$400 Billion! That is the estimated amount of revenue that the e-commerce industry is said to have cashed in during 2017. One quarter of 2018 will soon be over and we have a faint idea of how the e-commerce industry will evolve and take new forms in the days and months ahead.
As of now, one thing is certain – in 2018, customers are harder to win, tougher to please and even more difficult to retain. Given the rapid pace at which new e-commerce stores are being launched, these online stores will have to fight harder to prevent competition from taking away their customers.
Digital is going on reverse gear which is bringing back brick and mortar commerce in a new form. While online shopping still remains the first preference for millennial customers, retailers are increasingly feeling the pressure to deliver in-store experiences that are heavily rooted in digital.
Pop-up shops or flash stores that allow retailers to quickly sell their goods in a small region and for a short-term are perfect examples of physical retail making a comeback. Pop-up shops help small players compete against e-commerce giants by pitching directly to customers. Even startups like Casper have announced 15 mattress pop-up shops to be opened across the US.
Machine learning made up computer systems with machine memory, and human intelligence will make the customer experience in e-commerce hyper-personalized. E-commerce players will be able to deploy machine learning to analyze sales and product data, cart abandonment and more to uncover buying patterns. This will enable them to devise customer-centric strategies that can yield higher returns.
Netflix uses a recommendation engine that segments its customers into 1300+ taste communities. This helps the VOD service deliver personalized suggestions that help increase subscription rates.
The Augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, had millions scrambling out of their homes to hunt virtual animals for points. The world went crazy over the game which raked up more than 20 Million active users. Now this same technology is all set to enter your living room, but for a whole different purpose.
IKEA has engineered an Augmented Reality mobile app that allows customers to place furniture items ‘virtually’ in their home spaces to see if they fit their required dimensions. The definite benefits that such an AR app can bring to e-commerce players include informed buying decisions by customers, which would reduce returns and the costs tied to it.
Conversational commerce is growing on a daily basis, thanks to virtual personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. More customers are now searching, interacting and performing their digital actions using personal assistants. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, three years from now, more than 30% of searches will be done without a screen.
This is a massive opportunity for e-commerce players. There is a pressing need to tweak the SEO strategy and keyword selection so that they match the search queries as spoken by customers. Retailers might also want to use more structured product information to enable these assistants to read out information to customers in an efficient manner.
Shoppable videos and photo shopping are joining other trends that are changing the way customers search for products. Deep learning, image analysis automation, etc., are making it possible for customers to buy what they see on their screens.
ScreenShop is one such service that allows users to shop any photo. The app allows users to take a screenshot from apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Artificial Intelligence, Computer Learning Vision, Recommendation Algorithm, language processing and a handful of other technologies fetch similar shoppable products for the customer from the Internet.
A while back, YouTube released a shoppable video concept that let viewers buy products that they see in the videos by clicking on embedding links. Needless to say, the power of video and e-commerce is the next big opportunity for retailers.
Internet of Things has already penetrated ecommerce in a small yet powerful way. Amazon Dash, which are available for as low as $0.99, helps customers order for replenishment of household supplies, groceries and other items with the click of a button.
The use of these buttons that fall under the category of the Internet of Things will help retailers increase their order volumes significantly. In fact, Amazon’s orders surged by 75% after the dash buttons were introduced to several brands.
Chatbots, which came to the world’s attention with the launch of the Facebook Messenger Bot, will go mainstream in 2018. Chatbots and messenger apps make it easy to interact with businesses in a personal and informal way. These chatbots are infused with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning which enables them to learn and grow more efficient with the passing of time.
China’s WeChat, which has become a go-to app for everything from shopping to cab hailing, is a classic example of the power of messenger apps. Similarly, Sephora, which uses a chatbot to recommend beauty products to customers, is another success story that retailers can try to replicate.
E-commerce is up for another upheaval. This time its evolution will be led by intelligent systems made up of machine learning, conversational commerce, Internet of Things and the like. Adopting these futuristic technologies will enable e-commerce players to improve customer service levels exponentially which virtually guarantees improved customer loyalty and consistent growth.
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