silhoulettes of 3 people with smartphones

E-commerce is not to be trifled with. It's so hot that forecasters are already salivating over 2015 totals despite the fact that the year is just barely only half over.

Case in point: Hampshire, UK-based Juniper Research. It predicts e-commerce sales (“eRetail” in British English) will reach $1.7 trillion this year, which would represent a 17 percent jump over 2014’s $1.4 trillion.

Don't let that figure get in the way of Juniper's explanation. Sure, it helps that everyone has a mobile computing device in their hands in 2015 (or maybe two). And it helps that Wi-Fi is widespread in public places and in many cases free, and that mobile carriers are rolling out 4G.

But Juniper researchers believe e-commerce will be getting "a strong fillip" from social media platforms acting as direct sales platforms.

Instant Gratification 

Twitter and Facebook, installed "buy" buttons for their mobile apps in the second half of 2014. Last year, Twitter bought digital payment facilitator CardSpring, as well as enabled users to link their accounts directly to Amazon. Then this year, Pinterest and Instagram announced their own “buy” button plans.

For Sam Shrauger, senior vice president of digital solutions at Visa, both explanations fit into a growing trend of instant gratification: allowing consumers to get whatever they want, whenever they want it, wherever they want it.

“The ubiquity of connectivity is one factor that’s making it easier for consumers to shop more online and on connected devices,” he says. “The new ‘buy’ buttons we’re seeing on social sites are indicative of the growing e-commerce trend, and the expectation from consumers that they can get what they want as soon as they see it ... It’s becoming easier for consumers to go from browsing to buying, without all the friction that exists today.”

Social media commerce, it is safe to assume, is a big reason smartphones could account for 40 percent of all e-commerce transactions by 2020. Today, the ratio is a little more skewed the old-fashioned way, with two-thirds of e-commerce occurring by laptops and desktops globally, according to Juniper

Still, despite such potential and seemingly ready-made opportunity, retailers have the chance to blow it, or at least minimize their benefits. Can they provide a true omnipresent experience to consumers? Retailers, according to what the researchers found, are launching same-day delivery offerings online; meanwhile, their brick-and-mortar brethren are offering next-day in-store pickup, at times at premium prices. Such discrepancies could prove costly.

Give Customers Options

Branding, offerings and shopping experience must be consistent and transparent across channels to maximize one's share of that $1.7 trillions

"The key is to ensure that consumers are allowed to choose their own path to purchase rather than have it effectively mandated by channel limitations," wrote the Juniper author Windsor Holden.

Retailers have to optimize their online experiences so that it’s easy for consumers to shop, buy and especially pay on smaller and smaller screens,” Shrauger adds.

The Juniper research is titled "Mobile & Online Purchases: Cards, Carrier Billing & Third Party Payment Platforms 2015-2020" (fee charged).

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License Title image by Edwin Lee.