If there is one business lesson learned during the last few years, it’s that e-commerce is here to stay.

While in-store shopping is more or less back to normal, there’s no sign that the huge growth of e-commerce is going to end anytime soon. Sales via omnichannel, direct-to-consumer and social media are expected to keep soaring.

Is e-commerce still growing?

After seeing 28.8 per cent growth in the first year of the pandemic, e-commerce in Canada is forecast to increase 15 per cent annually through to 2025.

There are several factors fueling this growth. While Millennials and Generation Z, who grew up in a digital world, prefer to shop online, during the COVID-19 pandemic shoppers of all ages became more used to the ease of online shopping that can be done simply with the click of a button.

With online shopping becoming a preferred option, businesses are looking to improve shopping experiences.

What is the future of e-commerce?

Expect these e-commerce trends to become more prominent in 2023.

Omnichannel: This year will see more retailers adopt omnichannel sales practices. Most retailers currently use multichannel sales where products are available for sale via in-store and on-line; however, the buying experience is different for each channel. For example, there could be a price difference or a different exchange policy. With omnichannel, the buying experience is the same over all platforms. Examples include having the availability of in-store inventory reflected in real-time online or the ability of an in-store employee to access a customer’s online purchasing history.

Voice-enabled shopping: From smart phones to smart home devices, voice assistants are part of everyday life. Retailers are following suit by creating voice-enabled shopping experiences. This offers improved accessibility for customers and can help them locate an on-line product without pages of scrolling. Similarly, many companies are using website chatbots to answer customer queries.

Social commerce: Social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and Snapchat are becoming popular selling options for retailers and are critical to reach certain target audiences. Sales through social media platforms are forecast to triple from $1.35 trillion (US $992 billion) in 2022 to 2026 to $3.96 trillion (US $2.9 trillion).

Mobile commerce: More consumers are preferring to use their mobile devices for shopping.

By 2024, mobile commerce sales are expected to reach nearly $6.1 trillion (US$4.5 trillion) making up 69.9% of total retail ecommerce sales. Retailers must optimize their websites for mobile users as that is where the majority of their business may be coming from.

Direct-to-consumer sales: Some manufacturers are cutting out third-part sellers to sell directly to consumers. For example, in 2019, Nike dropped Amazon in order to sell direct-to-consumer. As a result, Nike’s online sales increased 83% in a quarter, adding $900 million to its total sales.

Customer service: Just because consumers are shopping online doesn’t mean they don’t need human contact. Whether it’s queries about sizing, comparable products or shipping, companies need to be able to answer questions and be available at all times. Rather than customers waiting endlessly on hold or hoping an email gets answered, live chats and chatbots ensure retailers can respond quickly .

Easy returns: Having a flexible return policy is a wonderful way to keep customers. A survey found 67 per cent of shoppers check the return policy before buying from a company and 92 per cent will purchase from an on-line retailer again if the return process is simple.

Product information: Today’s consumers want more information on a product than just a photo and a serial number. Look for e-commerce sites to provide more dynamic information about products, through in-depth information, videos or interactive content.

What is the best ecommerce platform for small business?

Not all businesses have the resources to set up their own e-commerce hubs. Fortunately, there are a wide range of e-commerce platforms for small business available to build an online presence with the ability to provide payment processing, web hosting, website design and more. Prices can range from $10 monthly for basic platforms to more than $500 monthly for advanced. Considering how much business they do online can help a retailer to determine whether investing in e-commerce is worth it.

Popular platforms include Squarespace, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Weebly.

Businesses need to ensure that they find an e-commerce platform that works well their inventory. For example, merchants won’t need a complex platform for small or limited inventory. However, if sales volume is large or products are sold across multiple channels, businesses will need a more complex platform to keep track of transactions and inventory.

Platforms can be self-hosted or cloud-based. Self-hosted platforms offer more control and customization, but do require the merchant to be more hands-on in terms of administering the technical side. Cloud-based platforms don’t require as much user maintenance, but have less flexibility.

Key features to look for when choosing a platform include processing payments, secure purchasing, shipping, managing inventory, optimization for mobile devices and analytics. Look for a platform that will accommodate all your needs without having to do complicated and potentially-expensive customizations.

Published on January 6, 2023.