2020 has been a year of challenges and opportunities. I’m thinking about how rapidly many businesses pivoted to alternative channels of commerce and ways of interacting with customers. Many of us started working from home and quickly adopted technology that allowed us to remain engaged with co-workers and customers – even though we were separated from both. And we did all of this while our kids were e-learning at home!
2020 also has been the year that pressed the gas pedal on several trends that had been steadily cruising right along. Many of those trends will carry-over into 2021 – and into the foreseeable future. It is important for merchants to be aware of the impact these trends will have on their business and take action to ensure their infrastructure and operations are fully prepared to support them.
Here are four top commerce related trends that we see prevailing in the coming year.
Consumer adoption of mobile wallets and Near Field Communications (NFC) cards had been rising over the past several years. Then in 2020, apprehension over touching common surfaces in public places and at point-of-sale spawned more and more consumers to migrate to contactless payment methods.
And, they liked it. They liked it so much that 86% of first-time contactless users say they plan to continue using contactless payment methods.
Merchants need to pay close attention to this as it also corresponds to trend #3, customer convenience. A POS system that supports contactless payment methods allows merchants to create a quick, hygienic, and more secure experience for their customers. If you are not offering contactless today, you’ll need to determine if your terminals can support it. If not, it’s time for an upgrade. Given the rapid adoption of contactless, your customers will expect it from you.
Ecommerce had been growing exponentially over the past couple of decades but it really exploded in 2020. Amazon’s profits nearly tripled in Q3 alone. It makes complete sense that when consumers are staying at home, they would turn to the Internet for their shopping needs. Merchants with a bricks-and-mortar presence-only were caught off guard. There was a lot scrambling going on last spring to implement basic ecommerce capabilities. While most basic options do not link to an inventory system or provide the same look and feel as the website, they allowed merchants to display at least some items for purchase.
We recommend two things:
1) If you’re using a basic option only, move forward with full ecommerce capabilities. Full ecommerce will drive more sales and create a better customer experience. It does require involvement by your web developer and the selection of a payment gateway, but it will be well worth the investment. No one can predict what the future holds in terms of consumers’ ability or desire to shop bricks-and-mortar, so keeping as many commerce channels open as possible will protect your business.
2) Make it seamless. Tear down the walls that separate your online presence with your bricks-and-mortar presence. If customers buy online, make sure they have the option to return in-store. Likewise, if they see something in-store, make sure they have the ability to buy online at a later time. Payment methods also should be channel-neutral. That means customers have the same experience regardless of whether they’re using mobile, online or phone.
Making it easy for customers to do business with you is the foundation of any successful business, but 2020 took convenience to a whole new level. Curbside groceries, touch-free pick-up of pet food, and doorstep delivery of gourmet meals are just a few examples of conveniences that customers took advantage of this past year. And, once you have had a taste of that level of accommodation, it is difficult to go back.
No, we don’t expect customers will abandon sitting down for dinner in a restaurant entirely. They may simply choose to augment those visits with doorstep delivery. For example, I may not wish to bring the family to a restaurant for a sit-down dinner on a Tuesday night, but I may be open to having the restaurant bring the meal directly to my door on a Tuesday night. What a great opportunity to expand customer purchase frequency and volume.
Cybercriminals tend to hang out in places where consumers and commerce meet. These days, that place is mostly on the Internet. The card-not-present (CNP) ecommerce environment has been an expansive and fertile ground for fraudulent activity. This activity may be anything from bot card testing to fraudulent purchases. Both can be costly for your business. Therefore, keeping your shopping cart software and services current with the latest in protection is important. It is also wise to bolster your overall security by:
2020 has certainly been a memorable year that delivered a mixed bag to us all. Tucked inside that bag has been a lot of flexibility, creativity, and downright ingenuity among large companies, small businesses, schools, families, and individuals alike. Those are the things we want to remember and will carry with us into 2021 and beyond.