3 Key E-Commerce Features That Are More Than Just Trends


Retail trends are difficult to keep up with. As new features like Apple Pay or Amazon’s Alexa emerge seemingly every day, marketers are hard-pressed to know which are passing fads and which are here for the long haul and are most likely to become digital standards. It’s easy to wonder: what’s a worthwhile investment for retailers?

To see what’s coming next, look first to the past.

The e-tailing group, now part of Astound Commerce, has studied e-commerce for the last 20 years as part of their annual mystery shopping reports to better understand how leading retailers are developing their online shopping experiences. The report, 20/20 Vision: Looking Forward by Looking Back at 20 Years of Digital Shopping Innovation, summarizes the trends that have become e-commerce standards over the past two decades.

Here are three standout features from the report that have gained the most ground in recent years:

Payment Flexibility

Cart abandonment poses a huge threat to retailers, and occurs for many reasons: customers might balk at the price of shipping, decide to browse around competitor websites or otherwise get cold feet. But since 46% of abandons occur at the payment stage, retailers that make it easy for customers to quickly buy products -- without manually entering payment information -- can combat the problem.

That’s why retailers are offering flexible payment options like Apple Pay, Visa Checkout and PayPal, which streamline payments and make it more convenient for shoppers to buy products on their mobile devices.

When PayPal was first introduced to the survey in 2007, it was featured on only 22% of e-commerce sites. It’s now on 83% of top retail sites -- a number that will only continue to grow as retailers strive to clear obstacles from the path to purchase. 

Omnichannel Inventory Transparency

It’s no surprise that retailers are racing to provide better omnichannel visibility to customers. Six out of 10 consumers use mobile devices to check the availability of products in local stores at least three times a month, according to Astound Commerce’s Mobile Research Report.

While less than a quarter of retailers offered in-stock product visibility in 1999, 95% offer this capability today. In-store product locators help connect shoppers to stores, and in 2006 15% of store-based retailers had invested in this omnichannel essential, with acceleration to 63% in 2016. With savvy customers demanding more information than ever, the retailers that are able to provide real-time inventory snapshots will come out on top. If shoppers can’t quickly find accurate information about where to buy products, they will move on to competitors.

Post-Purchase Merchandising

In the past, retailers targeted marketing efforts to consumers up to the point of purchase -- and then fell silent. Now, market leaders know that post-purchase provides even better opportunities to target consumers with personalized promotions and upsells.

While only 38% of leading retailers used post-purchase merchandising in 2003, nine out of 10 use the strategy now.

Retailers should not only confirm purchases, but provide order updates so customers know when their items have shipped and when they can expect them to arrive. This cements trust in the brand and excites customers, while reducing the amount of service calls from anxious shoppers. The post-purchase message also gives retailers a chance to promote related products for personalized recommendations.

These trends are not arbitrary or random. The most successful trends of the past few years reflect a larger push to make purchases easier, faster and more personal for consumers. As e-commerce expands and offers more products than ever to shoppers, successful retailers are those that can provide more value beyond just the transaction -- through simple and memorable experiences.

-Lauren Freedman, SVP of Digital Strategy and Chief Merchant of Astound Commerce

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