Selling products online is becoming easier, and more lucrative for businesses large and small. And while it may seem like the ship has already sailed on a crowded ecommerce space, we’re only in the beginning stages of perhaps the largest shift in consumer behavior of all time. Large economic and technological forces are conspiring to create a market of relatively wealthy consumers open to buying online and businesses fully prepared to sell their wares. Read on for nine key mega-trends that will impact the next decade of global consumerism.

1. Americans are fully-employed

While America makes up a small percentage of the world’s population, it is the number one consumer economy by nearly any measure. So when Americans spend, the rest of the world pays attention. And it’s a prosperous time for those living in America. If you live in the USA, chances are you have a full-time job, and your take-home pay has been steadily rising over the last two years. Everybody from teachers to executives are benefitting, and that extra disposable income is bound to be spent somewhere.

American Wage Growth
Local Pay Reports via Glassdoor

The above chart notes rising wages across various business sectors. Small businesses selling physical products may benefit in a fully-employed economy thanks to added discretionary income.

How can small businesses benefit from rising wages?

It may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: Show up. Small businesses should make moves to be present and discoverable on ecommerce platforms if they want to take advantage of rising discretionary spending. You don’t want to be scrambling to set up an ecommerce presence after the spending dam has broken!

2. Boomers are passing on wealth

The Boomer generation – thanks largely to the Great Recession – are only now leaving the workforce and retiring in record numbers. Part of that transition also involves gifting wealth or inheritance down to the next generation of Gen X and Millennial consumers. The predicted wealth transfer will peak in the coming 5-10 years.

Boomer Wealth Transfer
Generational Wealth Chart via the International Monetary Fund

New money is often loose money, and for generations that have historically had little wealth stored it may mean consumer spending accelerates as younger generations find themselves flush in a thriving economy. It’s like an entire generation will be winning the lottery all at once, and businesses positioned to sell to those new customers will find the wheels of ecommerce significantly greased.

How can small businesses benefit from the coming wealth transfer?

In line with my first point, as consumers will spend more because they have more, and that spending won’t always be well researched. Impulse buying is a psychological phenomenon rooted in our need to feel secure. The best way to capture some of that wealth is to be present and available when the urge to shop strikes. Small businesses should make moves now to make that happen.

3. Amazon is changing perceptions about buying online

While tech-savvy consumers buy many – if not most – good and services with smartphone apps and websites today, most of the world still makes purchases in store. As tech giant Amazon continues to dominate the ecommerce space, making online purchases is becoming more normalized. Once that momentum reaches a critical mass, it’s going to be a race to ecommerce outpacing traditional retail sales.

Amazon Quarterly Report
Amazon 2017 Letter to Shareholders via lonelybrand

In a recent letter to shareholders, Amazon disclosed Prime subscriptions have reached 100 million globally. This is the first time Amazon revealed the total number of active Prime subscribers, and it goes to show the relatively small global footprint of the service despite deep penetration into US households.

Ecommerce Share of Spend 2017
2017 US Retail Sales Chart via endive

While Amazon tends to take up all the air in the room around ecommerce in the United States, even the world’s top consumer population by spend is relatively old school. Ecommerce as a whole made up a small fraction of all retail sales in 2017, though the trend is accelerating in favor of online shopping. Retails sales for 2018 are predicted to be 50-100% more than 2017, making the sector a huge growth opportunity for all businesses.

US Ecommerce Retail Sales
Predicted US Ecommerce Retail Sales Chart via Statista

While many economists predict a linear rise in ecommerce sales over coming years, Wall Street has different ideas. And when smart money speculates, it’s worth at least taking a closer look.

Shopify Stock Price
Shopify (SHOP) Stock Price Chart via Yahoo! Finance

Ecommerce platform Shopify has demonstrated the power of an effective and affordable content management system that scales well. This has allowed small ecommerce startups to turn into retail powerhouses without incurring website and software infrastructure costs that may have hampered past efforts. The meteoric rise of

How can small businesses benefit from a growing trend to online shopping?

4. Big box retail is responding

Traditional retailers Walmart and Target recently reported surprising news: Their efforts to move into ecommerce are paying off in spades. Both big box retailers experienced huge growth in their newer online offerings in the second quarter of 2018. It looks like Amazon may have some real competition, and it’s not from another tech startup. These traditional retailers are building in smarter and better experiences for customers, learning from the services that have made Amazon so successful. By offering same day delivery, subscription services, and free shipping, big box retailers are leaning into a online spending trend that is on the rise.

How can small businesses benefit from increased big box competition for online sales?

In the old days of retail, being in Walmart meant you were set for life. But it was also very hard to do, and involved significant sacrifices to margin and the way you did business. Thanks to increasing competition between big box retailers like Target and Walmart and giant etailers like Amazon, it’s never been easier to secure a deal for wholesale purchases. Retailers are eager to be the first or only retailer to sell hot products, and they are willing to take a gamble on the next big thing. Small business owners shouldn’t be afraid to pitch their wares, and fight for better deal terms.

