eCommerce is now such an accepted way of doing business that it can be easy to forget; it is still in its infancy. The advent of superfast fiber optic cabling and 4 and 5 G mobile networks has allowed it to become such a dominant sector.
There can be no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns drove many people to shop for goods and services online for the very first time. In addition, people who had previously used it but were not regular online shoppers switched their purchasing habits during this time. While in-person footfall has recovered, online purchasing is also holding strong.
eCommerce is big business in the US. According to US Bureau Census News,online sales in 2022 were up on 2021. They accounted for 14.6% of total sales and were estimated to be worth $1,034.1 billion. While that is an enormous figure, many sellers are looking across the pond to the UK - Brits use the internet for shopping more than any other country in the world. According to an article published on the US International Trade Association website, eCommerce accounted for 30% of the UK’s total retail market in 2022. This figure was 20% in 2020, with 82% of Brits saying they made at least one online purchase in 2021. Some items, like festival and concert tickets, can only be bought online. 52% of UK companies plan to sell through social media channels. Not long ago, people were asking how Facebook and Instagram would make money. Most of the ads were from small, obscure companies. However, the big names now sell on social media via adsor links from their pages. TikTok also offers a massive opportunity for online sales. Once brands have users liking their pages and videos, they have a direct link to their customers. With high smartphone ownership in the US, retailers are following a similar path.
Selling through social media is not a static process. Successful brands do not just put up a catalog and expect it to sell. There is an increasing trend for collaborations and 'drops'. Collaborations see brands tie up with influencers or media personalities. This creates a story and a buzz around a new product or range. Young, innovative UK fashion brands like Kroen are masters of the 'drop' on Instagram. They build up excitement with posts and videos about their new lines and get people to sign up for details of 'the drop'. Then, they open their online store for sales on a specified date and time. They have been known to sell out within five minutes.
There are lots of innovative payment solutions popping up. Fintech solutions seem to be all the range. While there used to be a choice of card or PayPal, you now have Apple and Google Pay, Klarna, and PayPal Credit, to name a few options. In addition, payment details get saved and stored for easy access later. However, it is not all new-fangled stuff. Many people prefer to use tried and tested methods. Traditional card payments are holding their own at debit card casinos, online supermarkets, and the world's largest eCommerce site – Amazon.
Smartphones hold the keys to success
You cannot ignore the importance of smartphones when planning an eCommerce strategy. Almost everyone has a mobile phone nowadays, so apps and mobile sites are crucial to success. Smartphone ownership in the US is 85%. While this is high, it is still below the UK figures as a percentage of the population.
With its population of 68.05 million people, the UK is a highly lucrative market. Over 66% of all eCommerce sales in the UK are made on a smartphone, either via native app or mobile browser. This figure is around 43% in the US, so there are still real opportunities here for stateside sellers.