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If you were sceptical about the lucrative potential of e-commerce before some guy ate a bat and sparked a series of unfortunate events which tossed the world into a global recession, then the pandemic surely has shown once and for all that e-commerce has major staying power. What the recession has shown is that the e-commerce industry isn’t just growing exponentially, it is here to stay long after the post-pandemic dust has settled.
Worldwide retail e-commerce sales amounted to $3.53 trillion in 2019, and is projected to grow to $6.54 trillion in 2022. There has never been a better time to start your own e-commerce business. Brick and mortar retail is slowly decaying into a relic, with more and more people pivoting to online convenience for their shopping requirements – it’s just easier and faster.
So, what does the future of e-commerce look like? We’ve identified the top 6 emerging e-commerce trends in the industry poised to make a major impact in 2020 and 2021. If adopted early and used correctly, they could help take your online business to the next level.
1. Artificial Intelligence
According to Juniper Research, global retailers will fork out close to $7.3 billion each year on Artificial Intelligence (AI) by 2022. This is as a result of retailers targeting new approaches to improve the personalisation of the customer experience.
The lockdown-induced influx of online shoppers has led to a more prominent need for automation across the board, and helpful AI is the best solution to tend to the requirements of each and every customer. Chatbots assist online customers from the moment they log on right through to checkout, and handle customer queries and complaints instantly, 24-7. More advanced AI can help retailers with demand forecasting and personalised shopping experiences. Having an e-commerce business without the assistance of AI is destined to fail, as this increasingly sophisticated tech is the cornerstone of online retail success.
Personalisation is the latest buzz word not only within e-commerce trends, but also in the tech landscape. The psychology is clear: the more personalised the digital experience, the more likely you are to engage your audience emotionally to secure their buy-in and continued loyalty. Acing customer satisfaction is firmly in the crosshairs of personalisation.
Today, customers expect a fair amount of personalisation from their digital shopping experiences. Making their shopping experience easier by targeted promotions, personalised product suggestions, and personal messaging goes a long way in fostering engagement to drive sales. Customers don’t want to feel like they are interacting with a robot acting on behalf of a large corporation, they respond well to personalised interactions as if coming from a friend or acquaintance, be it through personalised email marketing and messaging, or clever product recommendations.
3. Augmented Reality
One of the primary barriers to the online shopping arena is customer’s frustration from not being able to touch, feel, and try on products first-hand. Augmented Reality (AR) helps bring online shoppers closer to products by showing items in vivid detail, like they have never been presented online before. Leading the way in AR is Ikea’s Place App, where customers can view Ikea’s entire catalogue from the comfort of their home. So how does it work?
In the market for a sofa but unsure if the style and colour will fit your living room? No problem. Customers can use their smartphones to video capture their living room with AR being able to insert your dream sofa to show what it would look like when it gets delivered. Same thing with clothes, just upload a selfie and select a shirt you want by scrolling through the catalogue. This helps customers better visualise their purchases and pushes more people to make purchases they otherwise wouldn’t due to not knowing how it will look when delivered. AR brings the in-person retail shopping experience into the digital realm. This technology is still new and is showing signs of ramping up its sophistication, so best you get involved with it now to stand out ahead of your competition.
Another leader in the AR retail space is Nike with its Nike Fit app: a digital foot measuring tool which helps customers learn their shoe size so they can order online without trying anything on. Cosmetic juggernaut Sephora have also thrown their designer hat into the ring with their Virtual Artist app, which uses facial recognition technology to allow customers to digitally try on products.
4. Headless Architecture
‘Headless’ content management systems (CMS) have been touted as the industry standard of tomorrow for future-proofing and streamlining content creation. Traditional CMSs (WordPress, Drupal) link the front end of your website (the head) to your back end, where all your database is stored. The head is responsible for presenting your website when visitors click on your site.
Headless UI opts to remove the head portion of your website in favour of keeping just the back end. While this may initially sound counterintuitive, it actually allows you to integrate more than one front end, with more room for scalability. Moving tasks to the back end allows you to customize and upgrade your site ad hoc without compromising on speed or efficiency. Brands can choose any front end tool they want to present their content with. This means that content can be displayed beyond websites and apps – from kiosks to smartwatches and beyond.
5. Live shopping
Live stream shopping, or just live shopping, is a hybrid between traditional home shopping TV, live video streaming content marketing, and influencer marketing all rolled up into a clever term “entertainmerce”. Of all the e-commerce trends, this is one that has developed a strong presence in the Asian market.
Huachuang Securities, a Chinese financial service provider, last year predicted that the live shopping industry could expand to $15.9 billion by the end of 2020. Live shopping can come in a variety of forms, including fashion shows where consumers can purchase items on the runway in real-time to influencer-style live streams of celebrities reviewing their favourite products. Tencent, creators of the world’s most used messaging app WeChat, is reportedly planning to invest $294 million into its own live-streaming/shopping platform Now Live. The money doesn’t lie – there is clearly a projected burst in popularity and adoption of live shopping poised to erupt globally in the coming months.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, online retailers are seeing a dramatic increase in orders which is putting their distribution warehouses and channels under enormous strain. As a result, retailers are exploring omnichannel distribution options to meet the demands.
In simple terms, shipping-from-store is when retailers use stock from their brick and mortar retail stores to fulfil orders, transforming them into virtual distribution hubs. This allows retailers to ship more volume, especially during the pandemic. Before COVID-19, distribution centres supported the retail channel – now it is the other way around.
The benefits of shipping-from-store are felt both ways: retailers are given the opportunity to leverage their inventory and move stock from retail outlets which have taken a knock during the pandemic, and customers are able to receive their items much quicker than the long waits associated with warehouse delivery.
Although most of the points on our list are not entirely new, their continual critical importance to the success of e-commerce is why they still find themselves in forecasting trends. These technologies are already showing how they can best serve e-commerce retailers in the digital era, and as the tech evolves in functionality and sophistication, the result will be far superior customer satisfaction. Aiming to please customers at every touchpoint, reducing hassles and providing personalised efficiency will drive engagement and brand loyalty.
So there you have it, those are some of the e-commerce trends set to shape the world of electronic commerce in the near future.