Two topics are currently omnipresent in the media: the pandemic and sustainability. So it's no surprise that these two topics are also having an impact on online retailing and are driving eCommerce trends significantly. Shopping via livestream, the revival of second-hand culture, or the fusion of online and offline – live commerce, recommerce, and hybrid commerce are coming. And faster than expected. Therefore, now is the time to get ready to take advantage of it as early as possible.
1. Live Commerce: Next-Generation Teleshopping
In China, live commerce has developed rapidly. Within just a few years, it has become a highly relevant channel: In 2020, two-thirds of Chinese consumers bought products from live streams. In Germany, the potential still has some way to go, but some brands have already recognised it: According to a study by Arvato Supply Chain Solutions, 36% of the companies surveyed were already using this channel in 2021.
But: What exactly is live commerce? Influencers or brand employees showcase products in a live stream, and viewers can directly buy them. At first, this might remind you of teleshopping broadcasts of QVC and the like, which have been around since the 1980s. But with live commerce, an essential element is added: interactions. Viewers on their smartphones or laptops can use like buttons o.s. to show reactions, make comments or ask questions that are answered during the live stream.
During the pandemic, interest in shopping via livestream has increased. One possible reason is that many store purchases have shifted to the digital world as a result of lockdowns. There’s one thing missing online though: personal advice from shop assistants. Live commerce brings back some of that personal feel. Viewers can ask questions and are provided with a more engaging and entertaining experience.
Generation Z in particular is receptive to influencers and is, therefore, a promising target group for this approach. When companies already cooperate with influencers, they might also be interested in doing a live show. With live commerce, viewers often spend significantly more time with the brand than an ad, for example. Time-limited offers during the live stream often prove to be conversion rate boosters. In addition, games or giveaway campaigns ensure that viewers keep watching and are more likely to become buyers.
Live commerce is still in its early stages in Germany. That's why there are many opportunities to try out new formats and become a trendsetter. ABOUT YOU has already had promising experiences with the format and has successfully piloted first shows. Engagement and sales numbers were convincing. Mareike Jacobsgaard, Teamlead Drops & Marketing Exclusive Cooperations at ABOUT YOU, explains, "Live shopping will continue to be one of the focus topics for us in the future. We see there’s a potential especially around our Exclusive Assortment Collections, which we develop together with selected influencers."
Companies that want to start with live commerce, have various options, e.g. integrating a third-party provider or self-developed modules. An important requirement, however, is a flexible shop system that is headless and API-driven providing the technical requirements to offer live streams according to their wishes and needs.
2. Recommerce: Sustainability in Online Retail
The second-hand approach is not new either: used products are resold at a lower price. However, this concept has only made the leap from the vintage stores of trendy side streets to online retail in recent years. The growing awareness of sustainability has certainly played a big part in this. Many people have also become more price-conscious due to the economic uncertainty during the pandemic and are happy to get high-quality products at a lower price.
The official term for this eCommerce trend is recommerce, short for "reverse commerce". For media and technology, companies like reBuy are already successful in the German market. In the fashion sector, for example, we at ABOUT YOU have been giving former favourite pieces a second life in our "Second Love" category since fall 2020.
Recommerce has several advantages and is therefore rightfully one of the major eCommerce trends in 2022 and beyond.
The focus on sustainability as part of corporate values strengthens the image of the vendor.
Additional customer segments can be gained that, for example, cannot afford the products in new condition.
Customer loyalty is strengthened, e.g., through trade-ins of older products when buying new ones. This increases interactions with a customer and keeps them in the ecosystem, for example, because they have received shop credits.
A resale will probably happen somewhere anyway but this way, the company gets its share of it.
Younger target groups in particular, who have grown up with the sharing economy and put particular emphasis on sustainability, are contributing to recommerce growth. Because their share of the buyer base continues to rise, there is no end in sight for sustainable shopping at the moment.
3. Hybrid Commerce: The Best of Both Worlds
The lines between digital and physical shopping experiences have blurred out – not only since the pandemic. Even before, customers were already researching online in order to buy offline later (ROPO: "research online, purchase offline"). Or they looked around in a physical store and ordered the product cheaper online, also known as showrooming. In many cases, this meant they were opting for a different vendor, which was more than unfortunate for the first retailer.
Hybrid Commerce can be a solution to this. The term means that the shopping experience spans different channels – online and offline. The pandemic has accelerated this development with, e.g., brick-and-mortar retailers having to increase their online activities during the lockdowns. But the approach of expanding one's channels is worthwhile even without these special circumstances. Companies should focus on customer experience, which needs to be consistent and inspiring. Whether eCommerce companies are opening brick-and-mortar stores or pop-up stores or stationary retailers are setting up or expanding an online shop – both have the opportunity to grow their customer base and offer all the channels that make a difference for their brand.
There are multiple ways retailers can connect online and offline, including:
Click & Collect: customers buy a product online and pick it up at a store themselves.
Click & Reserve: the product is not yet purchased online but only reserved. Customers can check it or try it on in the store and buy it if they like it.
Return in Store: if a product purchased online is not to a customer’s liking, it can be returned or exchanged at the store.
Ship from Store: shipping takes place directly from a store, which thus also serves as a miniature logistics center.
This effort pays off: Hybrid Commerce enables a true omnichannel strategy that prevents losses along the way. Those who prefer to order online and have the product delivered can do so from the same vendor after the personal consultation in the store. And those who would like to touch the items before buying can order their favourites to the store and select only the product they like best there. Combining digital and physical channels for the best possible customer experience makes Hybrid Commerce one of the big eCommerce trends of the next few years.
These three trends can be challenging for logistics and processes at first. Entirely new questions arise in other areas as well: What changes might be necessary for payments and refunds? Are offers and coupons equally valid everywhere? What does customer service need to know and consider? On the technical side, this can also pose some challenges and not every shop system is sufficiently flexible. To realise the potential of hybrid commerce in the long term, companies need a powerful and scalable system and the motivation to break new grounds.