With the e-commerce market set to reach $1.8 trillion dollars at the end of this year, it is critical that retailers understand the key trends driving consumer behaviour in 2019.  

The proliferation of mobile e-commerce, growing opportunities for Australian retailers in the Chinese market and the rise of loyalty programs and pay later schemes will typify the retail landscape of the New Year, according to  Managing Director of Rakuten Marketing JJ Eastwood.

The success of retailers in 2019 will depend on the extent that they leverage these trends, and the technology that accompanies them, Mr Eastwood said.

“It’s a super exciting time for commerce as a whole and it’s definitely going to be led by technology,” he said.

  1. Online to offline

The first trend set to typify 2019 will be a granular focus on enhancing the user experience (UX), whether it be online or offline.

Increasingly, consumers in 2019 will expect their seamless e-commerce experience to translate in-store, giving rise to the proliferation of in-store technology and optimization of mobile platforms, according to Mr Eastwood.

“What we’re starting to see is a focus on the customer experience and how brands can enhance that customer experience. They’ve stopped thinking about online to offline, and now thinking about how to provide a better user experience across the board,” he said.

“Ultimately brands want to grow sales and the more savvy brands are thinking about how to drive customer loyalty and repeat purchases and lifetime value, and are using technology in order to do that.”

This focus on the UX will ultimately give rise to an increase in the use of augmented reality, virtual reality, and the advancement of mobile technology.

Retailers who are able to provide a seamless mobile shopping experience will have a step above the rest in the New Year, with Rakuten Marketing’s 2018 State of e-Commerce: Asia-Pacific report indicating heavy usage of mobile devices for shopping throughout 2018.

“Mobile commerce is actually a lot bigger in Australia than people realise. When we delve deeper and look at millennials almost 60 per cent of how they transact is on mobile. It’s a very large proportion of how they shop,” Mr Eastwood said.

  1. The China effect

As the Chinese market grows with the increasing wealth of its top-tier consumers, the country will be a huge area of opportunity for retailers.

Niche or high-end Australian retailers will have a particular advantage in leveraging these opportunities, according to Mr Eastwood.

“There’s an opportunity for more of the luxury retailers or high end retailers to tap into the rapidly growing middle class in China who’ve got a huge appetite for luxury goods but other categories as well like health and beauty products and even some of the wine and spirits,” he said.

“There is an affinity with Australia, there’s a huge opportunity for a lot of brands to tap into that growing market.”

  1. Aussie shoppers are becoming more savvy

Loyalty programs and pay later schemes will also dominate the New Year, with businesses like Cashrewards and Afterpay giving consumers the flexibility that they desire.

According to Mr Eastwood, these flexible payment options will become the norm.

“What we’re starting to see is a lot of cashback and rewards programs are now available in-store,” he said.

Loyalty programs which are automated are likely to be particularly successful in the New Year, Mr Eastwood said.

“What we’re to see now is card link offers so these offers linked to specific credit card. This is a much more seam-lined user experience for both the customer and also for the merchant as well,” he said.

Such programs will be “absolutely crucial” for retailers in 2019, particularly for brands that want to build brand affinity or create a longer-term transaction with customers, according to Mr Eastwood.