How Ecommerce Will Change in 2018 and Beyond
Published by: Thomas Kimura
January 24, 2018
Like the rest of the tech industry, ecommerce is in store for some fantastic trends in the new year and beyond. As even more retailers go online, it is interesting to note these trends that are making ecommerce an even more lucrative option for even the smallest operations to sell their products and services. Advancements in technology and multichannel targeting will be at the basis of successful ecommerce, which focuses on becoming even more accessible and appealing to the customer.
According to a 2017 point-of-sale solutions survey by Square and Mercury Analytics, 51% of Americans prefer online shopping. The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce reports that U.S. retail ecommerce sales are up by 15.5 % in the last year, clocking in at 9.1% of total sales. The growth of ecommerce is inevitable with influx of new faces into the retail marketplace facilitated by user-friendly platforms that simplify the procedures of store launching, marketing, and management. As competition increases, so too does the importance of strategic and targeted marketing efforts to succeed with an ecommerce model.
Automation and Customer Centricity
Not only is ecommerce becoming more popular, but it grows alongside a surge in technological advancements and automation services capable of cutting costs and customizing customer experience. The input of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is substantial with a LivePerson survey of 5000 customers reporting that 67% of customers had been using an AI chatbot for support in the last year. Such chatbots can shape customer experience on a platform, and provide valuable feedback on consumer trends and needs. AI can both simplify processes for customers as well as be used to meet customer demands, through personalization.
Utilizing the power of AI to deliver personal recommendations to customers can not only boost sales but also craft a custom experience that will satisfy even the most discerning customer. According to Content Marketing Institute, content is what consistently appeals to people about their brands of choice on social media, with 64% of people reporting customer experience as more important than prices. Customer-centric operations convert well, and brands that will cater to customers across diverse areas such as a friendly shopping environment and customized shipping and return policies will get ahead and see a surge in their business.
At its heart, AI in the consumer experience is about greater convenience. Coupled with customer need, AI has given rise to advancements that could change the fundamentals of online shopping. For instance, for products that are used consistently, the advancement of smart devices can lead to the fulfillment of automated subscriptions when essential items, like bread or toilet paper, are low. Many customers are using voice search to locate products, and as this trend kicks off, having voice activated keywords will be to the benefit of any brand. Voice to order on-demand from platforms like amazon or google will be extremely powerful features, catering to the customer and propelling a brand. Similarly, the potential of image search features which allow customers to take pictures of items and be offered similar products on the site they are perusing cannot be discounted.
Augmented Reality (AR) is also a feature on the verge of transforming shopper experience. Platforms offering the ability to view products in real time in the comfort of one’s home can not only please customers but also boosts sales. This is especially true for large items like furniture which experience a high return rate and logistical difficulties with returns. Offering test runs in virtual reality can play a major role in sealing the deal on products with retail limitations. It is these types of features and more which prioritize customer experience that will play a role in ecommerce in the coming years.
Another facet of modern customer experience is ease of access on mobiles and apps. Mobile traffic is steadily increasing and this is not predicted to slow down as more users rely on their mobile platforms. On Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone in November 2017, Shopify saw 59.6% of total orders attributed to mobile sales. The ability to mobile shop and fulfill payments effortlessly will be a big determinant of the success of future ecommerce businesses. Convenience in the customer experience drives sales, and the prioritization of user-friendly layouts that convert readily into their mobile counterparts, as well as easy access apps over browser-based interactions will occur.
Today, it is not uncommon to use multiple platforms and devices to make online shopping decisions with 86% of people basing their purchases on at least two touch points. A lot of that potential data is lost when it is not considered by businesses. The emergence of the trend that focuses on these data points provides potential for new areas of possible expansion, and while still a relatively new field, it will gain traction. How people respond across multiple platforms will inform marketing strategies and better personalize customer experience. Managing and maintaining multichannel retail is a lucrative point of focus for any growing ecommerce business.
As we enter 2018, ecommerce is as strong as ever and is predicted to play a great role in shaping the retail space of the coming years. Any successful strategy will consider rising trends with focus on multiple facets of potential growth, such as greater technological prowess, personalized customer experience, and multichannel targeting to reap the most benefits.