Online eCommerce is now the shopping method of choice for consumers, so getting a step ahead in the multichannel market is crucial for your businesses.
So what trends will we see in multichannel eCommerce in 2024 – and can SMEs leap on board with them?
We think so. Read on for the 15 key multichannel eCommerce trends of 2024.
What are the key trends in multichannel eCommerce for 2024?
Three years ago, a global pandemic struck. And with it came multiple changes to the retail industry and how people shopped. Perhaps the biggest shift was the acceleration towards multichannel eCommerce and the associated demands placed on businesses.
Throughout 2021, 2022, and 2023 this momentum continued to build. Businesses learnt to adapt to the rapidly evolving retail landscape by leveraging the tools and trends that have shaped an overwhelming year for multichannel eCommerce retail.
But to sustain growth and stay one step ahead, businesses and brands need to further embrace and implement projected multichannel eCommerce trends.
Here we give you the definitive list of multichannel eCommerce trends for 2024.
1. Social media commerce
The social commerce market is expected to grow by 30.8% year-over-year right through to 2025. The term social commerce refers to eCommerce retailers that use social media platforms like Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok, to market and sell products and services.
A subset of eCommerce, social commerce supports engagement with consumers, and elicits user-generated social contributions to assist the buying and selling of products and services online.
2. AI in eCommerce
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are excellent tools for predicting shopping habits based on a customer’s browsing and shopping history. Predictive analytics and demand forecasting are a staple of AI, and the rich datasets it collects can be used to generate personalised and targeted recommendations on eCommerce platforms.
This draws on yet another key eCommerce trend: the consumer desire for increasingly personalised shopping experiences. For more on personalisation, see point 7 below.
While few SMEs have the volume of data required for exact forecasting, a good ERP and CRM system will have machine learning capabilities to help target genuine cross-selling and upselling opportunities.
3. Augmented reality and eCommerce retail
Walking into a brick-and-mortar store allows consumers to visualise what a big-ticket purchase might look like in their own homes. Furniture stores, for instance, display stock in a way that enables them to see how a lounge or bedroom setting might look – Ikea is a classic example of this.
Ecommerce can’t provide the physical setting, of course, but it can use technology to give customers the next best thing online. The simplest way to do this is to provide static images of your products, but augmented reality means you can go one better, offering your customers new experiences – and giving them a better idea of how your products look and feel. It enables customers to preview products through phones or tablets in an augmented or enhanced way that makes products seem closer, almost tactile.
Adding this technology means consumers can use a phone or laptop to see a live video of their room with the new furniture. Augmented reality is an immersive, interactive technology that enables shoppers to independently select and ‘try on’ products. To do so, they use an augmented self to represent their own appearance more precisely in the online shopping environment.
4. Ecommerce voice search
Voice search is growing in popularity with voice assistants now on phones, home smart hubs and televisions. The ease of voice shopping directly influences consumer searches and as a result, purchase outcomes. Ecommerce companies need to remain aware of changes in how consumers search and purchase via voice-enabled technology to optimise their business for future sales.
In real terms this means that any eCommerce site or SME must optimise SEO for both mobile and website voice searches in 2024. While doing so, they should prioritise basic information such as website addresses, and important contact information such as the business’ physical address(es), contact number(s) and business hours.
5. Live-stream eCommerce
Live-stream eCommerce accelerates conversion because it is both entertaining and immersive. It keeps viewers watching longer and reduces the time from awareness to purchase. Popular live-stream formats include tutorials, interviews, and behind-the-scenes approaches.
Executed well, live-stream will help to increase a brand’s appeal and differentiation to draw web traffic, strengthening its position with existing customers and helping to attract new ones.
China is the fastest growing eCommerce market in the world, and the number of live-streaming ecommerce platform users in China grew by 204 million from March 2020 to June 2022.
6. Omnichannel selling
Omnichannel retail is the selling of goods and services via multiple different channels, such as brick-and-mortar stores, social media commerce and third-party marketplaces. Selling products on all popular platforms increases visibility and brand awareness across the Internet.
By combining online and offline technologies, omnichannel shopping is perceived by consumers to be advantageous in terms of performance and effort. To capitalise on this, companies need to be well positioned and integrated across multiple channels in store, online, and on social media to inform and engage omnichannel shoppers, and strengthen their connection and contact with the brand.
Collecting customer data from multiple channels enables companies to provide customers with personalised offers and experiences. Personalising a customer’s eCommerce shopping experience will help differentiate a brand from its competitors.
Customers need help to find the products they require, and a more personalised experience is the key to keeping them satisfied. Over 80% of consumers are more likely to shop from businesses that offer personalised content and promotions. That means your eCommerce platform in 2022 should offer basic personalisation tools that can be tailored to your customers’ purchase history and shopping behaviours.
Simple practices like sending a personalised thank you email can express gratitude and respect and provide further opportunities for future sales. With an open rate of around 65%, follow-up emails are have a much higher opening rate than other email marketing campaigns. With machine learning, online tracking and smart web technologies, eCommerce companies can provide every customer with a highly personalised and individual experience.
8. Authentic content via video
Standing out amidst the competition has always been one of retail’s toughest challenges, and truly authentic content is set to shape the way brands reach existing and prospective customers. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat stories have experienced explosive growth as the shopper’s favourite way to consume authentic video content.
Ecommerce brands will increasingly adopt one-to-many videos with tailored product recommendations in 2022. This style of authentic content helps to provide eCommerce shoppers with a more personalised shopping experience.
9. Renewed focus on sustainability.
The Covid-19 pandemic intensified pressure on organisations to become truly sustainable and deliver financial value with social and environmental impact to benefit all stakeholders. In a post-pandemic world, this trend has stayed strong. Consumers and governments alike are moving increasingly towards renewable energy, acceptable environmental practices, and long-term sustainable practices.
