Get to Know Trends in Retail and Ecommerce

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
  • Describe the growth and scale of retail and commerce.
  • Explain some trends in retail and ecommerce.
  • Describe how retailers need to change to satisfy customer expectations.
  • Explain the difference between “omni-channel” and “unified commerce.”


Total retail sales have been growing steadily, and they're expected to continue growing over the next few years, though not at a fast rate.

Total Retail Sales Worldwide, 2015 - 2020

Trillions and % change

Total Retail Sales Worldwide, 2015 to 2020

Note: Excludes travel and event tickets

Source: eMarketer, Aug 2016

Ecommerce is growing fast, and it’s expected to double in the next 4 years, to account for nearly 15% of total retail sales by 2020.

Retail Ecommerce Sales Worldwide, 2015 - 2020

Trillions, % change, and % of total retail sales

Retail ecommerce Sales Worldwide, 2015 to 2020

Note: excludes travel and event tickets

Source: eMarketer, Aug 2016

So what are the major industry trends in retail and ecommerce?

Trend 1: The Connected Customer

The connected customer is fundamentally transforming retail. The connected customer is mobile, social, and savvy about digital, but still interested in a great in-store shopping experience.

When it comes to online shopping, more than 62% of ecommerce traffic now comes from mobile devices. The share of orders placed over mobile devices is increasing rapidly too, growing 41% year over year.. And more than 50% of retail commerce still happens in physical stores. Influencing more than half of that in-store commerce, however, is the digital environment—from multiple channels (social media, blogs, online retail) and multiple devices (mobile phones, tablets, computers).

Connected customers have high expectations. They interact with brands through many touchpoints—web, mobile, social, marketplaces, store, ads, connected devices. And they increasingly expect to buy in the context of the moment from each of these touchpoints. Connected customers want each interaction to be great, and for all their interactions to be coordinated into a single, unified experience.

Retailers Struggle to Meet Customer Expectations

As of now, however, few brands are able to deliver that kind of unified experience. There’s a gap between what connected customers want and what most commerce teams can deliver. Many retailers worry about scale and their ability to keep up with the demands of connected customers.

Commerce teams struggle with:

  • Disparate and duplicative systems —each touchpoint with the customer is often backed by a single technology that is not integrated with any others.
  • Customer data is scattered everywhere —across these many systems. This means that different groups like marketing, customer service, and merchandising don’t have access to data they need, or simply don’t know where to find it.
  • Multiple sources of truth —retailers have no single view of the customer, products, prices, promotions, and so on.
  • Lots of complex back-end integration —when retailers are able to integrate data across their many systems, the integrations tend to be inflexible. They frequently break down whenever there is a software update or upgrade across any of the systems.

Trend 2: Omni-Channel and Unified Commerce

“Omni-channel” and “unified commerce” are two of the biggest buzzwords in the retail industry. So what do they mean?

Omni-channel commerce generally refers to the practice of creating consistent buying experiences across every channel—mobile, in-store, social.

Unified commerce takes things one step further. It focuses on the shopper’s entire commerce experience, from marketing to shopping to personalized product recommendations to fulfillment to customer service and follow-up marketing and retargeting. It’s more than just another way of saying “omni-channel.” It’s the idea that brands must think beyond individual retail channels and beyond shopping and meet customer expectations for personalized attention, relevant product recommendations, responsive customer service, and more.

Retailers want unified commerce—and the technology that can support it. In fact, the vast majority of brands acknowledge the long-term need for technology that can support unified commerce. Well over half of brands anticipate unified commerce to generate significant improvement in areas of their business that increase margin, revenue, and brand value.

Enter Commerce Cloud

Not only does Commerce Cloud provide a seamless online and in-store experience, but as part of the Salesforce Intelligent Customer Success Platform, it lets brands provide exactly the kind of experience connected customers want.

From the time a shopper first sees a targeted ad, to their personalized shopping and buying experience, to seamless customer service and a vibrant community forum for brand loyalists, Commerce Cloud and the broader Salesforce Customer Success Platform deliver the unified experience shoppers—and retailers—have been waiting for.

Want to hear more about what Salesforce sees in our commerce future—and yours? Take a look at this blog post on Salesforce Predicts.

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