Trends for 2018: Five things every e-tailer needs to know

20 December, 2017

Every new year brings new challenges and new opportunities, and a lot of chatter about what’s coming next. We’ve cut through the clutter to find the need-to-know trends that will matter to your business:

1. Asia Pacific’s e-spending set to increase

Global industry analyst Frost & Sullivan has projected that by 2018, the Asia-Pacific region will lead worldwide growth and sales in e-commerce, to the tune of a market value of US$1,892bn. While maturing markets like Malaysia and Philippines will participate in this growth, China and Korea will continue to take leading roles.

What’s new? Unlike Western consumers who search and buy through a very efficient, clinical process, Chinese consumers “embark on a journey of exploration and discovery – as if they are going to a mall with friends or family”, says Boston Consulting Group. So-called “super apps” such as WeChat weave together shopping with social media portals and entertainment to create a channel for “seamless sales”.

Asendia insight: To increase engagement with customers, Western e-tailers could take a leaf out of China’s book, increasing personalisation and social media integration.

2. It pays to get returns right

It’s more important than ever for e-commerce businesses to make returns consumer-friendly. According to the Reverse Logistics Association, online consumers return goods at a rate of up to four times greater than in-store shoppers, and KPMG reports that 40 per cent of consumers rate an easy returns process as a top deciding factor when choosing an online outlet.

While the market has seen an increase in availability of in-store returns and parcel lockers – familiar options such as pre-paid returns, pre-printed return labels and convenient pick-up options remain simple solutions that can keep customers on-side.

Asendia insight: Offering choice and flexibility is a no-brainer. Asendia’s Premium Returns service is one way to make things simple – customers can choose their place of returns, including a local post office, or order a free pick-up from home. It’s cost-effective and puts you and your customers in control.

3. With tracking, transparency is paramount

Walker Sands’ ‘Future of Retail 2017’ reports that less than a third of consumers rate retailers’ communication about order and delivery status as “excellent”. Nearly half of consumers want more transparency during the delivery process and the number is higher for customers aged 26-35 (68 per cent). Meeting this demand should be a focus for any ambitious, forward-looking, e-commerce business.

Smart tech may be one way to make a step change, and voice-activated in-home smart devices are poised to emerge as go-to information portals for online purchases in the very near-term. One big-name e-tailer is already offering a linked in-home device that provides parcel tracking notifications via a change of colour and a notification sound.

Asendia insight: Tracking is a growing priority for consumers – particularly Millennials – so make sure you offer them assurances from the delivery depot to the front door.

4. Millennials prefer to say it, then pay it

As digital-first Millennials age, their online spending activity is expected to surge, so readying your operation now should pay off later. This means meeting high delivery expectations – nearly 70 per cent of Millennials have abandoned an online purchase and gone to a competitor when the options weren’t right. Payment processes must be on-point too, with mobile firmly in the mix.

Meanwhile, voice-controlled devices (“assistants”) are having an impact on how Millennials shop with 40 per cent using them before making purchase, according to Salesforce. For e-tailers this points to the need to add a new strand to your SEO strategy.

Asendia insight: While a typed search query might be a shorthand, incomplete phrase, a voice search is more likely to take the form of a complete sentence. Search terms should mimic natural speech patterns, and long-tail keywords – which include three or four words and quite specific terms – should be baked in.

5. Get set for a cross-border influx

A change is coming that could mean increased cross-border business for Europe’s e-tailers. A new EU agreement will end “unjustified” ‘geo-blocking’, a practice that stops online customers from accessing and purchasing products from websites based outside their home country. When it takes effect (which should be in late 2018), it will end discrimination on the basis of a customer’s nationality or place of residence.

What could this mean in terms of new customers? According to the European Council, just 15 per cent of Europeans currently buy products from outside their home country, partly thanks to geo-blocking.

Asendia insight: It’s a big opportunity, but geo-blocking could be a big challenge for e-tailers who will need to understand how to get goods to these new buyers cost-effectively – and to get their goods through customs without incurring extra charges or delays.

Find out how Asendia can help you meet the demands of the 2018 consumer at