is how their marketing teams translate this wealth of data into meaningful and timely communications with customers. The web generation is already jaded from a surfeit of push advertising, to truly engage consumers in 2012 and beyond, retailers must learn how to harness user specific data to provide timely, personalised and relevant communications.
Rakuten operates a variety of consumer and business-focused services including e-commerce, travel, banking, securities, credit card, e-money, portal & media, online marketing and professional sports, with operations throughout Asia, Western Europe, and the Americas.