The future of e-commerce according to consumers: eco-friendly handling and delivery is key and delivers most personal value for consumers

In this week’s blog we examine consumers’ demands and expectations of the future of e-commerce. In our survey we asked consumers about their expectations of the likelihood of eight futuristic scenarios developing in the next five years. Both the level of expectation of a scenario coming true as well as the personal benefit that the respective scenario has for consumers are taken into account in the survey. 

The latest survey results indicate that consumers’ expectations of some scenarios actually taking place within the next five years are higher than others. And consumers’ expectations do not correlate with the extent to which consumers estimate that the scenario can be of added value for themselves. We see, for example, that while Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers expect customer care queries to be handled by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the next five years, they do not see this as having an actual personal benefit. On the other hand, we see that a much larger share of consumers expects eco-friendly handling and delivery to become available (more) while also indicating that this has personal benefits. And finally, we also see that there are other scenarios (such as an extremely advanced and refined degree of personalization) that consumers think are less likely to happen in the next five years, but that would add considerable value.

We also see that current online shopping frequency dictates consumers’ expectations of the future of e-commerce. The more a consumer buys online, the higher their expectations (and demands) of online shopping in the future are. But the difference lies in what personal value you attribute to the different scenarios.

‘Heavy Online Shoppers’ (5+ bi-weekly online purchases) place a higher value on scenarios centered purely around the online experience, such as drone delivery and hyper-personalized offers. Light Online Shoppers (1 bi-weekly online purchase) - who still make most of their purchases offline - place a higher value on omnichannel-type scenarios like the transformation of physical stores to showrooms and being able to use BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later) services offline.

For merchants, understanding what consumers expect and demand from online shopping in the future is one of the key factors in giving direction to long- and short term strategic and innovative developments. In finding the correct mix of tools to push a business forward, it is always about finding the balance between business efficiency and business effectiveness. And it is precisely this balance that we want to shed some light on in this analysis.

Of the scenarios that we sketch out in this blog post, some will increase business efficiency while others will increase effectiveness - and some will do both. Scenarios that consumers rate as delivering high personal value will undoubtedly increase business effectiveness in terms of attracting and retaining customers. An example is eco-friendly handling and delivery (i.e. CO2 compensation, sustainable packaging and the usage of electric vehicles for delivery). Consumers not only expect this scenario to become more and more available, it is also the scenario that is rated as having the highest personal benefit for consumers. In terms of impacting business efficiency, the transformation of brick-and-mortar stores to visual showrooms and the further integration of AI into customer care are more likely to play a role there.

In the end, which scenario is most beneficial to merchants? It depends on your exact business objectives. But overall, we can conclude that sustainability is a key theme in Dutch, German and Norwegian consumers’ expectations and demands of online shopping in the future. What do consumers’ expectations and demands of the future of e-commerce look like per country? Keep reading!

The Netherlands

Among Dutch consumers, 32% expect to be able to choose eco-friendly handling and delivery within the next five years – and 19% of consumers state that this has personal benefits for them. Of all eight scenarios, this scenario is also the most expected to come true in the next five years, and the highest share consumers rates it as personally beneficial.



With regards to the other scenarios: around 15-20% of consumers expect these to be available in the next five years. 5-10% of consumers indicate that these scenarios are personally beneficial to them. Among these is the aspect of having one online shopping account for all online purchases: 20% of consumers expect this to be available in the next five years. And 16% of consumers believe drone delivery will be offered by merchants in the coming five years. But only half of these state that this innovative new delivery service adds personal benefit for them. Customer Care run through Artifical Intelligence and the transformation of physical stores to visual showrooms are rated as the least beneficial. But while these scenarios may not add much benefit from consumers’ point of view, these will significantly add operational efficiency.

Germany

In line with the patterns in the Netherlands, 39% of German consumers expect eco-friendly handling and delivery to be offered by merchants more in the coming five years. Half of these consumers (19%) rate this aspect as having a personal benefit for them.



Even though Germans see the highest personal benefit in eco-friendly options, they also view having one online shopping account for all their online purchases, drone delivery and virtual fitting rooms as beneficial. AI solutions in customer care that can answer all customer questions is rated as the second most expected scenario (26% of Germans), but only 5% of consumers think that this will add personal benefit to them.

Norway

Norwegian consumers’ expectations of the future of e-commerce is relatively stable across all scenarios, although three scenarios stand out as less beneficial to consumers. These are drone delivery, the transformation of physical stores to visual showrooms and AI customer care – only 3% of consumers even rate the latter as personally beneficial.



In line with the results from the Netherlands and Germany, the aspect most Norwegian consumers expect to come true in the next five years is eco-friendly handling and delivery options. But Norwegians rate the personal benefit of this aspect lower than German and Dutch consumers. In fact, getting personal offers ‘that are so good you won’t have to visit websites’ along with ‘virtual fitting rooms that are so good you won’t have to return any items’ have a relatively higher share of benefit compared to sustainable solutions.

What is next?

Coming up next is the July outlook for e-commerce in the Netherlands, Germany and Norway. Stay tuned!