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The Future of E-commerce and Online Business

Written by:

Carolyn Young is a business writer who focuses on entrepreneurial concepts and the business formation. She has over 25 years of experience in business roles, and has authored several entrepreneurship textbooks.

The Future of E-commerce and Online Business

With trends morphing faster than a Transformers movie, online businesses and the e-commerce industry stand to improve in terms of virtual reality shopping experiences, drone deliveries, AI-driven customer service, and much, much more. We’ve consulted with established business owners and marketing experts, and here’s what they have to say about the future of e-commerce and online business.

1. Increase in Customer Surveys

Due to the increasing lack of access to third-party demographic information about your customers, it will be up to individual businesses to start collecting their own data. The most accurate way to do so is through onboarding surveys. You’ll be able to compile a list of queries to collect data for your marketing purposes and use it later for targeted marketing. We will see an increase in required surveys before users are able to use or purchase e-commerce products or services.

Simon Bacher, co-founder & CEO of Ling App

2. Post-COVID Changes & AI Influence on Solopreneurship

We expected and are now seeing tremendous growth in solopreneurship in the post-COVID era. Three main factors are at play.

First of all, the lockdown forced some individuals to re-assess their priorities and others to start their own side hustles as their main income. This worked out quite well. “Work” has become virtual.

Secondly, the post-COVID redundancies have further exacerbated the above, along with the misalignment of companies pushing for work at the office and employees seeing the inherent benefit of working from home or a location of their choice.

Thirdly (and this is playing out as we speak), AI will have the biggest effect on those same white-collar office workers whose jobs are the easiest for AI to take over. On the flip side, AI has also closed the gap between what an individual can work on and deliver vs. what a company can do — both of which will further drive solopreneurship.

Sohrab Tellaie, co-founder of Omni.Day

3. Google’s Ban on Third-Party Cookies

In my opinion, one of the biggest innovations & challenges for e-commerce in 2024 will come from the end of third-party cookies. On January 4th, 2024, Google started restricting third-party cookies for 1% of Google Chrome users, with a view to reaching 100% restriction by Q4 of 2024. This has privacy benefits for the user but can create several challenges for online sellers.

Generally, these third-party cookies collect data to be used for things like cross-site tracking, remarketing, serving personalised ads, and creating audience lists. Therefore, any e-commerce website heavily reliant on tracking that uses third-party cookies will have to pivot to a new form of tracking or risk losing a lot of advertising and data collection capabilities.

Daniel Watkinson, SEO manager at 20i

4. Rise of Bitconomy, Sustainability, and Immersive Online Shopping

In 2024, you should expect three main trends shaping the e-commerce industry. First, the “Bitconomy” will blossom. At To the Cloud, we’ve seen increased transactions in Bitcoin, which we reward with discounts. Second, sustainability and ethical sourcing will drive customer choices, favoring companies that can demonstrate environmental stewardship. In the cannabis industry, we’ve experienced growing consumer demands for organic and responsibly sourced products. Lastly, post-COVID, customers value businesses that provide immersive virtual shopping experiences. We’ve been developing 3D product views and augmented reality features to meet this need.

Tyler Browne, founder & CEO of To the Cloud

5. Going Back to Quality over Quantity

The current “full speed ahead” towards AI content creation is going to be an e-commerce owner’s downfall. The critical event will be Google’s enhanced capability to identify AI-generated content. As Google algorithms become more sophisticated in detecting AI footprints in content, websites relying heavily on AI for easy content generation might face significant de-ranking.  This will lead to a strategic pivot where the emphasis will shift from quantity back to the quality and originality of content. E-commerce players will need to balance AI utilization with human creativity to maintain their search engine rankings and audience engagement.

James Koskela, owner & founder of Zero Day Gear

6. Conversational Shopping through Chatbots

Something I think we’re going to see more of in e-commerce is AI-facilitated conversational commerce. Conversational commerce is a way to find a happy medium between e-commerce, an inherently individualistic approach to shopping, and in-person shopping, which can be filled with conversational customer service. The main way conversational commerce is achieved is through AI chatbots. These resources allow customers to get the questions they have answered in real time while still shopping online by themselves.

Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love

7. Navigating Complex Market Dynamics

One looming unresolved issue in e-commerce is the overall market dynamics. Massive online “everything stores” like Amazon have proven to be so successful that they continue to crowd out smaller businesses — and inspire imitators. Etsy and eBay are pursuing the same strategy within the used goods and craft goods sectors, and Temu is taking direct aim at Amazon. This can make it hard for small businesses to gain traction without investing heavily in marketing or giving up and selling their products on these massive sites.

Ryan Farley, co-founder & CEO of LawnStarter

8. AR in Virtual Try-Ons

One trend that I often think about and find interesting is the interaction of AR technology. This will allow customers to try products virtually without having to buy them first. How amazing is that! This sounds like that perfect thing that the world needs, considering the huge amount of products that just stay with us unused because they either don’t fit or do not meet our expectations. Personally, I would want to live in a world like that. 

I believe that this trend will be particularly impactful in the fashion and beauty industry. Although there are a lot of other sectors that will flourish by adopting this trend, the two mentioned will see the most impact. The reason behind this is that a lot of times, we do not buy things virtually out of the fear of not fitting into it or not being able to imagine perfectly how we would utilise them. With this trend gaining momentum, people would be much more confident while making purchases, and the world would just be a little better, I think.

Nyokabi Mickens, owner of Loclicious

9. Creative In-Store Initiatives and Influencer Marketing

As a digital marketing expert, I predict a significant opportunity to boost e-commerce sales. This won’t just rely on AI and big data but also on implementing creative strategies. For instance, consider setting up a playground for kids or a coffee store within your physical store. Initiatives like these can attract people to the store — even when they’re not initially in a buying mood. Good examples of this are Ralph Lauren and Uniqlo.

In addition to this, using every available channel to get new clients will be very effective. Specifically, influencer marketing will be the next mind-blowing strategy — by selecting the right nano or micro-influencers with engaged audiences and suitable voices, an investment of $200–$500 per influencer could yield over $1,500 in sales.

Ana Hoffman, digital marketing specialist at Viral Mango

10. Logistical Efficiency and AI Integration

Several trends are surfacing that could potentially reshape the e-commerce industry. One such trend is personalized real-time experiences, offering tailor-made shopping experiences based on individual preferences. For instance, at Simpl Fulfillment, we’re noticing a surge in brands wanting to enhance customer interaction by providing fulfillment solutions that are curated specifically to fit each customer’s needs.

On the other hand, overcoming logistical obstacles to meet escalating customer expectations remains a key hurdle, and achieving quick and hassle-free deliveries is one such challenge. To this end, the use of micro-fulfillment centers is gaining traction. This significantly reduces delivery times by bringing products closer to the consumer. Indeed, we’ve seen small-scale businesses adopting this approach and recording substantial improvements in their delivery times.

In terms of innovation, we foresee AI and Big Data penetrating deeper into e-commerce and revolutionizing processes from warehouse operations to customer service. However, it is also important to ensure the ethical use of AI to preserve customer trust and data privacy — something that might become a major talking point in the coming years.

Virginia Miller, marketing expert at Simpl Fulfillment

11. Potential for Social Media Shopping Platforms

With the success of TikTok’s shopping platform, I’d be surprised if we didn’t see other social platforms dip their toes in the e-commerce water, too. Some well-established names, such as Facebook, are seeing uptake in their service begin to slow among younger generations, and they may see a shopping platform as a means of increasing revenue in a different way. Each social platform now seems to appeal to a different demographic, meaning that there’s a potentially unrealised retail market for each to tap into. Companies that already utilise e-commerce platforms like Amazon, eBay, and Etsy, may soon find themselves adding social platforms to their list of outlets too. This could sway the balance of power toward companies with the best social marketing techniques rather than the size of the business.

Rick Smith, founder& managing director of Forbes Burton

12. Voice Search

As a business owner, I can say the best trend we will likely see in the upcoming year is this hand-free integration of voice commerce into e-commerce. In this digital era, people want to make their work as easy as possible, and this voice commerce enables customers to provide voice commands for their purchasing experience. With the help of voice commands, they can look for products and learn about them. They can even place the order and track their shipment as well. I personally believe that a good example of voice commerce is definitely Alexa Assistant, which will help you in your purchasing journey with e-commerce.

Chetan Patil, owner of Suemybroker

13. The Future of E-commerce SEO

The era of traditional SEO and programmatic page rankings is giving way to semantic search, where the emphasis is on building topical authority. This change necessitates a deeper, more interconnected content strategy for e-commerce sites, extending beyond basic category pages and listicles.

