Effective Tech Innovations for E-Retailers: How to Make It to the Top

The great disruption of retail commerce began with the global adoption of online stores, with their obvious advantages over their traditional brick-and-mortar counterparts. At the same time, offline commerce has been relentless in leveraging its unique personalized customer experiences that are more difficult to reproduce in an online store.

However, online retailers have risen to the challenge and are engaging various technological means to improve their services and to create user experiences that can rival those in offline commerce. The current state of technology allows building online shopping platforms that can be as interactive and personalized as offline stores. Moreover, they offer unique experiences that attract customers and intice them to return to the store again and again and recommend it to their friends and family.

For an online store, it has become critical to keep up with the latest technology news  and to be among the first to implement the hottest innovations that can increase customer and sales metrics. From the examples of technology used in online retailers, it is clear  that this trend is focused on the customer and the way they want to do their shopping. The hi-tech solutions are used to bridge the gap between the customer and the online platform and to create the nostalgic experience of being catered to in a traditional store.

However, in introducing technology to retail, the business should also take into account the general evolution of the customer and their changing habits. Today, nobody imagines life without a smartphone, so retailers often must choose the mobile-first strategy in developing their apps. Voice assistants are becoming increasingly important, so it is only natural to enable them to do the shopping too. Time is moving faster and people are getting too busy to wait on hold – hence, chatbots.

Yet, let's continue with our story and see how retailers are applying innovative technologies to gain more customers and boost their sales.

#1 Omnichannel retail



This trend is the most general and popular among retailers. HubSpot defines omnichannel commerce as the strategy aimed to “deliver a seamless experience across channels and factor in different devices in these channels to ensure interactions with your brand are consistent”.

In other words, omnichannel retail means using all possible channels of reaching the customer in their natural “habitat." Thereby, it is forming a complete ecosystem where customers can shop when and where they want. Omnichannel commerce includes both online and offline shopping platforms, as well as the variety of digital media. With the omnichannel approach, the brand makes it possible for the customer to shop easily via a desktop, web, or mobile, as well as in a brick-and-mortar store.

A good example of a successful omnichannel business is Oasis, a UK fashion store. In addition to a global network of offline stores, where you can see and touch Oasis clothes and try them on, the brand also offers a web store and a mobile app. All channels are perfectly interconnected – for example, if a certain item is out of stock in an offline store, the assistant will help you find it in the online inventory, place and order and arrange the delivery. Such seamless fusion of online and offline creates a great experience and makes customers come back.

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Image credit: Google Play

#2 Augmented reality



While AR is not primarily intended as an e-commerce technology, retailers find rather creative use cases for it. AR allows someone to create customer experiences that used to be possible only in brick-and-mortar stores. Trying on clothes and makeup, placing furniture and décor items in your apartment – with augmented reality all that becomes possible while shopping online.

An AR app uses the smartphone or tablet camera to capture the real picture and overlay a virtual image on it. Or, it can turn your smartphone screen into a mirror where you can try makeup products. By “trying” the items on in AR, customers feel more confident with their purchases and, consequently, the share of returns is reduced.

In the context of AR, one of the early adopters is Sephora, a cosmetics brand. In addition to offering to try on its products by virtually looking at your smartphone screen, the brand also provides AR tutorials showing how to apply makeup to your face. Of course, we have hundreds of makeup tutorial videos on the Internet, but with Sephora's app, it will be your unique face, not somebody else's.

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Image credit: TheVerge

#3 Chatbots



Chatbots and other AI features have been serving retail for some time, and their effectiveness leads to their increasing adoption. Implementing a chatbot brings multiple benefits to the retailer – personalized customer experience resulting in increased satisfaction, and a higher probability of conversion, shorter wait time for customers, cost-savings due to chatbots taking over routine tasks, and wide analytical options.

The chatbot technology is getting more sophisticated and constantly integrates new functions. Today, chatbots can be hosted on popular messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger or Slack, or they can be a native component custom-built for a brand using its design. They can play videos, use AR features, and accept payment through integrated payment engines.

The statistics show that 69% of customers appreciate chatbots as a channel of quick communication with the business. Other benefits include 24/7 availability, a positive personalized experience, and convenient communication.

As a good retail chatbot example, we have selected Tommy Hilfiger with its Facebook chatbot. The conversation flow is so close to a chat with a human assistant that you can forget that it is a piece of code talking to you. The chatbot finds out your dressing preferences and suggests an outfit from the Tommy Hilfiger collection.

