5 Ecommerce Trends & Predictions for 2013

by Bernard Luthi

Special to the eTail Blog

Retailers will need to further blur the line between shopping online and in-store as well as create tailored multi-device mobile offerings to fuel growth in 2013

U.S. e-commerce has been a source of steady growth for several years, but this holiday season shoppers are expected to spend $43.4 billion online according to projections released by research firm ComScore; that’s a 17% increase from last year and the biggest growth projection for e-commerce since the recession hit.

This healthy growth figure is in large part impacted by the emergence of digital services that have made online shopping more enjoyable, more unique or generally easier to take part in. 2012 saw Pinterest flourish and introduce a new discovery shopping model. It also saw mobile integration advance in the form of search, apps, payment and more. 2013 will no doubt build on this momentum.

Today we consider five key trends that will fuel e-commerce growth in 2013:

1. Curated commerce: Shopping for a shirt is one thing, but shopping for a lifestyle is another, richer, more engaging trend we’re seeing across e-commerce industries from fashion to food. Visually-heavy sites such as Pinterest have quickly become popular social media tools, allowing consumers to organize their favorite items into themed collections that they can share with others. Not only does this fuel personal expression in shopping, but other shoppers will use these collections to inform their own purchase decisions; it’s an evolution of the powerful personal recommendation.

2. The rise of the specialist retailer: Whether it’s brick-and-mortar or online, there has been a shift toward specialist retailers that can often offer a better-informed and personal service. An alternative to impersonal mass-market retailers, specialist retailers cater to a specific range or area of products – be that fashion, jewellery, or photography equipment. This trend also can be seen in the way consumers use specialized shopping apps on their mobile devices.

3. Increased video use: One of the reasons video wasn’t incorporated as frequently into e-commerce websites in the past was that it would significantly slow down the shopping experience. This is still a concern for many. But as Internet speeds become faster across the world, retailers are becoming less restricted by broadband rates and have the freedom to use richer media content than ever before. We expect video reviews and the virtual un-boxing of products to provide new insights that online shopping was unable to achieve in the past.

4. Changing the way we pay: The choice of payment methods that retailers can offer to consumers seems to be constantly evolving and it’s often make or break in a purchase decision. Alongside the growth of mobile transactions, NFC, and contact-less payment methods could dramatically change how people pay for products. Services like PayPal and Apple’s iTunes have already begun to centralize payments on mobile, but the next step will be services such as Square that offer sellers the ability to receive card payments with their existing smartphone and a simple plug-in device. This freedom to accept payments either online or in-store will be invaluable for merchants of all sizes in the coming years.

5. Increased mobile integration: Whether it’s a mobile-optimized site or dedicated app, most retailers are coming to terms with their need for a smartphone and/or tablet solution. However, mobile can offer much more than this. In the next year we expect to see more integration in-store, through the use of apps, QR codes and augmented reality experiences as well as shifts in the payment tools available.

E-commerce has matured in dramatic ways in 2012. Each tool and trend we expect to see in the New Year aims to build on the successful models initiated in 2012 and further blurs the line between the online store and local shop. Through the adoption and integration of curated commerce, specialized retailers, the use of video and advanced on-the-go mobile engagement, the online marketplace will become an increasingly bigger player alongside in-store shopping in 2013.

Bernard Luthi is the COO and CMO of Rakuten Buy.com.