Insights on E-Commerce Future: Start Winning the Market Today

It’s that time of the year again, and we all want to know what the new year has for us. Businesses and entire industry sectors are no exception, thus both experts and analysts are gazing into their crystal balls to predict the future of this or that area and make recommendations for staying afloat in the whirlpool of innovations, inventions, new technologies, creative solutions and unexpected integrations.

Today, we will try to lift the curtain over the future of ecommerce and see what 2018 has in store for online shopping. We will identify the essential ecommerce trends, see how ecommerce absorbs state-of-the-art technologies and try to shape up the basic guidelines for you to remain competitive.

Know Your Customer

No, we are not going to dive deeply into the KYC methodology, we just want to point out that the most active part of the today’s society are millennials, people who have grown up surrounded by technology and are quite comfortable with it. They possess multiple gadgets, surf the Internet while staying at home, and, what is the most important, they value each second of their time. These factors define the fundamental requirements to retail stores:

  • Create an online store. An offline-only point of purchase is, unfortunately, bound to lose. Nowadays, a retail store won’t simply survive without an online platform, because this is where most of the customers start looking for goods. If a business has no website, it is very likely to remain unknown.
  • Build a mobile application. This is another must-have for today’s e-commerce. A mobile app (m-commerce) brings you closer to your customer letting them waste no time in finding the goods they want.

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  • Reach them through various channels. The current technology has a lot to offer in terms of commercial opportunities. Create a business page on social media, build chatbots, and advertise through third-party applications – this way, you will ensure sufficient presence to attract your potential customers.
  • Try to provide personalized service. It is hard to be personal when you never see your customer face to face. However, today’s technologies allow turning online shopping into a customized service creating pleasant experiences.

These are just the ABC of today’s e-commerce, and below we will look at how you can use the new e-commerce technologies for the maximum benefit of your retail operation.

Mobile E-Commerce Applications

We’re not going to discuss the point, whether the development of a mobile app is a necessity or a luxury. Latest statistics say that now more than 50% of all e-commerce is done via mobile applications. Another research claims that in 2018 the global mobile revenue is going to reach 669 billion US dollars. So, the question is not “to build or not to build”, it is “how to build a custom mobile app and get the most out of it”

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[Image source: Statista]

So, what are the main trends in the mobile app sector and what should a startup business take into account while building a mobile e-commerce app?

  • Integrate different payment options. Gone are the times when customers paid for their purchases with credit cards only. Now, in addition to the traditional payment gateways, you should consider integration with such global payment systems as PayPal, Apple Pay or Android Pay. Easy one-click payment options will be an attractive feature and may help your application win customers.
  • Enhance customer experience with augmented reality. Online shopping, for all the convenience it provides, has one drawback – you cannot see what your purchase will look like in real conditions. AR supplies that missing piece of the puzzle allowing virtual try-on of the goods. Mobile application developers have noticed where this wind blows, and AR-enhanced mobile apps have already started to appear. With Amazon’s AR View, you can see whether the potential buying will fit your interior, simply by pointing the camera at the place you would like to put the item. The AR application will add the object allowing you to see immediately whether the color, the size and the overall design fit your room.

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[Image source: TechCrunch]

IKEA has also joined the virtual commerce community. The company states that its 3D furniture is highly-accurate and includes realistic representations of fabric, texture, shadows, and even lighting. The app is built with Apple’s ARKit and is currently compatible with iOS 11 only.

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[Image source: Wired]

We cannot fail to mention beauty apps, as another example of AR use in mobile applications. A woman shopping for makeup will hardly make a decision without seeing the selected products applied to her face. And beauty retailers have come up with a solution. In 2017, a number of beauty brands rolled out mobile apps allowing users to virtually put on make-up. For example, try Sephora Virtual Artist and see your face wearing a new look. Change shades, play with textures, remove and start over – all that without leaving your home.

