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The pandemic changed the world of online shopping in profound and rapid ways. According to the Salesforce Shopping Index, global online sales skyrocketed 71% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020. More growth is projected still. With these unprecedented changes, retailers and the technology they use to run their online stores have been adapting and evolving to suit the growing needs of their customers. Here are four trends that have improved the online retail and shopping experience in the last year.

1. Subscriptions Business Models

It’s no secret that as customers stayed at home more, they still expected access to the same products and services they were used to before the pandemic. People who rarely cooked at home and preferred to dine out had to adjust their habits in this new reality. Food subscription and chef-prepped meals became even more popular and merchants had to adapt as well. 

Their customers expect a high degree of control over their subscriptions – from changing the date of their delivery to amending items and making one-time purchases in addition to their existing subscriptions. These options must be presented to the customer in an easy-to-navigate way.

Find out more about subscription business models here and see an awesome example of a custom subscriptions workflow we built for our client Farmivore.

2. Flexible Payment Plans

Flexible payment options that allow customers to pay in interest-free installments rather than all at once. This buy now, pay later model is experiencing growth – according to fool.com “...55.8% of consumers have used a buy now, pay later service, up from 37.65% in July of 2020 — an increase of almost 50% in less than one year.

One of our partners, Sezzle, allows shoppers to make a purchase and then make 4 interest-free payments over 6 weeks. Flexible payment options increase customer satisfaction and allow them to make purchases they would otherwise forego due to budget constraints.

3. In-Store Experience Online

While not everyone can afford a VR headset, almost everyone has a cellphone with the capability of providing an augmented reality (AR) experience. In-store shopping has been restricted during the pandemic and stores are finding creative ways to allow shoppers to “try” their products virtually.

Large Object Visualization at Home

Shopping for a large item such as a couch, bed, or even painting is made easier through apps that let you visualize how the piece will look in your home. We predict that this trend will continue long after the pandemic, giving shoppers the power to make informed decisions.

Facial Recognition Technology

This AR trend has the power to revolutionize the make-up and beauty industry. Imagine you’re shopping for a new blush or lipstick, but it’s difficult to tell what it will look like without sampling it in-store. Enter technology that allows you to try out different shades on your face in real-time, compare and share looks, as well as complete the purchase in one seamless and fun experience.

4. Personalized Services

In-store shopping allows you to talk to a retail consultant who may answer any questions you might have. While online stores should strive to provide as much information as possible on the product pages, customers will often have more questions. A chatbot is a great start, but a dedicated human to answer questions is even better!

Product recommendations are another great opportunity to connect with customers and increase conversions. Suggesting similar or complementary products based on their browsing or purchasing history is one way to personalize the shopping experience.

Custom Supply Calculators

When customers are shopping for a product that depends on factors like height, weight and frequency, don’t make them do the math! A custom supply calculator takes the guesswork out of the equation and shoppers know exactly how much they need to buy.

Here’s one we built for our client Horse Guard. It automatically calculates the amount of vitamins/supplements needed based on how many horses are being fed and their respective weights. 

How Westmount Solutions Can Help

As the online shopping world continues to adapt and evolve, make sure you stay up to date with these trends and find consistent ways to enhance the online shopping experience for your customers. Whether you want to improve the UX of your site, offer a custom subscription, or create a custom calculator that determines the amount of product, Westmount Solutions can help you get your store to where it needs to be.

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Tatiana Dudin

Tatiana is passionate writer with over 10 years of experience writing for the tech industry.