Ecommerce Week: Top trends to take away

Posted on Thursday 18 March 2021 | IAB UK

From the role voice plays to shopping via social, we look at the top ecommerce trends and insights from our first of four Specialism Weeks 

More than ever before, we’re heading online to shop. Just as the rise of department stores shook the retail status-quo at the start of the 20th century, ecommerce is now revolutionising how we buy a hundred years later. From the weekly food run to that must-have item of clothing, online shopping is becoming engrained in our daily lives and a fundamental part of the modern purchasing experience. Of course, the recent surge in growth has largely been driven by necessity as lockdowns have kept the high street out of bounds, yet, as speakers such as Shopify’s Shimona Mehta said this week, the pandemic has just accelerated the inevitable: ecommerce has changed irreversibly and is here to stay. 

To explore and understand the opportunities for digital advertisers in this space, we at IAB UK hosted our first Ecommerce Week encompassing a series of events, the launch of our new research, and a must-listen podcast special with Verizon Media’s Monica Majumdar. Here we round up the key takeaways that brands should buy into to excel in the ecommerce space…


1. Age is more than just a number

Our new Real Living research shows that those aged 55 and over have driven the majority of growth in the top four ecommerce categories - food and drink, clothing and fashion, home and garden, and personal care and beauty. What’s more, nearly 60% of this age group say they plan to maintain their ecommerce habits once the pandemic is over. This offers marketers a huge opportunity to cater to a significant shift in consumer behaviour and cement lasting ecommerce loyalties among older people. For practical advice on how brands can capitalise on this opportunity, read more from Elizabeth Lane, our Head of Research and Measurement, via New Digital Age


2. Don’t underestimate the power of voice

Discussing the rise of voice technology within the path to purchase, Unruly’s Becky Waring said it’s important to “make sure you adapt your strategy for younger versus older age groups” in order to resonate with different groups’ priorities and preferences. Meanwhile, speaking as part of our Ecommerce Debate, Say It Now’s Maria Cadbury focused on why the next decade will be the “talking Twenties”. With smart speaker penetration up 26% in the UK in 2020 to a total of 43%, the opportunities for brands are clear. As Cadbury said: “Ecommerce isn’t about the transaction, it’s about the digital journey to the transaction and [brands need to] understand the role voice can play”, particularly when it comes to creating meaningful engagement with consumers. 


3. Scommerce is on the rise 

Scommerce, or social commerce, is fast developing on the ecommerce scene and an exciting proposition for savvy marketers. Our research shows that social media is a vital part of the online path to purchase for those aged between 16-34. Omnicom Media Group’s Prateek Gupta advised that brands “double down on scommerce” over the next year as the traditional purchasing funnel continues to evolve. Speaking later in the week, Publicis’ Cassandra Stevens agreed that scommerce presents brands with “opportunity but it needs to be matured”. TRIBE’s Beth Oddy gave a run-through of the current limitations for scommerce and the innovations that are set to see solutions in this space explode. 

Meanwhile, TikTok’s Lisa Friedrich discussed the opportunities for brands within TikTok - which has recently partnered with Shopify - and the content that resonates with its unique audience: “Brands that do really well are not always the biggest brands - small businesses are setting the tone and the pace for what ecommerce and scommerce look like today”. Younger people’s focus on SMEs is backed up by our research, showing that 62% of 16-34s say they have bought more things online from local shops in the past year, while the same proportion of 25-44s are shunning chains in favour of independent retailers.


4. There is potential in partnerships

Consumers don’t want advertising as we traditionally know it, said Impact’s Alex Springer. What they want, he explained, is personal connections and relevant offers that enhance their experience of ecommerce.  According to Springer, brand partnerships are key to this - from affiliate tie-ups to influencers. He pointed to examples such as Apple Music’s partnership with Everyman Cinema, British Airways and LetsGetChecked COVID testing, and Ticketmaster and Spotify’s collaboration. Springer’s advice to brands looking to move into this space is to identify customers’ needs and put “customer experience at the centre of all partnerships”. 


5. The high street is evolving 

It’s tempting to think that ecommerce is single-handedly killing off the high street, but as Isobar’s Alex Hamilton said, this view is too simplistic and we need to be looking through the lens of the brand as a whole - as opposed to an online/offline silo. Blis’ Alex Wright pointed out that while some parts of the high street are declining, the growth of ecommerce is part of retail’s “inevitable evolution” and the disruption we’re currently seeing is part of an ongoing process of change that stretches back centuries. Rather than viewing the rise of online shopping and the demise of the high street as a binary inevitably, Wright believes that we can “reinvent retail spaces” as shopping and community hubs converge and that ecommerce is “not just about a transaction being online… it’s about making the whole [shopping] process more digital and creating more engagement with the consumer”. 

Significantly, our research shows that while the majority of people plan to continue shopping online after the pandemic, one in three say that they will be doing more shopping in both online and offline environments - offering twice the available moments for brands to reach buyers.


6. Creative opportunities abound

From shoppable creative to AR to conversational chatbots, ecommerce advertising offers creative and dynamic opportunities to engage with consumers. At our Creative Workshop, Teads, Snap Inc. and JustPremium gave practical demonstrations of the solutions that they’re seeing drive results. Teads shared examples from brands like Dove and Levi’s that use responsive, playful creative to grab people’s attention and engaging chatbot functionality to provide people with a more tailored, one-to-one experience. 

Meanwhile, Snap Inc. provided insight into how brands can use Snapchat to engage its Gen Z/Millennial audience. Solutions encompass full-screen shoppable formats, story ads that have seen great success for social native brands like Gymshark, and AR options that have allowed brands like Ralph Lauren and Gucci to create virtual ‘try on’ experiences. Finally, JustPremium shared how it is innovating across the path to purchase to shorten the purchase journey for ecommerce consumers. Formats that break through the clutter to drive action are key here, as is minimising the number of clicks needed to purchase a product. 


7. Consumers’ consideration phase is changing 

Speaking on The IAB UK Podcast, Verizon Media’s Monica Majumdar, discussed how the rise of ecommerce is impacting the consideration phase within the path to purchase. As she put it, “the modern version of consideration, if you think about ecommerce, is actually what sits in your wishlist or sits in your basket for seven days… and then you have data signals that help you to understand that, whereas before you might not know if some is considering [buying]”. Her advice to brands in our COVID era is to be present and ready for when consumers are ready to act - using the example of travel brands she said that they should “help people to dream ahead of them even being able to go on holiday”. 


IAB UK members can watch back all the events from Ecommerce Week here.  


With thanks to the sponsor of Ecommerce Week, TikTok.

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