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Shopping is Changing. Your eCommerce Platform Must Evolve Too

As digital commerce continues to grow, it’s also changing before our very eyes. According to Census Bureau figures, eCommerce sales in the US are growing at close to 17% a year.

That rise isn’t only being driven by more people using a growing number of online shopping websites. It is also the result of more people using shopping apps, making purchases through social media, using voice assistants to buy online and so on.

New channels and new assistive technologies are making it easier than ever for consumers to shop digitally. That is not only encouraging more and more people to buy online, it’s changing their shopping behaviours and expectations, too.

Retailers and brands have a battle on to keep up with the demands of the modern digitally- empowered consumer. In Wunderman Commerce’s latest report, Targeting the Tech-Savvy Shopper published in collaboration with IBM, we outline how digital shoppers are consciously making purchasing decisions based on how technologically innovative and advanced the channel options are.

Thanks to the convenience and choice it enables, tech has come to be a point of difference in its own right. Brands and retailers that can introduce new interfaces, new channels, new ways to make the eCommerce journey as simple and seamless as possible can gain a significant competitive advantage. Just ask Amazon.

In our report, we make the case that the key weapon digital retailers have in fighting this battle is their eCommerce platform. Shopping journeys must be designed around the expectations of tech-savvy consumers in order to retain their custom. As channels multiply and technologies evolve, implementing flexible, future-proof, omnichannel eCommerce platforms increasingly becomes a priority.

What do digital shoppers want?

The first step to designing digital retail experiences that match the expectations of online shoppers is understanding what they want. And if you really want to understand the motives and expectations of the most tech-savvy, you need to get into the mind of the digital natives – the millennials and younger consumer groups who have been shopping online all their adult lives.

In our latest digital market trends survey, The Future Shopper: 2018 and Beyond, we quizzed more than 3500 regular online shoppers across the US and UK to get a handle on  how they shopped and how they wanted to shop. They gave us the clearest picture of all of the impact technology is having on purchasing habits.

We found, for example, that 44% of US shoppers are already using smart voice assistants like Amazon Echo and Google Home to shop. This figure rises to 56% among 25 to 34 year olds. A quarter of US digital consumers are already using automatic re-ordering options for repeat purchases. More than three quarters (79%) of millennials say they would be interested in having home appliances like refrigerators complete the re-orders for them.

Overall, 84% of US online shoppers we surveyed said they expected to increase their use of digital shopping channels in the future. The challenge for retailers and brands is keeping up. Three quarters of respondents told us they thought they were more tech-savvy than the companies they bought from, rising to 89% among 25 to 34-year olds. 85% told us they are more likely to shop with a retailer that is digitally innovative.

Molding your eCommerce platform to fit

You could say the modern digital consumer wants it all. They are excited about the convenience of finding everything they need in one place online, yet they still like the freedom and flexibility to shop around and compare prices and reviews across sites. They demand 100% availability on the things they want with rapid delivery. They want to use the latest, most seamless and intuitive technologies to shop, on any device they choose, anywhere they like.

Like their customers, online retailers need to prioritize technology, starting with their eCommerce platform.

How do retailers keep up?

Like their customers, online retailers need to prioritize technology, starting with their eCommerce platform. Meeting the needs and expectations of the modern tech-savvy consumer should be the fundamental guiding principle behind eCommerce system design. And that means a full omnichannel approach and the flexibility to do and be all things at once, while still maintaining consistency across the shopping journey.

For IBM and its market-leading WebSphere Commerce and Watson platforms, digital innovation and the ability to seamlessly integrate new technologies into an existing system are critical to ensuring eCommerce can match shifting consumer expectations. The company highlights the role of APIs in allowing eCommerce platforms to be flexible and future-proof.

For example, IBM argues that Order Management Systems (OMS) have become a critical component of the modern eCommerce architecture because of the need to meet increasingly challenging fulfillment demands. With Amazon Prime setting next-day delivery as the standard, the next frontier is same-day or sub-two hour fulfillment, whether through drop-off or collection.

OMS is crucial for coordinating such logistically challenging services across multiple channels, ensuring that dispatch or collection are arranged swiftly no matter where or how the customer made the purchase. OMS build outs used to be viewed as high cost, multi-year programs that took time to deliver returns. But driven by need, and by technology, that is changing. IBM is measuring phased OMS implementations using a headless microservices and DevOps approach in months rather than years, getting systems online swiftly and ensuring rapid returns.

It is a similar story with what IBM calls ‘conversational commerce’, using its groundbreaking Watson AI technology to build chatbots that replicate the role of in-store sales staff in digital retail spaces. This innovation helps to deliver a more personalized, responsive experience in online retail, giving consumers the option to ask questions rather than having to carry out research themselves.

These developments exemplify the only recourse digital retailers and brands have to meet the demands of the modern tech-savvy shopper – through innovation and taking calculated risks with technology. In pursuit of better agility, omnichannel integration, scalability, cost- effectiveness and future-proofing systems, boundaries must be pushed and new territories explored. As we go forward, success for retailers will depend as much on how tech-savvy they become as on their service and sales know-how.

Download the full report Targeting the Tech-Savvy Shopper”.

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