The Top 15 Ecommerce Trends to Watch in 2024

The world of ecommerce is evolving at a breakneck pace. What worked for online brands just a few years ago is now old hat. As we look ahead to 2024, a new crop of ecommerce trends is set to take the stage.

From the rise of social commerce to the dominance of mobile shopping, shifting consumer behaviors and advancing technologies are reshaping the digital shopping landscape. The brands that stay on top of these trends will be positioned to thrive in the coming years.

So what does 2024 have in store for ecommerce? Here are the 15 biggest online shopping trends to have on your radar and start preparing for now.

1. Mobile shopping will eclipse desktop.

It‘s no secret that mobile commerce has been on the rise for years now. But in 2024, mobile is set to definitively overtake desktop as the primary channel for online shopping.

Over 60% of online retail website visits now come from mobile devices. And that figure is projected to keep climbing. The implications for ecommerce brands is clear—if your website and checkout aren‘t totally seamless on mobile devices, you‘re going to miss out on a huge and growing segment of shoppers.

Ecommerce websites need to go beyond basic mobile optimization and embrace mobile-first design philosophies. The entire experience from homepage to checkout should be built with the small screen in mind. Mobile shoppers won‘t settle for pinch-and-zoom half measures anymore.

2. Social commerce will gain steam.

Social media platforms are quickly transforming from discovery and engagement channels into full-fledged retail destinations. The big players like Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest have all launched integrated shopping features in recent years, and they‘re doubling down.

Forecasts project social commerce sales to keep growing at a blistering pace, potentially tripling to over $1.2 trillion globally by 2025. As more shoppers, especially younger generations, grow accustomed to buying directly via social platforms, it will become an indispensable sales channel.

Forward-thinking brands should explore establishing shops on key social platforms, and fine-tune their social media marketing to focus on sales activation, not just awareness. Influencer partnerships with direct purchasing calls-to-action will be especially potent.

3. AI will power hyper-personalization.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies keep advancing by leaps and bounds each year. And they‘re being put to use across ecommerce operations to enable personalization with unprecedented precision.

Ecommerce AI tools can process vast troves of shopper data to figure out exactly the right products, offers, and content to surface to a given user. AI algorithms are learning to predict what customers want to see next with eerie accuracy.

Expect to see hyper-personalized product recommendations, search results, and promotional offers become the norm. Shoppers will be shown tailored storefronts dynamically generated just for them. Brands not leveraging AI‘s personalization potential will get left behind.

4. Interactive live shopping will engage customers.

Livestream shopping is an ecommerce trend that has taken Asian markets by storm in recent years, and it‘s starting to pick up steam globally. Also called live commerce or shoppertainment, this interactive video format promotes products via livestreams with audience participation.

Often hosted by influencers who chat with viewers in real-time, show off products, and drop direct purchase links, these live shopping events merge entertainment with instant gratification. It‘s QVC for the social media age.

Big tech players like Amazon, TikTok, and YouTube are all investing heavily in live shopping features. Ecommerce brands should look for opportunities to partner with relevant influencers on live shopping events. It‘s a highly engaging way to launch new products and drive a surge of impulse purchases.

5. Sustainable practices will be non-negotiable.

Sustainability has evolved from a trendy niche into an absolute necessity. Consumers, especially younger generations, are fed up with ecommerce‘s wasteful ways. One-third of them have stopped buying from certain brands over sustainability concerns.

From excessive packaging to energy-intensive shipping, ecommerce has a massive environmental footprint. Brands need to find more eco-friendly alternatives at every step to maintain consumer trust and stay viable in the long term.

Expect shoppers to increasingly demand things like minimal, recyclable packaging, "green" shipping options, and detailed information on products‘ sourcing and environmental impact. Ecommerce brands need to weave sustainability into the fabric of their business, not just pay it lip service.

6. Flexible payments will become table stakes.

The days of shoppers being content with just credit card or PayPal options are long gone. Digital wallets, mobile payments, cryptocurrencies, and perhaps most significantly, buy now pay later (BNPL) plans have shaken up the payments landscape.

BNPL services like Klarna, Affirm, and Afterpay that let customers split purchases into interest-free installment payments have surged in popularity, especially with younger shoppers. Brands that offer BNPL at checkout have seen marked increases in conversion rates and average order values.

Flexible and frictionless payments will be a key differentiator going forward. As more eTailers embrace BNPL and the ever-expanding range of payment options, those sticking to more limited, traditional methods will see shoppers jump ship to competitors offering their preferred choices.

7. Subscriptions will keep customers hooked.

The subscription ecommerce model has been picking up major traction in recent years, and that momentum will continue building. By 2023, 75% of DTC brands are expected to offer subscription services.

Subscriptions create recurring, predictable revenue and help brands retain customers long-term. They‘re an ideal match for frequently replenished consumables like razors or pet food. Plus, the convenience factor and promised VIP perks keep members loyal.

To stand out in an increasingly crowded subscription landscape, ecommerce brands will need to get creative with their subscription offerings and member benefits. Expect to see a rise in subscription membership tiers and exclusive perks like early access to new products.

8. BOPIS will bridge the online/offline gap.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many traditional retailers to quickly pivot to "buy online, pick-up in store" (BOPIS) models, also known as click-and-collect. And there‘s no putting that genie back in the bottle.

Over half of shoppers now say BOPIS is their preferred hybrid online/offline shopping method. It offers the convenience of online browsing and buying with the immediate gratification of in-person pickup. Plus, shoppers can avoid shipping fees and potential porch piracy.