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Image credit: Chatbot Guide

#4 Voice shopping



Voice assistants have established themselves as reliable helpers in planning schedules, managing journeys, choosing entertainment, and, of course, shopping. Many customers appreciate the ease with which they can simply tell the device to buy something and, naturally, retailers leapt at the opportunity.

Many retail brands add their services to the list of those available via a voice assistant. The Shopping category in Alexa Skills shows dozens of brands that enabled voice shopping.

Such global supermarket networks as Walmart and Target have partnered with Google to enable voice shopping through Google Home voice assistants. By linking your Walmart or Target account with your Google account, you can shop as easily as saying “Google, buy toothpaste”.

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Image credit: Amazon

#5 One-click checkout



One-click checkout was invented as a solution against shopping cart abandonment. It sounds ridiculously simple – instead of making the customer fill in their credit card details again and again (quite a lot of people find this too much trouble and just leave without completing the purchase) the feature populates the checkout form with the details from previous purchases.

As you can see from the chart below, “Too long/complicated checkout process” ranks third in the rating of cart abandonment reasons, with 26% of customers stating this as reason. One-click checkout effectively resolves this problem.

We cannot truly deem one-click checkout an innovative retail technology, as it has been around for more than a decade. However, until recently, it was patented by Amazon and it allowed using the term only under license. The patent expired in 2017 and now many e-commerce platforms offer one-click checkout in their feature packages.

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Image credit: Baymard

Magento was among the first to implement one-click checkout after the expiration of Amazon's patent. The platform offers the Instant Purchase feature allowing the customer to proceed to the order page, immediately skipping the shopping cart and payment details steps. All details stored during previous purchases are entered automatically.

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Image credit: Magento

#6 Digital marketing



In simple words, digital marketing is the marketing placed where the majority of the target audience is – in the digital space. A well-designed digital marketing campaign uses all channels of digital communication with the customer. Recent research shows us how to structure a comprehensive digital marketing campaign to reach the maximum number of users.

For example, the statistics prove that adult people tend to use Facebook and YouTube, while users in the 18-24 age group prefer Instagram and Snapchat. Keeping these insights in mind will be useful in planning the marketing strategy and evaluating the target audience.

The same stats show an impressive engagement with YouTube among all age groups. Therefore, video marketing gets in the focus of the marketers' attention.

In general, digital marketing now has a large variety of techniques – personalized emails, digital coupons, creative and smartly targeted content, and optimization for voice search. Digital marketing walks step in step with the rest of the innovative retail technologies and quickly adapts to the changing trends.

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Image credit: Forbes

#7 Cloud services



Together with other industries, retail commerce is moving to the cloud leveraging its advantages. For e-Retailers, cloud opens quite a number of opportunities that can increase sales and reduce costs:

Better inventory management. In cloud, the retailer can quickly manage stocks across their warehouses, detect items that are getting low in stock, place orders in time and rearrange inventory for maximum optimization.

  • Supply chain transparency. By using cloud services, the business can also move supplier relations to cloud to follow deliveries, exchange documentation, make payments.
  • Customer service personalization. In a cloud, it is easier to access and analyze customer data to better target the marketing efforts and use the most effective communication channels.
  • Cost-saving. With no need to maintain own servers and software, e-Retailers can save their operational costs greatly.
  • Scalability. Cloud resources are usually offered on demand, thus increasing or reducing the capacities is a matter of minutes.

Oracle, a world-famous provider of various cloud services, offers a comprehensive cloud solution for retailers. The Oracle platform supports multiple facets of the retail trade – for example, merchandise management, supply chain coordination, omnichannel reach, and analytical tools.

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Image credit: Oracle

Technology adoption is a step to the future



With technology developing so fast, it is critical for online retailers to stay abreast of innovations and be among the first to adopt them. Such an approach will make the brand more easly recognizable, earn it a reputation as an advanced and flexible business ready to embrace the change, and increase customers' interest in the business and its products. Tradition and conservatism should remain only in one aspect of retail trading – the quality of the product.

We see this trend as a great opportunity for retail businesses to stand out, to create a one-of-a-kind experience, to offer unique services. Possible use cases of each new technology for online retailers are literally unlimited. The technology just needs to be implemented creatively and professionally.

If you are thinking of using a hi-tech solution for your retail business, we can help you implement it in the most effective way. Contact us for a technological makeover of your online retailing, and we will gladly share our expertise with you – from planning and designing the technological solution to building the marketing campaign.
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