Report: 10 digital commerce trends here to stay

Latest Gartner report explores the acceleration of digital commerce trends such as experience, live and unified commerce off the back of the COVID-19 crisis

Contactless payments, 2D and 3D visualisations allowing consumers to better experience products they want to order, B2B consumerisation and live and experience-led commerce are here to stay post-COVID crisis, a new report claims.

Gartner’s latest report, 10 things COVID-19 will change in digital commerce, investigated several key trends expected to be sustained around commerce as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on consumer buying behaviour.

The 10 changes the analyst firm predicts are firmly here for the long term are: Contactless commerce, visual configuration, live commerce, experience commerce, B2B consumerisation, lights-off commerce, enterprise marketplace, unified commerce, modular architecture and configurable business experiences.

Driving these changes to digital commerce are several major consumer behavioural shifts Gartner expects will be sustained even as the pandemic subsides. These include continued consciousness about health and safety, which is leading to contactless technologies and capabilities adoption across the entire sales cycle; a desire to have more effective engagement with products and services providers; and expectations of anytime and anywhere instant gratification and experiences regardless of digital or physical realm.

Gartner also highlighted several organisational trends feeding into its 10 key digital commerce predictions, including a push to grow digital revenue and be more resilient to future disruptions with some customer lock-in effect, plus more flexibility and agility in technology and approach to sell from all channels seamlessly.

“Digital commerce has played an important role during the pandemic by enabling organisations to continue serving customers. Some customer behavioural changes, such as shopping online and becoming more health- and safety-conscious, will be long term,” said Gartner senior research director, Sandy Shen. “Measures implemented by organisations during the pandemic, such as enabling new go-to-market [GTM] models and new types of customer engagement are likely to remain, thus evolving digital commerce.”

Specifically, Gartner said adoption of contactless technologies, such as payments, pickup and delivery and commerce operations, is a direct result of heightened awareness of health and safety in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visual configurations, meanwhile, are about enabling sales staff and customers to see 2D and 3D visual representations of products they’re looking to buy with options and features they have selected. An emerging tech capability further improving visualisations is mixed reality, allowing customers to better understand products within the context of their own environment.  

Live commerce, which uses live video streaming to demonstrate products and services and interact with shoppers in real-time and is more commonly delivered via mobile apps, is another tech-led commerce innovation that’s here to stay, Gartner said. The report noted one brand to adopt live commerce during the COVID-19 lockdown, Bobbi Brown, saw a 5 per cent conversion rate for those watching livestream sessions, compared to an average conversion rate of 2 per cent.

Read more: 5 steps Cue clothing took to adapt to the new normal of COVID-19 retail

Experience commerce, or the seamlessness of delivering commerce across both physical and digital realms, is also on Gartner’s digital commerce musts list. The analyst firm noted experience in this context “becomes the item purchased through digital commerce, rather than the wrapper surrounding the digital commerce interaction”.

Examples include wine blending classes, where consumers were shipped products in advance and then enjoyed a Zoom-based interactive session, and AppDirect’s sponsorship of a virtual team morale event enabled by Merrymint. In the latter example, employees and their families watched a professional magic show and were instructed on how to replicate tricks using ‘magical aids’ sent pre-event. They also received digital how-to guides.  

On the B2B front, Gartner predicted acceleration of consumerisation thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as ‘lights-off’ or automated, subscription-based ordering and replenishment.  

“Despite revenue shocks, organisations are increasing investment in digital channels and technologies,” the report authors stated, noting 86 per cent of respondents plan to increase digital investment in the next 12 months despite any negative impact of COVID-19 on revenues.  

“This will help to mitigate revenue impacts, retain customers and adapt product offerings for the post-pandemic world.”  

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