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[Image source: TheVerge]

Chatbots – Personalized Experience Combined with Convenience of Online Shopping

More and more retailers implement chatbots as another channel of communication with their customers. Chatbots fill another gap of online shopping – lack of personalized service. Coming to a physical store, we expect to be greeted and assisted, we want a sales assistant to help us find something personally for us, and we want smiles with “can I help you?” addresses. All that is missing in an online store, however, a chatbot can improve the situation.

A chatbot calls you by your first name, asks questions about your preferences, suggests items which artificial intelligence consider suitable for you and can even answer some questions about the brand and its services. More complicated chatbots are integrated in brand’s online stores and show prices, inventory, and delivery terms right within the chat. Others just redirect you to the corresponding pages of the website. In both cases, you’ll see the items selected personally for you in accordance to the answers you gave to the chatbot’s questions.

Recently, retailers have started enhancing their chatbots with AR to create even more amazing experiences. Sephora Virtual Artist, which we’ve mentioned before, maintains a Facebook-based chatbot helping you find a perfect lipstick. Just upload your photo and try on dozens of lipsticks from the Sephora collection.

Another brand which has invested into an AR chatbot, is Estée Lauder. It has two bots on Facebook – one to help you find a foundation and the other to help you select a lipstick. The first one, Estée Lauder Foundation Finder, is a simple bot which suggests a product on the basis of your answers to a series of questions. The second one, Estée Lauder Lip Artist, however, will put lipstick right on your face for you to admire your new look.

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[Image source: Estée Lauder Inc.]

These examples give an idea of the powerful solutions you can achieve integrating several advanced technologies. However, an important piece is still missing – for payment and checkout customers are redirected to the website, as chatbots have no algorithm of accepting payments yet. At the same time, the latest news suggest that it is going to be implemented soon – at the moment, Facebook has already introduced PayPal peer-to-peer payments via chats, and Slack messenger has also boasted a similar functionality. So, it is only a matter of time until chatbots are able to process the whole sales flow.

Omnichannel Commerce

There are several definitions of omnichannel business, but let us quote the one by Hubspot: “[omnichannel is] the ability to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across channels, while factoring in the different devices that consumers are using to interact with your business.”

This is a very good definition as it contains all the right terms. Your customer’s experience should be seamless and consistent, meaning that they should not feel the difference shopping on a website, via a mobile application or offline. Users can have different devices, indeed, but that should not make a difference, either.

There are quite a number of omni-channel e-commerce platforms that can host your resources and ensure reliable service via all channels. You can try Magento, an open-source platform offering a whole package of commerce-related products. Or, check Shopify, a platform which states its omnichannel opportunities right on its home page. Custom marketplace development is an alternative solution to the aforementioned e-commerce platforms and it offers not just consistent user experience, but an opportunity to compare favorably with the competitors, provide users with unique features, and create outstanding designs.

User-Generated Content

This is another rising trend that just cannot be ignored. UGC can be anything – a video, an image, a tweet, or a social media post. The content shows or describes actual experience with the product – wearing it, eating it, driving it, working with it. The main thing is that it is created and distributed by users rather than by businesses or manufacturers.

This is a very effective and low-cost marketing tool which has been getting rather wide-spread lately. The effect of UGC is in the authentic sensation it creates – customers tend to trust their fellows more than promo ads. If you see ordinary "next-door" people using the product and enjoying it, you are more likely to consider buying it, too.

There have been dozens of great UGC campaigns, e-commerce businesses should definitely consider them if they want to succeed in 2018 and beyond. For example, each year before Christmas, Starbucks launches its Red Cup Contest. The users are requested to post their photos featuring the famous Starbucks red cup on Instagram and get a chance of winning a valuable gift card. Over 40,000 posts in the 2016 campaign prove that the tactics is worth considering.

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[Image source: Starbucks]

These trends outline the general direction in which the e-commerce industry is going. They give the overall idea of the future of online shopping and e-commerce as such in 2018. If you are already working in the online commerce sector or just planning to enter it, this approach can carry your business into the future.

We wish you happy sales, successful campaigns and steady development in the coming year! 

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