5. The global supply chain is flattening

Small businesses aren’t the only ones taking advantage of ecommerce trends. Factories that have traditionally conducted in person business to business deals are branching out to produce smaller runs of products for smaller clients. And accessing this new supply chain is becoming increasingly simple thanks to technology. It’s effectively handing over the keys of innovation to anybody willing to take them, and that means unprecedented and cheap access to services previously not available to smaller players.

How can small businesses benefit from an easy to access global supply chain?

Small businesses have never had access to rapid innovation. It’s an expensive, time intensive, and risky proposition to invent something completely new. But times are changing, and with them access to factories, customization, and prospective customers. One has only to visit and browse the products for sale in bulk quantities to see this in effect. Now anyone can tap into a factory directly via ecommerce in a relatively safe, controlled environment.

6. Cryptocurrency is a sleeping ecommerce giant

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last two years, you’re likely familiar with the blockchain and cryptocurrency, at least in name. These digital currencies have won the hearts and minds of younger generations not raised with paper money, and while valuations have declined in recent months buzz around the opportunities have not.

Cryptocurrency Valuations
Cryptocurrency Market Capitalization as of Publication via CoinMarketCap

Based on valuations at the time of writing this article, cryptocurrencies store about $200 billion in global wealth. Most of that wealth is in the form of ten primary cryptocurrencies that have become the most popular. These currencies are increasingly being accepted by consumers and retailers alike to pay for goods and services. The longer crypto proliferates, the more likely it is to be adopted as a valid form of online transaction.

How can small businesses benefit from the cryptocurrency boom?

No, I’m not recommending you invest in cryptocurrency. At least, not directly. Online payment processors are beginning to get wise to the fact that over $200 billion in wealth is sitting in currencies that are, generally, not accepted by online retailers. Small businesses can tap into this store of wealth by partnering with payment processors that enable transactions via crypto. Whether small businesses owners keep or exchange that crypto for good old greenbacks is entirely up to them.

7. Interest rates are rising

The Great Recession set the United States on a course to a zero base interest rate for nearly six years. Now that the federal funds target rate is on course rise, a complex macroeconomic situation will emerge. While economists predict a variety of effects from rising interest rates, monetary policy already seems to be loosening. In the short term, this may be an indicator of opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses.

Interest Rate Forecast
Federal Funds Target Rate Graph via MoneyCafe

How can small businesses benefit from rising interest rates?

The last decade has been one of tight monetary policy. Banks have been very careful about lending, and that has created a very difficult atmosphere for small businesses that need to stabilize cash flow. As monetary policy loosens and interest rates rise, it is becoming easier to take out business loans to cover costs like inventory and operations. In fact, ecommerce software platform Shopify and payment processor Paypal have recently entered the small business lending space with products that are accessible to small business owners.

8. Smart speakers are putting ecommerce in the kitchen

The smart speaker trend is invading households across the country, with nearly 1/5th of the US population now owning or having daily access to a smart speaker. The run up to connected device domination is a good indicator of where things are going. And smart speakers are just the start of a connected household revolution.

Smart Speakers Penetration
US Smart Speaker Adoption Rate Chart via PodSquad

It’s never been easier to order something online with your voice. Owning a smart speaker enables consumers to call out a product or service anywhere in the household or on the go thanks to integrated smartphones and Bluetooth headphones.

Amazon Dash Buttons
Dash Buttons from Amazon

Amazon’s Dash Buttons are another example of physical ties to ecommerce. One push of these battery-powered buttons that can be placed anywhere in the house adds a preprogrammed product to your Amazon basket. On your next checkout the goods will be purchased and delivered.

How can small businesses benefit from smart speaker and device shopping?

While most small businesses don’t have the brand equity to be top of mind with consumers for everyday goods, the smart speaker trend is a herald of things to come. Small businesses should become familiar with the opportunities in the space – such as Alexa Skills – and take advantage of any niche-specific opportunities.

9. Artificial intelligence is getting smarter

Artificial intelligence, or AI, has been a science fiction fantasy for decades. The idea of a sentient computer or digital life form may be a stretch, but we are seeing early work in the field produce tangible results for businesses. Analysis of big data using algorithms is becoming increasingly common, and smart commerce experiences that tailor on the fly in response to consumer behavior are quickly becoming the norm. Everything from advertising targeting to product selection can be connected to machine learning software, and the results are often positive for online retailers. It’s not true artificial intelligence, but it is a great way to add a layer of customization to what used to be a manual guessing game.

How can small businesses benefit from artificial intelligence?

As AI gets smarter and cheaper, small businesses have access to a range of opportunities in the space. Scalable AI platforms are helping small business owners perform customer service, curate products and services, and maintain online advertising in ways that used to be impossible.


The coming decade will be an ecommerce feeding frenzy as global mega-trends align. Small business owners must weigh the time and energy needed to get on the train before it leaves the station against their current operations. While it seems like ecommerce has already become a mature operating model, the fact remains that ecommerce makes up a tiny fraction of retail spending in the US and an even smaller fraction globally. As growth accelerates, a rising tide will lift all ships. All you have to do is show up to the party!

Read more: 10 First Steps to Take When Marketing Your eCommerce Startup