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The Future of E-Commerce: Five Post-Pandemic Trends Sellers Will Need to Know


The Future of E-Commerce: Five Post-Pandemic Trends Sellers Will Need to Know

Kenny Tsang, industry expert and Managing Director of PingPong Payments, provides his top five trends to define success in 2021.

In the past year, the rules of e-commerce have effectively been rewritten. In an increasingly touchless society, our lives have become digitized, changing how we engage, interact, and view day-to-day life. Now, new online buying behaviors have emerged, and millions of consumers that previously relied on brick-and-mortar sales are shopping online to meet everyday needs.

But the rise of e-commerce hasn’t been without shortcomings. At the height of the pandemic in May, sellers, welcoming millions of new consumers, were faced with supply chain disruption, shock shortages, and business loss. Many turned to international options to mitigate issues, and cross-border sales saw a staggering 21 percent increase in year-on-year sales in June.

With uncertainty surrounding the year ahead, sellers will naturally be wondering if this growth is sustainable. It will be vital more than ever to plan for a post-pandemic environment.

To prepare, here are five key trends that will define success in 2021:

Growth of Cross-border, Global Marketplaces

In a year of uncertainty, the global marketplace has become one of the very few resilient, effective, and profitable platforms to weather the storm. Fuelled by the transformation of shopping, Alibaba, Amazon, Etsy, and Taobao all reported record figures this year as consumers turned to these new ‘virtual shopping malls.’

By the end of 2020, an estimated two billion people will have made an online purchase, and the rise in users is beginning to signal a shift in online sales. As important as the U.S. market is to this growth through marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy – sellers can often forget that 85 percent of the industry purchasing power lies abroad. In fact, in China, e-commerce sales have recently overtaken the U.S., and the country’s ‘Singles Day’ shopping event eclipsed Black Friday in the U.S.

At the end of December, the global e-commerce market was expected to reach $1 trillion and early forecasts anticipate the trend to continue. With new cross-border payment solutions that can manage overseas logistics, pay suppliers in a local currency, and make VAT payments in real-time, becoming an international seller is easier than ever before.

Diversifying Supply Chains

To say that lockdown restrictions affected supply chains in 2020 would be putting it lightly. At the peak of the crisis, disruption to factories highlighted the fragility of relying on one single source for inventory. With little to no option left for sellers, the shift to diversifying supply chains to mitigate financial repercussions has called for an industry-wide rethink.

However, disruption isn’t new, and one of the biggest mistakes sellers often make is overlooking future risk planning and the prioritization of corrective actions.

Instead of assuming there won’t be interruptions to one supply chain, consider other sources. With an abundance of cross-border services such as parcel consolidation, global fulfillment, and payment providers, sellers can – and should – explore international markets.

Faster, and Faster delivery

As the world changes, consumer preferences, schedules, and expectations are also rapidly affecting the speed and manner of how products are delivered. In an age of immediacy, the industry standard of the typical 7 to 10 delivery day window has become outdated. Over 90 percent of consumers are now willing to pay for same-day or faster delivery.

Thanks to online marketplaces such as Amazon Prime, Walmart, and Best Buy, the ‘new normal’ of instant delivery in as little as two hours has challenged sellers to rethink their customer service approach. Now, the speed, price, and the previously optional ‘add ons’ are differentiating sellers through competitive advantage in an e-commerce race that most cannot afford to lose.

The key is to be flexible. With diversified supply chains, robust inventories, and reliable fulfillment management, sellers can use their agility to deliver to the right customers at the right time.

The Rise of Social Commerce

The business advantages for retailers to sell directly through social media in a year that has seen e-commerce become a focal point of day-to-day continuity has drastically strengthened. The opportunities to buy, sell, or promote on one integrated platform through leveraging channels that millions of people are using now appears to be a no-brainer for most sellers.

Staggeringly, over 87 percent of e-commerce shoppers believe social media helps them make a shopping decision, and yet, only 40 percent of sellers are using it to generate sales. In 2021, experts project this number will rise significantly; we’re arguably already seeing its value in China, which has hosted its biggest sales event – Singles Day – on record so far. Through live-streaming, two-thirds of Chinese consumers said they purchased products via the platform in the past 12 months, citing “instant information” as a significant deciding factor.

Live-streaming is bound to become part of the U.S. shopping experience, and with more features evolving and launching alongside industry growth and demand – sellers should keep up with new trends.