What this means for businesses is a tangible commitment to upholding stakeholder-centric values, as well as environmental & social sustainability. For investors this trend is driving environmental, social, and governance preferences on the stock market. For consumers this is evident in a preference for companies that demonstrate strong sustainability performance – so it’s a key trend for 2023.
10. Ethical and independent business
Recent events have seen a growth in the preference of many consumers for ethical and/or independent businesses. On the flip side, these consumers are taking measures to specifically avoid those they deem to practice or support unethical activities. This provides an opportunity for those companies whose brand proposition focuses on strong ethical values to seek out and engage with these customers.
Shoppers have watched local businesses struggle through ongoing lockdowns and border closures and want to support them. Shopping local has become more of a conscious act in the Covid-19 consumer marketplace. Businesses that have adapted their operations throughout the pandemic will continue to use unique strategies to attract consumers wishing to support local and independent eCommerce SMEs.
11. Speedy distribution and eCommerce order fulfilment
Consumers don’t want to wait for their online purchases – instead, they expect fast delivery of their goods. Enhanced distribution and fulfilment planning is important for businesses because if your estimated delivery times are too slow, customers may choose to shop elsewhere.
Multichannel eCommerce requires multichannel distribution and delivery options. Order fulfilment systems should integrate logistics activities across all channels. Multilayered distribution models, optimised supply chains, and online inventory management systems play an important role in enabling a holistic view across multiple channels in real time.
Businesses continue to invest in micro-fulfilment to boost resilience and maintain some control over the shopping experience – and the good news is that SMEs can compete on fast fulfilment rates. This will continue to be a factor for multichannel eCommerce in 2024.
12. Multichannel customer support
Multichannel eCommerce trends inevitably come with an increase in multichannel customer support access points – and customers able to easily reach a business with their questions or queries will generally feel more confident purchasing from them.
Different customers will have different preferences for how they want to communicate. New channels and new ways to communicate will improve customer satisfaction and retention, whether in store, via email, social platforms, mobile phone calls and texts, live chat or chatbots.
The ability to assist in a timely manner assures buyers you are willing to help, and this can only contribute positively to sales and business growth in 2024.
13. Growth in subscription models
The global subscription e-commerce market size grew from $119.4 billion last year to $196.35 billion in 2023. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 64.4%. And it’s predicted to grow to $1482.11 billion in 2027.
Selling subscriptions makes repeat custom more likely. A key issue of eCommerce is low customer retention rates compared to other verticals, and this has driven many online businesses to find new ways to turn their products and services into subscription models.
A successful transition into subscription sales requires thorough long-term planning, a good understanding of who your customers are, and the technology to support the transition. Done right, and adapted over time, subscription models can keep customers loyal for months or years into the future.
14. Dark stores
One of the most practical trends to have been accelerated by the events of the past two years is the rise of the dark store. Between supply chain disruptions and consumer demand for delivery ‘right now’, dark stores have been momentous in helping eCommerce companies to optimise rapid order fulfilment.
As speed of order fulfilment is increasingly key to remaining competitive, dark stores will become more commonplace. Some retailers will opt to convert certain locations into permanent dark stores, while others will find creative reasons for going ‘dark’. This could be during peak trading times or busy seasons where gig workers will be working overtime to fulfil online orders outside of standard operating hours.
15. Assorted payment options
Each eCommerce purchase requires an online payment – you won’t want to be limited to order-online pay-offline options. Choosing the forms of payment you will accept on your eCommerce site should be based on the types of payment options your customers use and prefer. Do they usually pay with online banking, credit, digital wallet, Afterpay or some other means?
With a rising number of payment methods, it’s vital for eCommerce businesses to provide customers with the flexibility to choose a payment method that suits them. The absence of a desired payment option is a leading cause of potential customers abandoning their cart prior to conversion.
To boost sales with new payment options, companies should understand what methods their customers use. Digital wallets, for example, are becoming increasingly popular, particularly with younger consumers. These allow customers to pay at checkout by simply logging into their digital wallet account. Many prefer this payment method because they only need to remember their login details – rather than input lengthy credit card details.
Multichannel eCommerce trends for 2024: Outtakes for SMEs
So how can small-to-medium businesses keep up with these trends? And are SMEs better or worse placed than bigger companies to deal with eCommerce trends in 2024?
The world of eCommerce is constantly evolving, with business needing to adapt to meet changing consumer preferences, and new technologies continually emerging to automate a wide spectrum of business activities.
SMEs can adopt many of the multichannel eCommerce trends listed above, particularly in areas of personalisation and social commerce that require little investment.
Where SMEs are extremely well placed to benefit from multichannel eCommerce trends in 2024 are those areas that they are often already doing well in, but not capitalising on to their full potential. These include:
- Authentic content
Authenticity builds trust, and SMEs are well positioned to express their own authentic voice. It’s easier to be yourself when you are smaller, community-based, and locally owned – and when you’re not saddled with historical brand baggage. With consistent honesty, transparency, and humility SMEs can set themselves apart from larger competitors.
Kermit once said: “It’s not easy being green”. But for SMEs it doesn’t have to be that hard. Smaller processes reduce waste, supply strategies to purchase locally reduce your carbon footprint, and that’s a big value-add for customers who want to shop with brands that care about the environment.
- Ethics and independence
For SMEs, ethics and independence are often easier to promote than for larger corporations. And ethics are not limited to the ethical sourcing of goods and services. Ethics cover how you do business, including how you treat your staff, and whether you’re honest about your business and brand. Consumers are generally very attuned to this because it demonstrates whether you truly care for people – including your customers.