The numbers are clear: We’ve passed an inflection point, and ecommerce is now mainstream for people of all ages. From books to clothing to groceries, we can get almost anything delivered to our doors, often the same day we click the “order” button on a desktop computer or smartphone.

Ecommerce has leveled the playing field for brands with direct-to-consumer business models that can deliver a stellar online experience. But even born-in-an-omnichannel-world companies need to stay one step ahead of ecommerce trends to ensure they keep up with customer demands and don’t get lapped by nimbler competition.

20 Ecommerce Trends for 2024 and Continued Growth

1. Increased prevalence of voice search.

Voice assistants on your phone, home smart hub and even your TV remote control have come a long way. Voice search is growing in popularity, which directly influences search results and shopping outcomes. Ecommerce sellers must remain cognizant of changes in search so they can optimize for future sales. At minimum, make sure your ecommerce site is optimized for both mobile voice search by prioritizing the kind of information people ask for, such as website and physical address, contact number and business hours.

2. AI-assisted upselling and cross-selling.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning do a good job of predicting shopping habits based on browsing and shopping history. While no human brain could customize a website for every unique visitor, AI is up for the task. While very few retailers have the volume of data needed for true AI, some ERP and CRM systems include machine learning features to assist in cross-selling and upselling, both of which research shows increases revenues, profits, average order value, customer lifetime value and more.

3. Additional payment options.

If your business accepts payment only via check or credit or debit card, it’s time to consider new options. Mobile wallets, in particular, have become increasingly popular — for example, Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and Venmo. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of respondents to a recent survey by Forbes Advisor said they use this type of payment method at least as often as they do traditional payment methods, and 53% said they use it more. Additional options include ACH payment, wire transfer and cryptocurrency.

In addition, many online retailers now use tools that allow customers to make a purchase with a payment plan without tacking on any extra fees. Then, when customers are ready to make their purchase official, the checkout process is quick and efficient.

Additionally, brick-and-mortar retailers need a plan for contactless payments, which allow customers to make purchases without physically passing a card to a cashier or swiping it through a machine. This technology, also referred to as “tap to pay,” enables users to simply tap their phone or card at an enabled terminal to authorize payment.

4. Augmented reality to visualize purchases.

Customers don’t want to guess what a new couch would look like in their living rooms. With augmented reality (AR), they won’t have to. Adding this technology means they can use a phone or laptop to see a live video of the room with the new addition. The same goes for artwork, flooring and many clothing items. Ecommerce businesses should be actively adding AR where appropriate to encourage customers to virtually “try on” a product. For instance, Houzz, a home design and remodel app, lets potential customers place tile to scale on a wall or floor. After a tile is selected, the “view in my room” 3D tool prompts the user to mark the border of the space to be tiled. The tile then populates to scale in the space. The tool even automatically calculates how many tiles are needed to complete the project, so customers buy the right amount.

5. Smarter mobile shopping tools.

Brick-and-mortar retailers may not like seeing people looking at their phone screens, as it could indicate that the customer is price shopping or using the brick-and-mortar store as a showroom for a later online purchase somewhere else. These days, however, savvy retailers offer their own GPS-enabled mobile shopping experiences that help customers buy in-store or anywhere else. For all retailers, a mobile-optimized site and store is a foundational element of a positive ecommerce experience.

6. Growth in subscription models.

When you sell a subscription, it’s a lot more likely the customer will return again and again. Subscription models have proven successful online, and many savvy businesses are finding new ways to turn products and services into subscriptions that keep customers loyal for months and years to come. Note that subscription success requires a long-term mindset and a close eye on unit economics, technology use and the transition from "customer support" to "customer success." Amazon Prime is one example of a successful retail subscription model. Amazon Prime provides a wide range of benefits to its members, such as fast free shipping, video streaming and exclusive deals, in exchange for a monthly or annual fee.

7. Renewed focus on sustainability.

“Renewable” and “sustainable” are not just buzzwords. Consumers and governments are making major shifts to renewable energy, sustainable environmental practices and long-term sustainable thinking. Investors have driven new ESG (environmental, social, and governance) preferences in the stock market. Consumers also vote with their dollars, and many prefer companies with strong sustainability practices. Retailers with marketing messages that resonate with eco-conscious customers and their beliefs are more likely to have an impact on this group.

8. Multichannel customer support.

Past and prospective customers may want to contact your company for customer service. But how? Some prefer live chat or a phone call, while others email, post on social or text. Adding chatbot tools also can lighten your customer service workload, improve the customer experience and be part of a well-rounded customer experience. In fact, 85% of executives say generative AI will be interacting directly with customers in the next two years, according to the IBM Institute for Business Value.

9. Enhanced distribution and fulfillment planning.

Customers want purchases in their hands as quickly as possible. If your delivery estimates are too slow, they may go elsewhere. Multilayer distribution models, hyper-optimized supply chains, and software-assisted fulfillment are already leading to big changes and big profits. They should continue to do so well into the foreseeable future.

10. Seamless online purchases.

Customers may not buy directly from your website. There are now many channels for ecommerce, including selling directly through social media. Popular apps like Instagram enable purchases without ever leaving the app. That makes social a smart place for consumer companies to spend their advertising dollars.

