Society Insights

The new digital environments and commerce 2.0

The trend

E-commerce, m-commerce, q-commerce, v-commerce; and more: livestream commerce, social commerce, AR/VR commerce. In the past decade, thanks to the rocket booster of the digital transformation, online sales channels and customer touchpoints have exploded. And at the same time, we’ve seen convergence of physical sales channels and digital ones converge. Just think of on-shelf QR codes that we can scan to get more product information while we’re in the store, or online stores on companies’ social platforms that we can consult before our in-store purchase experience.

All this is vital food for thought for sellers in brick-and-mortar stores. If shoppers can click and buy without leaving their homes, it’s essential for these retailers to give people a convincing reason to visit their store. In some cases, becoming more experiential, combining shopping and leisure can make the difference, offering a good way to spend time and use space. In other cases, the difference might be expanding services, transforming the store into a place for customer service. There’s still a need for touch, after all, and that hasn’t changed with the advent of digital.

So the customer journey is turning into a more immersive and omnichannel experience, the prelude to an era that some observers have been calling “commerce 2.0,” or “convergent commerce,” or “everywhere shop.”

Ipsos recently conducted a survey on these new trends in commerce.The aim was to explore some emerging sales channels, analyze the convergence of physical and digital channels and its impact on the customer journey, and what this means for organizations, which find themselves having to disentangle an increasingly fragmented world of touchpoints and purchase environments.

Key takeaways

As far as sales channels, online marketplaces and retailer websites are still the most popular for the more than 11,500 people interviewed by Ipsos, but social commerce (selling via social media platforms) is showing the fastest growth. Facebook has made enormous investments in its Marketplace, and Twitter, TikTok, Shopify, and WeChat are following suit, proof positive of just how these platforms can do for online sales. Currently China leads the world in social commerce sales, with nearly half (47%) of all the country’s internet users making purchases through this channel. Next comes the US, with two-thirds of Americans buying directly on social media or using these platforms to discover new products. And in the US, according to projections, growth in social commerce sales will reach 35% in the coming year. In contrast, the survey revealed little interest in this sales channel in the UK, Canada, Russia or Japan (users in these countries are fewer than 10%).

Along with social media, the other channel that’s mushrooming is livestream commerce, which will account for 20% of the total value of online commerce in China by year’s end 2022, and in the US will be worth around 25 billion dollars by 2023. Livestream commerce is also seeing an upsurge all over Southeast Asia.

Also enjoying impressive growth is voice commerce (v-commerce), which includes smart speakers and bots. This channel offers consumers the chance to buy goods online using voice commands and a smart device (Alexa or Google Home, to name a few). V-commerce is evolving rapidly, and forecasts show that globally the use of voice assistant technology will double from 4.2 billion to 8.4 billion users by 2024, with a corresponding increase in v-commerce purchases. And speaking of AI, the Ipsos report shows that in 2021, 40% of Americans used a virtual reality app to test out beauty products, the same number to try on clothing, and 43% to view furniture or items for the home. These figures are likely to rise in the near future in light of the dissemination of smart speakers in homes.

As for companies, in recent years they’ve been incorporating various touchpoints into their sales strategies, to include direct customer contact: 41% of organizations have activated web chats and video chats in real time; 33% have implemented VR systems; and live virtual shopping events can be found nearly everywhere we look.

The proliferation of touchpoints inevitably impacts the customer journey and shapes the evolution of certain sales channels. So it’s easy to imagine that, over time, brick-and-mortar stores could lose their traditional function and become secure pickup points (click and collect, curbside pickup) to receive customer orders, and places where customers can discover products before making online purchases.

The new digital environments and commerce 2.0