In 2023, we saw Google’s core and AI-powered search updates start to favor content rich in personal experience, perhaps tipping the scales too far in that direction.

As we look ahead, I predict a renewed focus on the importance of high-quality backlinks as a key factor in ranking sites that offer genuinely authoritative content while they continue to iterate on the new algorithms. This evolution highlights a broader trend in e-commerce SEO — a shift towards prioritizing content quality and relevance, which is crucial for engaging today’s sophisticated online audiences.

Kurt Uhlir, chief marketing officer at Ethereal Innovations (Personal Website, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube)

14. Same-Day Delivery

From my experience, same-day delivery is going to be really popular in the upcoming year. There is no doubt that next-day delivery is already a part of the e-commerce business, but now, e-commerce is going to focus on same-day delivery for more customer satisfaction. I believe that same-day delivery will be really helpful for e-commerce businesses to gain loyal customers, and it will also boost their sales as now people can get their products on the same day. However, there is no doubt that it will be difficult for e-commerce to follow this new trend, although it will definitely provide a great benefit.

Dan Fried, CEO of Specialty Metals (Facebook, Twitter)

15. Optimizing E-commerce for the Future

Incorporate social commerce. During the pandemic, shopping became more virtual with social media platforms as an increasingly popular shopping outlet. Many prospects today are socially sharing so much information about their needs, wants, and pain points on their public profiles, so with a little research, you can be personalized, relevant, and helpful rather than intrusive and cold from your initial outreach, which leads to more meaningful ongoing prospect and customer engagement.

Make more video content. The world is becoming more visual when it comes to consuming content, which has made visual-driven platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok gain popularity. With the rise of a generation that would much rather watch/look at something vs. sit/read, there is going to be a growing trend of more visual content, including pictures/videos(long and short form)/memes/diagrams/infographics.

Include social media influencers. The future of marketing is to utilize a mix of influencer types. Instead of just focusing on the most popular/branded individual influencers, it will include internal experts, micro-influencers, niche experts, and customers in the influencer marketing mix.

Eliminate all the unnecessary elements to maximize UX. Beware of creating cluttered pages, which makes following the navigation difficult. Don’t try to say/do too much. When too many cooks are in the kitchen or “design by committee,” the result can be confusing. For the best user experience and to maximize conversions, keep only the necessary elements and be sure to eliminate everything unnecessary from your website — including unnecessary ads, blinking banners, irrelevant images, old and un-maintained social media accounts, and out-of-date and irrelevant testimonial/reviews.

Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls

16. Ethical Use of AI & E-commerce Decentralization

With generative AI on the rise, the future of e-commerce is dipping into murky waters. Brands will have to not only determine when quantity no longer outweighs quality and storytelling but also draw a line in the sand for how to use AI ethically. For example, as a product photography and videography company, we at soona believe three things are absolutely non-negotiable when it comes to AI ethics: appropriately attribute content or images if AI was the creator (similar to how copyright has worked for years), don’t change or manipulate cultural norms, and consent to be included in AI training models.

E-commerce will continue to decentralize. It’s hard to successfully function on just one platform or marketplace anymore. There are several ways to sell (with more continuously popping up), and every platform has its own rules, requirements, and ways of operating. Brands will be looking for hub-and-spoke solutions that help them operate more efficiently and stay nimble with how fast-paced they must move to keep up with the trends.

At soona, we see photos and videos of more brands and their products in a week than most people see in years. Most DTC brands have it figured out; they know what it takes to get to where they want to be and who they want to be in front of. But there are no easy wins anymore. Only the brands with truly stand-out branding, products, and messaging married with the right distribution playbook will survive and thrive.

Sarah Moffatt, senior manager of marketing strategy and partnerships at soona

17. Livestream Shopping

The integration of livestream shopping into e-commerce sites is going to transform online shopping in 2024. Live video streams that offer product demonstrations and interactive features will provide consumers with an engaging shopping experience.

As Gen Z and Millennials flock to platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to discover and buy products, more brands will invest in shoppable livestream content and influencer collaborations.

Blending entertainment with shopping, live streams can recreate the in-store browsing feel through virtual try-ons and real-time engagement. With their shoppable, mobile-first features, live shopping platforms have the potential to capture younger demographics and spur impulse purchases at scale in 2024 and beyond.

