2013 was a monumental year in retail. From mobile technologies changing the way consumers shop to new ways of accepting and processing payments, these trends are just the beginning. Whether you run a brick-and-mortar establishment or an e-commerce website, 2014 has plenty more in store.
Some of the changes retailers saw in 2013 included more robust and flexible mobile credit card processing solutions that enabled businesses to take payments anytime, anywhere; mobile payments that let consumers shop conveniently from smartphones and tablets; and digital wallets aimed at replacing cash and credit cards for online and in-store purchases.
Some of the biggest game changers were Square, PayPal and Google, with BitCoin assuming a larger profile on retailer and industry radars. Some proposed increasing the use of direct-carrier billing for in-store purchases, while others have taken to app development to disrupt the retail space.
Expect these trends to play even more significant roles in 2014 by enabling mobile commerce (m-commerce) and e-commerce to take businesses and consumer expectations to the next level. Not only will there be strong consumer demand that will make m-commerce the norm for retailers, but small businesses will have an even greater opportunity to work with and expand global markets via e-commerce.
- More affordable mobile solutions.
Every online business knows it has to have a mobile element, but the challenge is doing that when you're a small business. In 2014, more creative and low-cost or no-cost platforms will enable small businesses to handle m-commerce relatively effortlessly, such as payment (even across borders), reliability, security and more.
- The mobile check-out experience will be fast, easy and secure.
Big e-commerce changes are in store for 2014 as online businesses keep up with the demand for seamless mobile purchasing experiences. Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping trends in 2013 are an indication of what's to come: Online sales on those days not only broke records as in-store records sagged, but sales made on mobile devices also shattered records. According to Adobe Digital Index 2013, 18.3 percent of Cyber Monday's sales were made on mobile devices, up 80 percent year-on-year. In 2014, businesses can expect even more sales and advertisement opportunities through mobile options. This should optimize consumers' mobile check-out experiences and allow instant purchases through just a few clicks.
- The use of "mobile wallets" will increase in the U.S.
In China, the number of users for the Alipay Wallet application reached around 100 million by mid-November 2013. Mobile wallets are Internet-based accounts held on a mobile device that can be used to store and transfer value. Buyers use Alipay's mobile wallet every day to purchase products, pay bills, receive deals and discounts, manage their financial information and even make money through fund services. This trend will catch on in the U.S. and challenge existing and new players to come up with products that are friendly to use and transform the way people pay, play and save. Mobile wallets from Google, Apple, Square and other providers are available now.
- Sourcing time will decrease.
Sourcing is only one part of running a small business but it takes an inordinate amount of time. As more and more micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses do business globally, there will be more sourcing services that provide new (and free) tools to enable small businesses to quickly submit requests and get a targeted list of potential suppliers within a day or two. A December RFP on AliSourcePro from Alibaba.com attracted approximately 50,000 sourcing submissions from around the world in just three days.
- Cross-border e-commerce will expand.
Technology is breaking down the barriers of global e-commerce. With the rise of new, digitally empowered consumers in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries and other emerging markets, more U.S. businesses will seize the opportunity and enable foreign consumers to buy directly. Companies will offer better payment mechanisms, acquire needed marketing knowledge and work with logistics partners based on different countries' market-entry conditions. This is no small task, but smart businesses will recognize that the opportunity is massive and the reward could be high.
- B2B e-commerce will grow more quickly than B2C e-commerce.
Fifty percent of B2B companies are currently selling direct to business partners online, according to a recent study from Hybris and Forrester Research. This shift from the focus on B2C e-commerce will continue in 2014 and create huge opportunities for B2B companies quick enough to seize the day.
- Business' in-store mobile use will increase.
More businesses are realizing the benefits of equipping their staff with tablets and other devices. Employees will increasingly use these devices to reduce lines by checking people out during busy times or to locate items shoppers can't find. Customers with smart phones are already seeing special offers, enticing them to stop by. Just make sure the customer has opted in to such a mailing, or you may lose a client.
This story was featured in the Jan. 2014 newsletter