Amazon.com and eBay have continued to dominate the online retail market in the United States. However, there have been signs that more social and distributed forms of online shopping are gaining traction. eBay, in particular, is beginning to lose ground.Over the past decade,
In this post, we review the past decade of e-commerce and the key trends. Advances in recommendations technology, together with the emergence of social media and mobile commerce, have combined to change the way e-commerce is transacted. In a follow-up post, we look at current statistics for online retail.
Recommendations Technology Advances
Over the past decade the online retail industry has seen great strides in the use of recommendations technology. Amazon has consistently led the field in this, with its sophisticated blend of personalized, social and item recommendations.
Many of the retail recommendations in use today rely on implicit user data. These systems typically track user data, which is then analyzed with a set of usually proprietary algorithms. The end result: recommendations for users. Earlier this year we looked into Baynote's recommendation system:
"Baynote observes real-time user behavior on a site and looks for implicit, emergent patterns. It uses collective intelligence and an affinity engine to analyze the data. Common behaviors which it tracks include page refers, queries, mouse movement, time spent on a page, peer behavior."
Social Media Takes Retail to Blogs, Social Networks
As with nearly every other industry, shopping sites have increasingly used social media to promote their wares.
According to Shop.org's recent eHoliday Study, 47.1% of retailers surveyed will be increasing their use of social media this holiday season. Specifically, more than half of retailers have "added or improved their Facebook page (60.3%) and Twitter pages (58.7%)" this year. Nearly two-thirds (65.6%) have "added or enhanced blogs and RSS feeds" over the same time period.
One result of this has been a big increase in implicit social recommendations data across social networks and blogs.
Another trend with ecommerce sites is distributed sales. Anyone can embed an Amazon store into their blog or social network these days. As Kurt Collins of social commerce vendor Cartfly told us in December, this won't replace "end destination e-commerce" - but it will "augment sales tremendously" at the edge of the network.
Mobile Commerce Arrives, Albeit Slowly...
The growth of mobile phones has been a big trend this decade. However, as Sarah Perez wrote in September, mobile commerce in the U.S. market has struggled for momentum.
According to data from eMarketer, more than 70 million U.S. mobile phone users will access the internet from their devices this year. Despite this, the m-commerce market remains immature. In an April 2009 survey by RIS News, privacy and security concerns are still at the forefront of both shoppers' and retailers' minds.
There is some promise that mobile commerce will finally gain traction in the coming decade. Mobile payments firm Billing Revolution found that on-the-go consumers are happy to purchase small ticket items like pizza and movie tickets, for example.
One market that has shown strong signs of mobile commerce growth is Japan, according to Morgan Stanley.
See also our analysis of mobile payments.
New recommendations technologies make it easier every year for consumers to find what they want, social media has driven a lot of retail activity to small websites and social networks, and mobile commerce has slowly but surely gained a foothold in e-commerce.
These are just some of the trends in e-commerce over the past 10 years. While Amazon.com and eBay continue to be the giants of online retail, the Social Web and advances in web technology have both had a big impact this decade.