11. More personalized marketing and products.

Personalization means more than just saying “Hello, [firstname]!” to every customer that logs on to your website. Customers expect a seamless omnichannel experience, and that requires personalization. With machine learning, smart website features and online tracking technologies, fortunately, you can give every customer a highly customized and individualized experience. You may even be able to personalize products at a mass scale to further boost sales opportunities. For example, beauty retailer Sephora takes product recommendations a step further by comparing products that are similar to the one a customer is looking at. This personalized customer experience makes purchasing decisions easier and more likely.

12. New marketplaces and faster distribution channels.

Big marketplaces from retail giants like Amazon and Walmart are both a blessing and a curse for smaller ecommerce stores. They offer a new distribution channel to a broad audience, but they also make sellers captive to the added fees and costs of playing in another business's arena. But this trend looks to only be growing, so ecommerce businesses should consider whether those marketplaces make sense for their products and consider ways to beat the big guys at their own game.

13. Highly optimized websites to maximize conversions.

Modern web technology allows you to deploy two versions of a web page to see which performs better. A-B testing tells your marketing team what works best so you can continually optimize every part of your website. Don’t underestimate the effect of a change in font, color, layout, size and loading speed on your sales. Successful A/B testing can bring a 50% increase in the average revenue per unique visitor for ecommerce sites, according to website optimization company VWO.

14. Growth of the forward deploy fulfillment center (FDFC).

Some grocery stores, malls and other public places are now home to retail lockers where customers can pick up purchases. The forward deploy fulfillment center (FDFC) is a small fulfillment center — it could be simply a set of automated lockers already stocked with some common purchases. If someone wants to buy a new toothbrush or socks, for example, they may get a notification that the item is ready for pickup nearby as soon as they tap the buy button. Consider people who live in large apartment complexes. With FDFCs, residents could place an order for necessities like batteries and have them available for pickup without needing to leave their building.

15. Additional online advertising competition.

Growth in ecommerce means more brands are advertising their online stores. As more businesses compete for eyeballs online, you may see more competition and higher online advertising inventory prices. Expect to pay more on popular keyword search terms and product listing ads for common items.

16. Instant analytics and machine learning to optimize sales.

Analytics tools used to require a delay to collect and aggregate data. Now, many analytics and ecommerce platforms give you live results. You may see how customers are interacting with your website or online ads with real-time data. Combined with machine learning, you can use this data to understand where prospective sales are lost so you can minimize bounce rate and cart abandonment.

17. Preferences for ethical and independent businesses.

Recent events have struck chords with many consumers, and some shoppers actively seek to support — or avoid — businesses based on what they see as a positive or negative ethical stand. Whether a company seeks to actively seek out these shoppers depends on many factors, including its target customer, mission statement and appetite for engagement. For example, someone who’s looking to buy ethically may look for animal products that were sourced humanely, source produce locally or buy at farmers markets — or avoid animal products as a whole. Relatively ethical products on grocery store shelves can be identified by certain certifications shown on the package, such as USDA Organic or Certified Humane. Fair Trade is another certification that companies can obtain for their products. This certification mainly pertains to labor rights on the supply chain, especially in industries where child labor and slavery are rampant.

18. Automated B2B transactions.

B2B is a big business segment. Ecommerce trends here will enable more automation, including automated accounts payable, accounts receivable, reordering and fulfillment. If you serve other businesses, make sure you’re using the latest technology, such as customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, to solve their biggest pain points.

19. Changes to consumer privacy preferences.

In the European Union and California, online privacy laws restrict what businesses can track and what options they have when handling customer data. It's easy to accidentally land on the wrong side of these laws, so make sure your business is compliant. Telling customers what you do to keep their information private is a great way to build trust online.

20. Direct-to-consumer businesses continue to flourish.

Direct-to-consumer businesses sell a wide range of products without using wholesalers or retailers as intermediaries. Shoes, glasses, toothbrushes and razors are just a few examples of popular markets for direct-to-consumer sales. With new ecommerce preferences and tools, this will likely accelerate in the coming years.

Get Ready for the Next Ecommerce Trend

As you can see, the world of ecommerce is rapidly evolving to meet new consumer preferences. At the same time, ecommerce businesses look to emerging technologies to automate marketing, production, fulfillment and other parts of their businesses.

To get the best results, it’s important to utilize a modern ecommerce suite that enables you to create excellent omnichannel experiences across in-store, web and mobile channels and support both B2C and B2B.

Ecommerce FAQs

What are the current trends in ecommerce?

Omnichannel engages many of the above technologies into a sort of uber trend that brings multiple, siloed sales channels together into one, cohesive and consistent experience across the brand. No company is ever “done” with omnichannel, though. Now, AR and voice search as well as enhanced personalization will be key.

What is the future of ecommerce?

The future of ecommerce is very bright. Automation and machine learning will likely bring down costs while increasing sales for ecommerce businesses. Customer preferences are also shifting to ecommerce more rapidly than in the past.

Is ecommerce growing?

Ecommerce is growing. According to DigitalCommerce360(opens in a new tab), U.S. ecommerce sales grew 44% in 2020. Online spending represented 21% of total retail sales for the year.

Is omnichannel a new ecommerce trend?

Omnichannel is an important ecommerce trend. While it isn’t brand new, selling across multiple channels helps you reach new potential customers wherever they’re spending time online.