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As Shopping Shifts to Smartphones, Retailers Invest to Keep Up

With the growth of online commerce on a meteoric rise, retailers of all kinds must compete to offer the most engaging consumer experience.

Using data from 1,200 companies from across the globe, monetization platform 2Checkout took stock of retailers’ priorities, challenges and plans for the coming year when it comes to implementing retail technologies to grow and scale their businesses.

Customer experience will continue to be a significant area of focus, according to 43 percent of retail respondents, who said they would be allocating resources to ensuring that shoppers enjoy seamless service. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of retailers said that building-brand awareness was where they would be putting their tech spend for the year, while 31 percent identified quality analytics as most important.

Efforts like mobile optimization and improving the shopping cart also ranked highly with nearly half of retailers (48 percent). Mobile shopping has grown exponentially in recent seasons, with 64 percent of all transactions during Black Friday week this year taking place on smartphones.

For two-fifths of retailers (40 percent), choosing the correct technology for their businesses remains their biggest challenge. With technology’s increasing integration into the shopping process, as well as heightened consumer expectations for a streamlined experience, 14 percent more retailers cited choice as a challenge this year compared with 2018.

Online commerce businesses are also deeply aware of the importance of bringing the right kinds of eyes to their sites. Generating targeted traffic emerged as a priority by 22 percent of respondents, and more than one-third (35 percent) said that increasing conversion rates would be a major push for 2020.

Brands and retailers across the board are also looking to broaden their reach by finding the right partners (18 percent) and developing additional sales channels (17 percent).

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To implement all of these tools and strategies, retailers are backing up their plans with real capital. The vast majority (61 percent) said they were looking to increase their budgets to get the ball rolling on new tech projects. Fifteen percent said their budgets for next year would remain comparable with 2019, and only 5 percent said they’d be enacting cuts.

When it comes to allocating those funds, search engine optimization and paid advertising will take the lion’s share. More than half of retailers (57 percent) said they’d be funneling funds into SEO, while 53 percent said that they would be writing checks for paid advertising.

Retailers still hold social media in high esteem, though, with 34 percent saying they’d be pushing spending into apps and platforms where consumers engage with brands.

Many online businesses—from direct-to-consumer startups to established digital retailers—rely heavily on automated email marketing campaigns (70 percent). More than half (56 percent) said they would continue to pay for targeted ads on social media, a tried and tested strategy for most merchants in the digital age.

Most retailers already accept major credit cards and integrate with online payment services like PayPal, but optimizing for mobile payment is top of mind for 31 percent of businesses. Implementing the capabilities to accept credit cards with installment payments was of near equal importance (29 percent).

All of these strategies help feed into retailers’ plans for growth in 2020—and the vast majority (76 percent) see themselves expanding into international markets. A little more than one-third (37 percent) of surveyed businesses said they were focused on growing their businesses domestically.

Popular markets for potential expansion include North America (64 percent), Western Europe (54 percent) and Eastern Europe at 45 percent.

“It is no surprise that customer experience and personalization remain drivers in the upcoming year,” said 2Checkout president and CEO Erich Litch, adding that retailers are responding to the digital commerce market becoming more competitive and sophisticated.

Technological advances can serve to improve the experience for both sellers and buyers, Litch said. Dealing with cross-border commerce compliance and logistics, for example, are areas that “vendors can easily relieve merchants of to a great extent, giving them additional resources to focus on growth and optimization,” he said.