Table of Contents
Trends driving Ecommerce in the Near Future
E-commerce or electronic commerce, as we know, refers to the selling and buying of goods and services online through individual websites, or retail portals like Amazon and e-bay. The young generation was already more into online shopping than visiting brick-and-mortar stores, and the pandemic restrictions introduced the convenience of shopping from home to the older generations as well. The lockdowns and requirement of masks and vaccines convinced many that it was safer and way more convenient to shop from home.
There are several trends that have emerged, that indicate the way for ecommerce in the future; however, the chief goals of all these are:
You could say that online selling will be driven by increased convenience for buyers and sellers, providing exciting and engaging experiences, and delivering consistent experiences across multiple channels.
Sales from ecommerce have been increasing steadily for the last five years, and experts opine that it will keep rising. There's no doubt that the pandemic has resulted in more consumers opting to shop online, even for essential products. This has also opened the doors to expand sales to other countries, especially where ecommerce growth is slow. But before companies get into this arena, they should consider the following:
Automation aims to complete tasks with minimal human intervention; from scheduling emails, managing inventory levels, automating payroll calculations and so on. We are already seeing a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence in ecommerce today and it is expected to increase. Some examples are the AI driven chatbots on websites that answer frequently asked queries by customers. Robots, drones and other 'intelligent' devices are today used to improve the supply chain - especially in warehouses, to retrieve and transport products. Machine learning and AI study customer behavior and past purchase history to deliver personalized marketing messages and shopping experiences to them.
Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are today used not just by millennials or Generation Z, but by many from the older generations. Voice technology saves the trouble of typing, and is especially useful when your hands are otherwise occupied in work. Though it may not completely replace manual search, we can definitely expect customers to say, 'Alexa, put 2 Kg box of XYZ Front Load Detergent in my shopping cart'. The next time, even if you forget to specify 2 kg, Amazon will remember thanks to machine learning, and place the correct quantity. Headless means a commerce engine that can be connected like an IoT device; the connected device will sense when your stock of a specific item you have subscribed to is very low, and automatically reorder it - like butter in your refrigerator, if you like.
Progressive web apps deliver an online experience similar to a native app as compared to a conventional web page, and this is especially valid for mobile devices. Thanks to their ability to deliver an engaging user experience and send push notifications, their super-fast speed, and reliability, they are rapidly increasing in popularity. Mobile shopping is no longer a fad - it's become a necessity, with Smartphone sales figures already crossing $350 billion. The Middle East, Asia- Pacific, Far East, India and other regions are mobile-first and this presents tremendous opportunities. The combination of headless commerce framework and PWAs can result in the delivery of speedy and reliable mobile shopping journeys.
Digital transformation of business has been fast-tracked due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and this means that companies will have to put in intense efforts to create rich buyer experiences to attract customers, as the ecommerce market becomes more and more crowded. Today, several technologies are available that enable the delivery of compelling and innovative experiences to customers. Here are some of them:
Not only has the pandemic prevented us from having offline group experiences, it is ramping up changes that were somewhere on the horizon. Several stores are now offering a service whereby customers can order online, and then pickup their purchases from a dedicated point at the store, minimizing the human interaction. Consumers can also return to the store items purchased online in case of defects or errors. Stores that offer such services are attracting more customers than those who don't. It won't be long before almost all stores jump in and offer these services as it helps reduce contact and increases safety. Even at physical stores, contactless payments like mobile payment are becoming more popular, reducing physical interaction. Complementary brands could also partner up to showcase offerings, increasing convenience to customers. For instance, a ladies clothing retailer could partner up with a footwear store and a perfume or cosmetics store and display all products in one place. This makes it easy for the customer to shop for matching items.
New payment options are being released with amazing frequency, leading to a decline in the use of cards and cash payments. This has led to several ecommerce stores offering low or no interest financing, enabling customers to make large purchases without forking over a large sum at once. The more payment options a business provides, the more they are likely to sell; they can tap into new markets as well.
Big data and analysis is already playing a huge role in shaping marketing and inventory strategy, and it will become all-important in the years to come. Analysis of data helps companies to know their customers better - what they like, what they buy, the channels they prefer, and more. It will help brands retain customers and gain new ones, and drive strategic business decisions. Companies will be able to directly target potential customers with personalized messages, identify customers with high lifetime value, and shape marketing to align with their preferences.
The B2B ecommerce scene is also undergoing a radical transformation with increased digital adoption - of course, speeded up thanks to the pandemic, and it is expected that it will deliver several benefits in the long term. More B2B brands are getting into the online space, and it's likely that we will witness grater innovation in the way they tell their story and communicate with their customers, and offer more payment options and seamless experiences, just like B2C businesses. Ecommerce for B2B will be a huge improvement over manual order placements over phone or email and entering in spreadsheets, which often results in errors like omission, duplicate entries, and so on.
Social media enables businesses to sell more easily online; this is due to several reasons. Some of them are:
It goes without saying that having a social media presence is very important for brands today, as a part of their marketing strategy. Technological advancements have now made it possible for brands to sell directly through social sites. In-app purchases on social sites are on the rise, as it is seamless and convenient for the shoppers (they can shop without leaving the platform), and many customers trust social media influencers. Very soon, we are likely to see Pinterest joining the other sites, with a visual search feature being introduced that suggests products for fashion and home decor depending on the context of the image; it also introduced features allowing users to see price, availability, and eventually to purchase a product.
Anyone with an ecommerce site knows that there's a lot to be done in very little time - which makes it imperative that you prioritize. Though there are several trends that indicate the way ecommerce is headed, it's not necessary that you follow all of them; pick the ones that your product or service requires. Usability should be the driver, and not glitz. Ensure you have robust processes in place and follow best practices - and take calculated risks.