Are these the trends that will define ecommerce in 2012?
Neil Davey
Managing editor
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Ecommerce remains robust in the face of the tough retail environment. So what can we expect from ecommerce in 2012?

In a year where international retail markets floundered, ecommerce displayed resilient growth, with research house ComScore citing double digit growth in the US festive period. 

Over the last 12 months the ecommerce sector has rallied against challenging economic conditions and driven innovation in business and shopping models, thanks in part to the unabated rise of the e-marketplace entrepreneur.

A flurry of technical innovations, most notably the emergence and rapid adoption of smartphone and tablet technology, have transformed the shopper seller relationship. Fuelled by mobile technology, ecommerce growth shows no sign of abating - JP Morgan estimates that global ecommerce revenue will hit $963 billion next year.
Ecommerce firm Rakuten makes the following predictions for the coming 12 months:
  1. Tcommerce and mcommerce retail therapy – In 2011 web-enabled mobile devices transformed ecommerce, opening up a new 24/7 channel to the consumer and creating innovative new ways to engage them, from QR codes to location based offers. In 2012 mcommerce will continue to gather momentum, but it is tcommerce that’s particularly exciting. The rich functionality of the tablet shifts the traditionally transactional and bargain hunting online experience into a virtual store experience, making the web an almost tactile experience. Better still, mobile commerce is not exclusively for big brands with big budgets. Thanks to affiliate services and marketplaces, merchants large and small can harness the mobile channel without incurring heavy infrastructure costs. Gartner estimates that by 2013, smart mobile web devices will overtake the total number of PC’s in use, exceeding 1.8 billion. With 1.8 billion consumers just a click away this too big an opportunity for retailers to miss.  
  2. Bricks and mortar in the cloud – The boundaries between online and offline worlds are becoming increasingly blurred, as retailers fuse their digital and real-world offerings. Barcode scanning services such as ShopSavvy help users find the best deal, by allowing them to scan the barcode and search for better offers online. However, the challenge with these applications is they fail to reward the store whose display instigated the purchase. To avoid cannibalising the high-street Rakuten predicts a new system must emerge in 2012 that rewards offline and online ecosystems.
  3. Shopping with your social network – Getting a second opinion before committing to a purchase is nothing new, but now rather than taking a friend shopping you can take your entire social network with you. Retailers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of “the fan” and social will form an integral part of the ecommerce evolution in 2012. Data released in July by Hitwise indicated that 1 Facebook fan was equal to 20 additional visits to a retail website in the course of a year. Retailers are now using social not just for brand awareness, but for product development and customer service too. 
  4. Borderless shopping communities – 2012 will see the rise of the local global e-marketplace. In 2012, international marketplace models will provide sellers of all sizes around the world with the opportunity to expand their operations internationally, without the cost intensive outlay traditionally associated with establishing local delivery models, storage facilities etc. Sellers will be able to dabble in international shopping communities and dedicate resources based on real world demand. This will open up opportunities with burgeoning markets, such as China, India and Brazil. In late 2011 Rakuten surveyed international interest in shopping globally online and the results revealed that consumers are open to borderless shopping. Brazil is leading the global e-shopping charge with 81% of consumers keen to shop in different markets online, followed by Indonesia (77%), Thailand (74%), China (69%) and Spain (66%).
  5. Flexible, local shipping models - According to a report by Forrester in January 2011, shipping issues were one of the most common reasons for cart abandonment in Europe. It's true that the internet has created a global marketplace, but local market shopping preferences must be taken into account.
  6. Online shopping gets personal – The old adage “Information is power” takes on new impetus in 2012 as retailers seek to capture the fickle attention spans of information savvy internet shoppers. Gone are the days, when retailers tracked consumer behaviour based on loyalty points. Today’s online retailers can acquire huge volumes of data on both their potential and existing customers based on user browsing habits alone.  In 2012 data exchange between retailers and social networks will begin to provide solid business models for social platforms and offer new insights into the psyche of the shopper. What matters most to retailers however is how their marketing teams translate this wealth of data into meaningful and timely communications with customers. The web generation is already jaded from a surfeit of push advertising, to truly engage consumers in 2012 and beyond, retailers must learn how to harness user specific data to provide timely, personalised and relevant communications.  


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