Jun 27, 2018
As the world around us becomes increasingly hyper-connected and technology-driven, consumers are benefitting from a level of freedom, flexibility, autonomy and connectivity that was once considered unfathomable.
Today’s digital natives will settle for nothing less than a seamless, integrated customer experience that is consistent across a multitude or channels or touchpoints. In short, nowadays people expect to interact with a brand however and wherever they want, or it’s unlikely they will be loyal to that brand.
Currently, just 52% of online stores have omni-channel capabilities. Moreover, shopping cart abandonment rates have been steadily rising year-on-year, with the average in 2018 at around 69%, up 10% since 2006. Based on these insights alone, it’s clear that there is a great deal of scope for brands to cut through the noise and set themselves apart from the competition.
The world of eCommerce is in a state of constant evolution, and to ensure long-term success in this ever-shifting landscape, staying abreast of changes is key.
To help you navigate your way through the latest developments in eCommerce, here are five major trends to keep an eye on for this year and beyond.
“The goal is to turn data into information and information into insights.” Carly Fiorina, Former CEO of Hewlett Packard
As virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) become a major part of our everyday personal and professional lives, today’s brands are presented with new opportunities to connect with their prospects on a deeply personal level by placing them at the heart of the narrative.
Following the colossal success of Pokemon Go – the AR gaming app that achieved more than 65 million downloads in the US in 2016 alone – it’s clear that consumers are responding to the power of the immersive marketing experience.
With the likes of Marriott Hotels leveraging VR technology to create a 4D tourism experience to essentially ‘teleport’ their prospects into potential locations and properties, and Jaguar allowing their consumers to fly over Wimbledon through the use of Google Cardboard, the potential of immersive technologies in eCommerce is plain to see.
A recent AI-based study from Arm, in which 6,000 people were surveyed, found that 66% of respondents believe AI will make the world a better place.
AI and machine learning (ML) innovations have already found their way into the public consciousness and recently we’ve seen a rise in autonomous innovations used in the world of eCommerce.
Consumer devices including personal biometric fitness trackers (FitBits, for instance) and voice-powered digital assistants are now a regular part of our everyday lives, and it’s this level of ease, as well as autonomy, that today’s businesses must harness to stay relevant in a cutthroat environment.
In addition to providing a deeper level of consumer insight for businesses looking to offer a more robust, personalized experience to their customers, AI-driven technologies are also helping to enhance the level of customer experience offered by brands.
One of the most significant AI or ML-based developments in recent times is the rise of chatbots. A large number of consumers have already had interactions with chatbots in recent times and, among their many benefits, 64% of users state that 24-hour service is the number one perk.
We can expect chatbots to become more widely adopted by brands and used across an increasing range of consumer touchpoints.
In the US alone, 55% of households will possess a voice-enabled personal assistant by 2022.
This mass adoption of voice-assisted technology, from smartphone assistants to the likes of Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa, highlights the reality that voice technology presents new promotional opportunities for eCommerce brands across a range of sectors.
As this trend continues to gain momentum, search marketing will become an increasingly vital channel for businesses looking to expand their digital reach, and as such, new methods, tactics and practices will present themselves.
Voice technology bestows consumers with a whole new level of intuitive convenience, and those who leverage this to their advantage stand to reap great rewards.
For instance, grocery provider Ocado recently developed a voice-based food shopping application compatible with Amazon Alexa. By giving its audience the option to add items to their shopping list by using natural voice commands, adding to the brand’s already impressive point-of-purchase choices, the brand has opened a new channel of communication with its customers, setting itself apart from its direct competitors.
Manufacturers have already started to engage directly with their consumers, rather than relying on third-party retail outlets and B2B deals to promote and distribute their services or products.
This will continue to develop as online marketing opportunities and communicative channels continue to become more plentiful and easy to navigate.
More forward-thinking eCommerce brands which manufacture and develop their products in-house (or in other words, don’t sell other people’s products) will follow in the footsteps of the wildly successful Dollar Shave Club, which was recently bought out by Unilever for $1 billion.
By utilizing various software as a service (SaaS) platforms to deliver its core marketing and delivery or fulfilment-based initiatives, and leveraging the power of viral marketing, The Dollar Shave Club managed to become a colossal success without the use of the middleman – and we can expect to see this trend grow exponentially.
Last, but certainly not least, we can expect to see blockchain technology infiltrating the world of eCommerce very soon.
Bitcoin and other emerging cryptocurrencies are already widely used as decentralized currency for buying goods or services – and already, the blockchain has already saved the banking industry billions of dollars through increased business efficiencies.
If you're unsure of what the blockchain is, here is a video that will explain the basics:
Bitcoin aside, eCommerce-enabled blockchain technology will become a tangible reality, giving brands, businesses and retailers an even greater level of autonomy and automation when it comes to collecting data, fulfilling orders and making key business decisions.
As blockchain principles become more widely adopted, understood and accepted, we can expect to see blockchain-driven platforms seep into the world of eCommerce – and the wheels are already in motion.
IBM already offers eCommerce businesses commercial blockchain-powered solutions to help with various aspects of the business, and as similar innovations emerge, this technology will benefit retailers in the following ways:
“You can't wait for your customers to come to you. You have to figure out where they are, go there and drag them back to your store.” Paul Graham, Co-founder of Y Combinator
To succeed in eCommerce, you must meet your target customers on their various playing fields and offer them exactly what they want using the most creative, transparent, and value-driven approaches possible.
As new technologies and promotional channels emerge, the goalposts inevitably shift, but by keeping a keen eye on these five emerging eCommerce trends, you can stay a step ahead of the pack.