It’s time to look back on how the past year has impacted the eCommerce industry. Here are some of the major events which affected the eCommerce industry over the past twelve months:
Record Industry Growth
2012 was one of the most successful years in the history of eCommerce from a growth perspective. According to comScore, eCommerce grew by at least 15% year-over-year per quarter for each of the first three quarters. The holiday season (from November 1st until December 25th) grew at a similar rate with a 14% year-over-year increase.
Tablets and Technology Change Again
Tablets were all the rage in 2012, with releases such as the improved iPad 3, the launch of the Microsoft Surface tablet, and Apple’s debut of the iPad mini. Google also joined the tablet space with its Nexus tablets. Of course there was no shortage of smartphone launches, notably the vertically enhanced iPhone 5 with its taller screen.
Social Media Grows Up
Few topics were more discussed in the eCommerce world in the past year than social media. In 2012 shopping directly on social media sites wasn’t a focal point as many services instead focused on revenue opportunities to support eCommerce sites.
Blogging site Tumblr debuted ads and Foursquare launched their paid search ads. Twitter started their mobile ad service, and Facebook followed suit, but at the end of the year it was actually Twitter who generated the most mobile ad revenue.
Arguably no company was busier in 2012 with decisions that affected eCommerce professionals around the world than Facebook. For starters, Facebook bought Instagram, rolled out promoted posts, and debuted new Facebook brand pages. The company, who went public and reached one billion users in 2012, also allowed Facebook ads posted in the timeline to reach non-fans for the very first time.
The topic of social media in 2012 wouldn’t be complete without the newest arrival to the party, Pinterest. The image-heavy social network saw its traffic soar early in the year and became a hot topic when online retailers looked at their analytics and saw the social network generated sales. Pinterest still continues to grow and finally made the decision to roll out business accounts at the end of 2012.
International Growth Holds Strong
Like previous years, eCommerce continued its strong growth around the world. eCommerce growth in Canada will likely exceed the growth rate of the U.S. in 2012. In Europe, the strong growth of Poland and increased eCommerce sales in Belgium led the way as European eCommerce professionals worked through new tracking cookie rules. The eCommerce industry in China also continued to grow as the online ad industry in China surpassed the $10 billion mark for the very first time.
Mobile Becomes a Focal Point
Mobile evolved into a key element of 2012 online retail strategies as over 90% of online retailers now have mobile strategy. With smartphone ownership in the U.S. on the rise, shopping with mobile devices has become more prevalent and mobile is now an important driver of site redesigns. Driven by social media’s mobile changes, the mobile ad industry continues to grow, surpassing $5 billion in ad sales in 2012. Tablets became an increasing focus for online retailers after looking at their analytics and realizing tablet shoppers converted at the same rate as desktop consumers and spent more money.
Consumers Change Online Shopping Habits
Thanks to innovations in technology, consumers have changed the way they shop and interact with brands in 2012. As eCommerce continued to grow in 2012, consumers actually changed their shopping habits by placing fewer but larger orders online.
With the influx of new mobile and tablet devices consumers developed new shopping habits. Tablet users generally prefer shopping in the evening and smartphones were sometimes used to browse products but not make large purchases.
Online shoppers also put a high value on shipping-related issues in 2012, saying free shipping was more important than an online sales tax and by research which stated over 60% of online shoppers checked return policies before completing a transaction.
“Showrooming” Gains Popularity
The concept of “showrooming”, or browsing products in physical stores only to purchase them online (often for a lower price), became more prominent in 2012 as approximately 40% of U.S. adults have now “showroomed”. Some manufacturers have attempted to support retailers in their battle against this tactic by enforcing their products cannot be sold below a certain price and some retailers have actually started to arm their employees with smartphones and tablets as a way to hopefully slow the growth of “showrooming”. Additionally more brick-and-mortar retailers are beginning to price match their online competitors.
In conclusion, 2012 was a year of change and growth in the eCommerce industry. Retailers are still learning how to integrate the mobile craze into their online (and offline) solution to create more of an omni-channel commerce experience. Social media still remains a channel for growth and innovation, as does international markets such as Europe and Asia. With 2013 upon us, we can only predict one thing for certain – the eCommerce industry is set for another year of vast changes!