If online retailers get their way, 2013 will feature massive expansion into new markets and more options for customers paying for goods.
On the surface, that seems like a no-brainer: of course e-commerce companies will seek new markets, along with new ways for customers to part with their hard-earned cash. But it also hints at an emerging fundamental: even in places that lacked online connectivity a few short years ago, the Web has evolved to the point where people are using it for a variety of complex functions, often from a (relatively) cheap mobile device.
“Already some organizations such as Germany’s Rocket Internet are seeking to take advantage of the growing number of online shoppers in this next group of emerging markets,” Forrester analyst Zia Daniell Wigder wrote in a Dec. 12 corporate blog posting. “This year, the company launched apparel and electronics websites in a wide variety of markets including South Africa, Colombia, Mexico and several countries in Southeast Asia.”
Moreover, those emerging markets are full of shoppers that Wigder classifies as “Phase 4”—willing to purchase products with a “touch-and-feel” aspect, such as clothing or food. “Virtually every well-developed eCommerce market—ranging from France to the US to China—sees robust sales of categories such as apparel online,” she wrote. “In 2013, emerging eCommerce markets such as Brazil will start moving away from the heavy dominance of Phase 3 categories toward Phase 4.”
Payment options are also expanding beyond credit cards, with organizations adding bank transfers, direct debits, Cash on Delivery (CoD), and other options popular in countries and regions such as Russia and the Middle East. “In 2013, it will be less common to see global eCommerce organizations of any type only offering consumers the option to pay via credit or debit card,” she added, “and increasingly common to see a wide variety of payment options (see an example from the travel industry below).”
Meanwhile, e-commerce retailers are also embracing advanced analytics technologies as a way to buy and sell goods. In addition to drilling down into customer demographics, these companies are relying on these data tools to find the best prices for products. As these companies expand their markets and face off against new rounds of competitors, wrangling data with analytics platforms (along with judicious use of social media) could mean the difference between success and failure in a new region.