What the Future of Ecommerce Looks Like

Recent events have shown that new developments are necessary to keep the sector as vibrant and profitable as before.

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By Ademola Alex Adekunbi

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Commerce and work have been staples of the human experience throughout history, and though there have been changes over time, few have been as drastic as what we have seen over the past decade, and to a much more dramatic extent, in the past year. The disruptions, restrictions on movement and other activities that resulted from the pandemic led to in an acceleration of several shifts that were taking place in the worldwide business environment. The upside is that there are many opportunities for disruption by savvy entrepreneurs and investors who are willing and able to take advantage of the reigning trends.

Supply-chain issues

As a result of the abrupt stoppage in the manufacture of products at factories around the world, there has been a shortage of a large variety of goods. And although those are gradually being cleared now, it has become clear that the traditional supply-chain systems need updating. Last-mile delivery services in particular have grown in importance as they have stepped in to cater for the logistics problems faced by retail giants such as Amazon.

Related: 2021 Ecommerce Trends Entrepreneurs Would Be Foolish to Ignore

As small-scale logistics businesses have grown in importance (and revenues), large retail companies have also begun experimenting with a crowdsourced last-mile delivery similar to food delivery services like Deliveroo. Drones have also been considered, and the market remains wide open for a solution that provides the price efficiency of economies of scale while still being fast and safe enough to satisfy customers.

Process automation

Speaking of safety, the public-health imperative of minimizing human contact has meant that companies are scrambling to find ways to make their products accessible and provide their services with little interaction between staff and customers. That has led to a rise in the demand for process automation both in software and hardware forms.

"As firms struggle to avoid workplace infections of Covid-19 and prevent shutdowns during the crisis, machinery and software, which are not susceptible to the virus, become more attractive options than rehiring the temporarily displaced human workers," say researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Although concerns exist about job losses, it is now abundantly clear that automation is a question of when, not if, in most industries, and companies will be on the lookout for the ideal solutions for their needs.

Decentralized teams

More and more companies are shifting to either a fully remote structure or becoming more flexible in terms of how often their staff are required to resume in the office. Apart from the health considerations, there's also the fact that this often leads to a significant lowering of overhead costs since companies now have to buy or lease less space for offices, and employees also spend less on commuting.

Perhaps the most important benefit, however, is that companies are no longer limited by geography when they are looking to hire staff. Now, they can hire the best persons for their needs across all departments using platforms like Upwork, Fiverr and others.

Sustainable business practices

Although there has been a consistent shift toward sustainability on the parts of producers and consumers, that shift has accelerated in unprecedented fashion over the past year. The sales of sustainable products in the U.S. is projected to have a value between $142.3 and $150.1 billion in 2021. People are now more concerned with the origins of the products they use and how their consumption affects the planet.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the shift toward electric and hybrid vehicles, but the effect is being felt in every sector. Businesses that implement sustainable practices will likely be able to charge more for their products and will likely be able to stay in business for the long-term as more people join the green train.

Creative content marketing

Another side effect of the drive to minimize human contact is that the marketing functions that typically used to be performed by salespersons in a store are now being performed using other means such as phone calls, but primarily through web-based marketing in the form of website copy or emails.

It's a veritable battle for the best sales copy to convince customers to choose one brand over another when they likely don't have the products in their hands or in their sight as they typically would have in the past. Innovative technologies like VR and AR to help customers visualize products will become ever more important, along with traditional verticals like social media and email marketing.

Related: What the Disruption of the Online Marketplace Means for Your Small Business

On the whole, it is clear that the landscape of business and ecommerce has changed drastically and is going to continue changing in the foreseeable future. Businesses of all sizes and in all industries will need to adapt to be able to compete in the new markets, and they'll be looking for solutions (and persons to implement those solutions) to help them do so effectively.

Ademola Alex Adekunbi

Founder of Tech Law Info

Kunbi is a lawyer based in Lagos and is focused on the tech industry, advising startups on regulatory compliance, market-entry and investment (PE and VC). He is also the founder of Tech Law Info, a website to provide founders with essential legal information and resources.

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