Anne-Marie Green, Marketing Manager of South African Online Auction and Marketplace Bidorbuy, paid particular attention to emerging trends overseas, as these will invariably reach South Africa in 2022. .
“The sheer scale of some more mature e-commerce markets means they are open to experimentation with integrating other tools such as social selling and chatbots to further enhance the online shopping experience,” says Green.
“Despite recent growth, South Africa remains a relatively underdeveloped e-commerce market, but studying developments overseas can help us predict and shape the future here.”
Green identifies the big trends that are set to dominate the online shopping space this year.
One of the biggest developments is the emergence of more payment options. This stems from the fact that consumers like to have a choice.
“This extends beyond products on sale to shipping and payment options that customers can select at checkout,” Green says.
“Payment options such as installments; buy now pay later; and interest-free credit make e-commerce more accessible and remove barriers to buying more expensive items. Diversified payment options also mean that the e-commerce experience is better suited to various consumer budgets and spending habits, and helps build trust in positioning e-commerce brands as being there for shoppers.
Another thing that is taking the industry by storm is augmented reality (AR). It builds on the traditional retail idea that customers can examine, touch, or try on an item before making a purchase.
“Technological innovations such as augmented reality will help customers visualize what a product will look like on them or in their home, and will be an important differentiator for e-commerce companies bringing this technology to market first.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) will play an even bigger role than they already have. “If you’ve noticed that the best e-commerce sites seem to know what you want to buy almost before you do, then you’ve already seen a big trend,” says Green.
“The integration of AI and ML enables sites to predict which products are most likely to appeal to a particular consumer. AI can evaluate data sets and is adept at detecting and mapping patterns, trends and anomalies.Of course, AI is only as good as the data it has, but growing volumes of online transactions mean that datasets keep expanding.
Green also noted that environmental concerns are beginning to play an increasing role in buying habits as consumers “dig deeper into companies’ green credentials.”
This means that e-commerce platforms must ensure that every aspect of their value chain is authentically sustainable, especially when it comes to delivery and packaging.
Another change to watch for in 2022 is the introduction of voice search on e-commerce platforms.
“Consumers are increasingly comfortable requesting information, advice and recommendations from their devices, and this is likely to influence the products they see and buy online in 2022,” says Green.
The stamina of online retail
In March, it will be exactly two years since South Africa recorded its first case of Covid-19, and with new variants predicted for some time to come, it goes without saying that e-commerce will be affected.
“The pandemic has already transformed the shopping habits of South Africans, and its future trajectory will directly impact e-commerce sales volumes and values. Peaks and troughs in infection rates will likely be mirrored in real time or with a slight lag by similar patterns in e-commerce activity,” she says.
“But the shift to online shopping is likely to be a lasting trend, with reluctance to visit public places and mingle with crowds a permanent factor in many people’s decision-making.”
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