Ecommerce brands with brick-and-mortar footprints need to nail seamless BOPIS experiences. Adding dedicated curbside pickup spots and in-store touchscreen kiosks to notify staff of waiting orders will be crucial to handling higher click-and-collect volumes.

9. Augmented reality will become mainstream.

While virtual reality gets a lot of hype, augmented reality (AR) is the immersive technology poised to transform ecommerce first. AR‘s ability to digitally layer products into real-world environments through smartphone screens makes it ideal for "try before you buy" shopping.

AR features like virtual try-on for clothing, makeup, glasses, and more are quickly shifting from futuristic novelties into expected shopping tools. 3D models of products viewable from all angles will also become commonplace.

As AR-equipped smartphones near ubiquity and the technology gets more sophisticated, ecommerce brands would be wise to start developing 3D assets and AR experiences now to stay ahead of the curve. Virtual try-on could prove a potent weapon against returns.

10. Voice ordering will talk the talk.

Smart speakers are now fixtures in many households—there are an estimated 126 million of them in the U.S. alone. And voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant are getting more sophisticated by the day, paving the way for voice commerce to take off.

Using AI-powered natural language processing, smart speakers can now handle surprisingly complex voice-based ecommerce transactions from search to checkout. It‘s never been easier to re-order your favorite products hands-free while multitasking. "Alexa, order more paper towels."

Forward-thinking brands should ensure their products are optimized for voice search, consider Alexa Skills integrations, and even explore creating their own branded voice apps. Those that crack the code on conversational commerce will have a distinct edge.

11. Headless commerce will offer agility.

The rapid pace of change in ecommerce is exposing the limitations of traditional, monolithic ecommerce platforms. Their front and back ends are tightly intertwined, meaning making changes is slow, costly, and risky.

Enter headless commerce. This approach decouples the front-end presentation layer from the back-end ecommerce engine. Developers can iterate on each independently using APIs, plug in best-of-breed services, and spin up new touchpoints quickly without disrupting the core system.

As ecommerce keeps splintering across channels and touchpoints, the greater agility of headless architectures will become increasingly attractive. Even well-established brands will start migrating away from rigid legacy systems in favor of composable commerce stacks.

12. Customer acquisition costs will keep climbing.

The ecommerce boom in recent years has led to a glut of brands vying for consumers‘ attention and wallets online. At the same time, advertising on major platforms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon keeps getting pricier. The result is steadily rising customer acquisition costs (CAC).

With CAC potentially eating up over 50% of first-order revenue for many ecommerce brands, the focus will need to shift from wasteful acquisition spending to maximizing customer lifetime value (LTV) through retention.

Tactics like lifecycle marketing, loyalty programs, and subscription nudges aimed at increasing purchase frequency and average order value will be key. Every post-purchase touchpoint will need to be fine-tuned to keep customers coming back and referring friends.

13. First-party data will be king.

The digital advertising landscape is in the midst of a seismic shift as third-party cookies, long the lifeblood of ad targeting, start getting phased out in the name of consumer privacy. Without that third-party data to rely on, ecommerce brands will have to lean much more heavily on their own first-party customer data.

Building robust, consent-based customer databases with information gathered through site behaviors, purchases, surveys, and account profiles should be every brand‘s top priority. Brands will also need to hone their skills at leveraging that data for segmentation and personalization.

Expect to see greater investment in customer data platforms (CDPs) that unify first-party data and enable more precise targeting and measurement. Walled gardens like Amazon, Walmart, and Kroger that blend media networks with unparalleled first-party data will also gain ground.

14. DTC brands will keep disrupting.

While 2022 brought something of a direct-to-consumer (DTC) reset, the model is far from dead. Digitally native, vertically integrated brands that cut out middlemen and sell directly to end consumers will continue shaking up staid industries.

The DTC playbook—launch online, own your distribution and customer relationships, focus on underserved niches—has proven it works. Yes, long-term profitability remains a challenge for many, but plenty of DTC stars are scaling successfully.

Legacy consumer brands are now adopting DTC elements in their own operations—Nike plans to generate 50% of sales through direct channels by 2025. The DTC-dominant commerce era is just getting started, and disruption will remain the only constant.

15. Authenticity will be everything.

In a world of infinite choice, consumers are getting pickier about the brands they buy from. It‘s not enough just to have a great product at a competitive price. Shoppers want to feel a genuine connection to the brands they support—and they can quickly sniff out insincerity.

Ecommerce brands need to lead with their values, build communities, and show some personality to win lasting customer loyalty. Perfection is out, raw realness is in. Expect a rise in user-generated content, behind-the-scenes footage, and even employee advocacy programs.

Gen Z in particular demands that brands take stands on important issues, from sustainability to social justice. Those that do so authentically and follow through with action will earn their business and advocacy. Brands that stay silent or say one thing and do another will get canceled.

The Future of Ecommerce: Prepare Now to Prosper

The world of ecommerce never stops turning, but some years bring more revolutionary changes than others. All signs point to 2024 being a true inflection point.

The trends outlined above are going to reshape how people discover, consider, and purchase products online. And the pace of change will only accelerate from here.

Ecommerce brands that get ahead of these shifts and put the right strategies and technologies in place now will be primed to capitalize as they take hold. So don‘t wait until they‘re already the status quo to react. The future of ecommerce waits for no one.