Mike Yon, CEO of Growth List

18. Smarter Mobile Shopping Apps & Physical Stores

For companies that can provide an excellent online experience through their direct-to-consumer business model, e-commerce has leveled the playing field. However, even businesses born into an omnichannel environment must keep up with the latest developments in e-commerce to meet consumer expectations and avoid being overtaken by more agile rivals.

Since it could mean that the consumer is price-shopping or utilizing the physical store as a showroom for a later online purchase elsewhere, brick-and-mortar shops can take offense when they notice customers staring at their phone screens.

Smart merchants, however, now provide their own mobile shopping experiences with GPS capabilities to assist customers in making purchases online or in-store. An essential component of a satisfying online shopping experience for every firm is a mobile-friendly website and physical store.

Min Tom, founder & CEO of Happy Hong Konger

19. Leveraging MACH Stacks

Anticipated for 2024, e-commerce businesses are going to adopt a transformative trend: the widespread utilization of highly advanced MACH stacks — microservices, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, and headless architecture. We integrate these tools into our operational framework to equip online enterprises with the necessary pivot capabilities so that they can respond both rapidly and efficiently to subtle shifts as well as seismic disruptions within the e-commerce landscape.

Businesses can harness the unparalleled innovation pace of MACH stacks due to their inherent flexibility. MACH stacks can customize offerings in response to customer demands.

Microservices facilitate feature deployment and updates without needing system-wide overhauls, while an API-first strategy guarantees smooth integration with a range of third-party services. The cloud-native attribute further ensures a scalable & resilient infrastructure that effortlessly adapts to changing workloads. Headless architecture facilitates the delivery of diverse, channel-rich, and personalized experiences.

Mark McShane, managing director of AED Training

20. Blockchain Integration

Blockchain, a decentralized digital ledger that securely records transactions across multiple computers, holds immense potential for transforming online shopping. Its tamper-proof and transparent nature makes it an ideal solution for enhancing the security and trustworthiness of e-commerce transactions.

With blockchain, companies can effectively manage and protect customer data, track shipments with utmost accuracy, and ensure the authenticity of products. Consequently, this will significantly enhance the safety and reliability of online shopping experiences.

Furthermore, blockchain opens up avenues for companies to create their own digital currencies and introduce a new dimension to e-commerce. Customers could use these digital currencies as a means of payment, which would eliminate the need for intermediaries and reduce costs. This would streamline financial transactions and also empower customers with greater autonomy and flexibility in their payment options and better privacy and security measures.

Matthew Ramirez, serial entrepreneur, investor & founder of Rephrase

21. Building Authentic Connections with Customers

My one essential marketing advice for fellow store owners is to prioritize and invest in building authentic connections with your audience. Focus on authenticity. Be transparent. Share your brand story, values, and behind-the-scenes moments. Authenticity will build customer trust, and we all know customers are more likely to engage with the brands they perceive as genuine. 

Humanize your brand. Show the people behind your store — whether through employee spotlights, founder stories, or customer testimonials. Those human connections resonate deeply with consumers, and the ability to connect on a human level can set your store apart in today’s competitive e-commerce industry.

Kevin Miller, SEO expert, angel investor & entrepreneur at kevinmiller.com

22. Shoppable Digital Content

I think shoppable digital content will be the primary driver of e-commerce sales in 2024. As of now, we continue to see consumers favor and demand omnichannel experiences to quickly learn more or purchase a product where and when they see it in the digital space. This increases the possibility of e-commerce businesses, including mine, to be more focused than ever on enhancing accessibility along the consumer’s path to purchase.

While the concept of shoppable ads and other digital content is not new, the technologies that support them have advanced considerably in the past few years, and it influenced in-app shopping on social media platforms (particularly on TikTok Video Shopping Ads, Instagram, and Facebook Carousel Ads), and even shoppable individual influencer content.

Shaun O’Brien, founder & managing director of Selby Acoustics

23. Drone Delivery

Drone delivery is an exciting advancement in the field of e-commerce that has garnered significant attention in recent years. It involves the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, to deliver packages and goods directly to customers’ doorsteps. One of the key advantages of drone delivery is its potential to revolutionize the logistics and transportation industry. Drones can navigate through traffic-free air routes, bypassing road congestion and delivering packages quickly, especially in urban areas or remote locations with limited infrastructure.

Megan Kriss, chief editor at Hunting Mark


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The Future of E-commerce and Online Business