By forcing buyers online, Covid-19 is propelling e-commerce at to the forefront of retail. Online retail sales are expected to grow to $7 trillion, or a quarter of total retail sales by 2024, according to GroupM, the media buying division of the WPP group. That’s a big shift and might push application and IT leaders of several retailers to adjust their investment plans and technology platforms.

As e-commerce replaces physical channels, Gartner has identified five aspects of digital commerce that are changing due to Covid-19:

Contactless Commerce

The pandemic and increased e-commerce has accelerated the usage of non-cash and contactless forms of payment, such as mobile wallets and tap-to-pay cards. Even when shoppers return to stores, Gartner expects organizations to continue to offer customers contactless payments, contactless pickup, and delivery, while also enabling contactless commerce operations where organizations can use robotics, artificial intelligence, and computer vision to assist employees with store-level merchandising, pricing, and pick-and-pack at warehouses. It predicts that 80 percent of ordering and replenishment will be touchless by 2024.

Visual Configuration

Three-dimensional product configuration isn’t new to e-commerce, but very few retailers offer it today. Conceding that 3D or even 2D product previews are lightly adopted today, with less than 1,500 deployments globally, Gartner reported that the visual configuration tools are reporting an uptick in business due to the pandemic. Going ahead, the research company expects these tools to create engaging and persuasive 3D product visuals that will be similar to holding or looking at a product in person and will reduce the need for samples and showrooms and enable more customer self-service when buying configurable products.

Live Commerce

By combining online retail with livestreaming, several companies are trying to bring e-commerce closer to the experience of physical stores. The idea is to improve engagement with real-time interactions between shoppers and sellers. According to Gartner, Chinese businesses were early to “live commerce” and turned to livestream platforms, such as Douyin and Kuaishou. Its analysts believe that the concept has taken off well in China, but live commerce is in early stage outside the country. It also noted that few brands that have leveraged livestreaming for selling or customer engagement in the Western world are seeing early success.

B2B Consumerization

Covid-19 is changing how B2B buyers and sellers interact, as the face-to-face component of the enterprise sales cycle is being replaced by digital options. According to Gartner, B2B sellers are learning from consumer-led businesses to reach sales prospects and effectively drive conversions. As a result, they are re-orchestrating their sales efforts across channels and prioritizing digital channels such as live chat, video chat, social and mobile apps to engage customers. Gartner expects technologies that promote intuitive user experience and anytime-anywhere availability of comprehensive buying and management functions to gain traction.

Enterprise Marketplace

Enterprise marketplaces are online marketplaces operated by organizations that enable third-party sellers to sell directly to end customers. They are promising to introduce a new business model in the enterprise space, just like app stores changed the way users purchase and consume software and services in the consumer space. This trend has been fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and Gartner predicts that by 2023, organizations that have operated enterprise marketplaces for more than one year will see at least a 10 percent increase in digital revenue.