The Transformation of Retail Shopping Events

As online commerce continues to prevail, annual in-store holiday season doorbusters promising discount deals have begun to lose their relevance. During the 2020 holiday season, deals popped up early, 24-hour sales lasted a month, and by late November, most of the ‘festive shopping’ had been done online.

Retail shopping events have changed, accelerated, and turned in favor of digital commerce, with sales increasing 30 percent year-on-year during the 2020 holiday season. More importance is being placed on the broader e-commerce market, and the increase in competition in an already saturated market will require sellers to work smarter.

Instead of waiting for domestic season events, think globally. By partnering with the right cross-border payment provider, sellers can enter new markets, effortlessly move money to all corners of the world, and grow a larger audience that will effectively move sales forward post-pandemic.


E-Commerce’s Newfound Role in Stabilizing and Expanding the U.S. Retail Sector

Kenny Tsang, Managing Director of PingPong Payments, comments on the impact of the pandemic on the retail sector, and how global online marketplaces are providing a lifeline to businesses with thousands of new sellers.

In recent months, online marketplaces have taken a huge step forward to become the primary option for consumers with the pandemic forcing traditional retailers to digitally adapt to consumers. As these lockdown restrictions begin to ease, many businesses and retailers are increasingly finding value in utilizing digital marketplaces to support further disruption.

Worryingly, the existing retail space still lost a shocking 1.3 million jobs from February to June with data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in August[1] showing little signs of recovery for the retail industry. With retail being the primary outlet of the U.S. economy supporting one in four U.S. jobs [2] businesses utilizing the e-commerce sphere are experiencing significant growth by recording an 18 percent increase in online sales[3] this year.

Retail businesses that have been sustainable during the economic slowdown over the last few months are showing increased utilization of online marketplaces as alternatives to traditional retail services. Many who have explored, or been forced to adapt to digital avenues, are seeing the potential for temporary digital measures to become permanent as the U.S. continues to demonstrate a seismic shift in shopping habits. Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay and Rakuten are leading the way, with Amazon more than doubling its valuation so far in 2020 – gaining a staggering $570 billion in market capitalization. eBay has just reported a record eight million new active shoppers, resulting in year on year revenue shooting up 18 percent.

While these numbers may be considered unsustainable in the long term, the 565,000 new merchant signups Amazon has already reached this year suggests the significant growth of online marketplaces will continue to exceed expectations. Many forecasters are estimating the business growth of e-commerce will to continue to reach unprecedented levels in the U.S. – with 1.1 million new sellers expected to join Amazon by the end of 2020.

Accessibility has long been a question for merchants hesitant to embrace the digital market and step out of their comfort zones into new mediums. Online marketplaces that are experiencing the most growth such as Amazon and eBay are increasingly finding ways to engage buyers and sellers to leap into the digital sphere. Thousands of sellers are experiencing natural growth, and the demand for consumer confidence while shopping on digital platforms has never been higher. E-commerce platforms cannot emulate the shop floor, however, we are seeing community-based marketplaces driving international consumer merchants to offer a quality service that delivers high customer satisfaction on primarily review-based models.

Sellers should capitalize on the opportunity to adapt and strategize against the current situation while focusing on understanding how their customer buying patterns were changing, to adjust quickly to demand, PingPong Payments identified the most popular selling categories in the e-commerce space during the pandemic to be groceries, toys and games, educational material and home and garden, while swimwear, travel-related products and consumer electronics such as cameras were no longer in demand.

With more consumer-centric additions, comes more growth, and the need for personnel to respond to the demand has heightened. For many e-commerce sellers, this is unprecedented ground, and it highlights the need for e-commerce sellers to have the right systems in place to facilitate these changes. Traditionally, a bulk of merchants’ operating internationally would spend their time minimalizing cross-border payments in unknown markets that would often lead to unforeseen expenses, long shipping times, and unreliable products. E-commerce sellers partnering with the right cross-border payment companies that specialize in convenient, quick money transfers can take this hassle away while lowering costs with these systems in place.

As consumers return to retail spaces – sellers should continue to utilize the flexibility that e-marketplaces have provided for businesses over the last few months with organic innovation increasing through competition for buy share. From the supply chain to customer-centric models – digital marketplaces are providing a platform to rival in-person sales with a significant expansion focused on retaining customers.

Admittedly, there will be consumers who continue to use traditional methods of shopping, and that will remain an open market for retailers as lockdown restrictions ease. Merchants with better familiarisation of the e-commerce industry should be able to continue to put the right systems and partners in place to maintain a continuous flow of sales worldwide. With added expansion in the industry, economic recovery in the U.S. can help propel pre-existing successful retail foundations into the future.