Before we delve into this article, let’s first clarify what e-commerce is for those who are still new to the concept. The most basic definition is that it refers to commercial transactions conducted online, thus whenever you buy and sell something using the internet, you’re involved in e-commerce.
There are many who are saying that this industry is the future and you really cannot blame them. Since its introduction in the 1990s, it has yet to stop growing and global e-commerce sales in retail alone are projected to reach $4.8 trillion by 2021.
However, e-commerce still remains an ever-changing landscape and every year it brings changes that may help grow businesses or create new trends with which they need to keep up.
Ergo this begs the question: What does the future hold for e-commerce?
The following is a list of 4 trends that illustrate how this industry is poised to continue to grow as a global phenomenon well into the foreseeable future.
1. The Digital Face-to-Face Interaction
Many say online stores do not have a retail clerk who can recommend products based on your interests, tastes, and preferences. In other words, e-commerce lacks that face-to-face personal touch, right? Wrong.
You see, much like online course providers have greatly reduced the need for in-person teaching, so e-commerce is replacing the need for in-store retail experiences through the personalization of its services. How are they doing it? By using personal online data like search queries, page visits, and purchase history.
In so doing e-commerce stores transform their online stores to better align with their customers’ needs and interests. And when one looks at the success of companies like Amazon, which has made extensive use of this marketing strategy, there is no doubt that it works.
2. Immersive Online Shopping Experiences
But even with the effectiveness of the personalization strategy, there is still always one last hurdle to overcome: the “Buy” button. Without having seen the product up close, without having felt it and held it in their hands, doubts continue to linger in the minds of customers and this often makes them hesitate to go through with the purchase.
So how has e-commerce overcome this obstacle? To put it simply, with technology. Today’s technology has given companies the useful tools of virtual reality, 3D imaging and augmented reality to create interactive product visualizations.
The shoe brand Converse, for example, offers customers the ability to customize their shoes online. During this process, users build their own design through turning, flipping, and zooming in on the shoe. As you can imagine, this interactive process eliminates the customer’s hesitation and guarantees their purchase.
3. AR and AI Have Entered The Customer Experience
When speaking of the role of today’s technology in online shopping, one inevitably broaches the subject of AR (Augmented Reality), AI (Artificial intelligence) and machine learning. More and more e-commerce retailers are adding this next-gen technology to their customers’ shopping experience.
One example of a company that is making use of this technology with great success is the Paris-based fashion giant Sephora. It namely launched the Sephora Color IQ, which is an AI-powered product that scans shoppers’ skins to provide customized shade recommendations for their makeup. Adding this feature has greatly increased foot traffic in Sephora stores.
Many companies are becoming aware of the capacity of these technologies to draw in more customers and for this reason the leading industry publication Retail Dive is predicting that annual AI spending will grow to $7.3 billion per year by 2022.
4. Social Shopping Has Officially Become A Thing
Believe it or not, an increasing amount of people are beginning to do their shopping on social media platforms. Thanks to an improvement in their selling capabilities, these platforms have become more than just advertising channels.
People can now conveniently and quickly purchase products on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube. These channels have all introduced the “buy” button and have greatly enhanced their social selling features. Instagram, for example, introduced a ‘shoppable post’ feature, which allows businesses to place product tags in their posts and product stickers in stories.
Something Else To Consider
Next to these 4 trends we must also not overlook B2B (business-to-business) e-commerce, which is the online selling and marketing of products from one business to another. This industry is namely projected to be two times higher than that of business that cater to consumers (B2C) by 2020.
And with the continued rise of globalization and shoppers increasingly looking for products online outside their home country, businesses must also adopt an international approach to ensure their accessibility and convenience to a global audience.
As you can see, e-commerce is an ever-expanding world. With intensifying purchasing power of global consumers, the proliferation of social media users, and the continuously progressing technology, the future of e-commerce is looking as vibrant as ever.