Looking back on 2019, there have been talks of retail dying, Australia entering a somewhat retail recession and the rapid decline of brick-and-mortar. As we end the year, and thus the decade, it’s important to look at the great initiatives and innovations that have influenced positive change in e-commerce.
The Advancement in AI and AR
From virtually ‘trying on’ a pair of shoes within The Iconic’s app to highly curated personalisation, e-commerce has double-downed on the idea of putting the customer first. While many customers came into the decade thinking that online retail would take the ‘magic’ away from an in-store experience, it’s now possible for e-commerce to provide an immersive experience for shoppers. As an example, the ASOS app allows users to select the items they’d like to see on their newsfeed – it acts as a replacement of the customer walking down the aisle of a store and picking the things that they’re attracted to. As technology further develops, it will be interesting to see how e-commerce provides further insights into the wants and needs of the online customer.
For Australians, the idea of same-day delivery was somewhat pie in the sky. Sure, we’d heard of Amazon trialling it in the US, but the lack of prospects made it seem unlikely. However, everything changed in 2014 when The Iconic became the first Australian online fashion retailer to deliver parcels on a Saturday. It changed the game again when it launched the trial of its one-hour delivery in Sydney. In 2019, it changed the game once again by offering delivery by drone in certain suburbs of Canberra, with the promise of delivery in as little as 10 minutes. Although it’s hard for all online retailers to compete with this, it has radically transformed the way Australian consumers and retailers think and approach delivery. Aside from the rapid distribution time, it has changed consumer behaviour, making Australians more accustomed to the idea of speedy delivery times.
The Rise of Omnichannel
At the start of the decade, it wasn’t unusual for a retailer to have a pureplay brick-and-mortar store. Sure, they may have had an online presence, but ordering through an e-commerce channel wasn’t the ‘norm’. Now, if a retailer doesn’t have an omnichannel presence, it’s been left in the dark, and therefore out of the loop. As an industry, retail has understood that with the expansion of e-commerce comes the need to saturate the market. It’s not just brick-and-mortar stores that have added e-commerce to its strategy, but it’s also the other way around. In 2018, Showpo launched its first pop-up store in LA, and Catch trialled its first pop-up in Chadstone. The latter pop-up saw its gross transaction values rise 62 percent in the 6-month period to $254 million. Active customer growth was 54 per cent year on year at the end of the quarter. It has since announced its second pop-up store in High Point.
Keeping it Mobile
In this decade, smartphones became a part of everyone’s daily lives. Always in people’s hip pockets, a bag or the palm of their hands, smartphones have not left the sides of Australian shoppers. The necessity of being connected to the world at all times has sparked the need for M-Commerce, something that has seen a rapid expansion in the latter half of the decade. Optimising a site for mobile has become more important than ever, as mobile sales start to dominate the digital sales landscape. According to a study by WebAlive, 48 percent of Australian shop via mobile at least once a week. Moreover, the July 2019 PayPal m-Commerce Index stated that one in four Aussie online shoppers will purchase items from their mobile phones.
Buy Now, Pay Later
It’s probably the most significant trend of the past two years and isn’t going to leave the industry any time soon. The rise of BNPL has dramatically transformed the way people make purchases, both online and in-store. The likes of Afterpay, Openpay and Zip changed the way consumers see transactions and made it easier to purchase big-ticket items with the touch of a button. Now technically, BNPL has been around since the early 2000s, but it’s safe to say that the boom occurred in the latter half of this decade. In the next few years, it’s expected that these platforms will experience changes, such as regulation and cross-examinations of customer details. Still, it’s safe to say that these platforms have changed e-commerce in Australia forever. If a retailer doesn’t offer at least one of these platforms, it has fallen behind in the times. According to the Power Retail Spotlight Series: BNPL, 41 percent of Australian retailers have ‘engaged with two to three BNPL providers’.
Although retail sales may have dropped slightly over the past few months, there is no better time than now to acknowledge the progress that e-commerce has experienced. As we enter the next decade, it’s essential to see where the downfalls of e-commerce have been, but it’s still vital to see how far we’ve come.