Seven Emerging eCommerce Technology Innovations
E-Commerce is an ever-changing industry; from its growth rate, trends, to its technology. In particular, e-commerce’s growth rate is unparalleled as it’s projected that the global, retail e-commerce sales will reach a new high by 2021. That being so, online retailers should anticipate a 265% growth rate from $1.3 trillion in 2014 to $4.9 trillion in 2021. This anticipated rise points to a future of steady upward trends with no signs of decline. With growth comes challenges. As outlined in a previous post—E-Commerce: Amazon's 2018 Challenges vs. 2019 Trends—we describe how companies, entrepreneurs, and freelancers in this space will need to continue to adapt to the emerging difficulties while understanding the trends and striving to succeed in this ever-evolving market. Finally, we must have knowledge of how technology is impacting the online retail space and why leaders need to continually test and implement new technologies to keep up with users' expectations in order to be up to date on the latest technologies.
In this feature, we update a previous article to revisit the seven, top emerging e-commerce technology innovations for 2019.
Social Commerce: a Subset of E-Commerce
Social commerce—also known as the direct purchase through social media—is still an emerging technology that businesses need to adopt or expand upon, as highlighted in our past article. To quote: “More and more ‘direct purchase’ options are popping up on social media platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook. In fact, Facebook is the source of 64% of social sales worldwide, while 93% of Pinterest users have bought something online in the last 6 months.”
Today, 60% of Instagram users say they find new products on Instagram, and 30% of online shoppers say they would make a purchase from a social media network like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. Currently, social commerce is made up of Facebook’s Marketplace pages, Instagram’s Shop Now button, or Pinterest’s Buyable Pins. Still and all, even with the widespread use of social channels, it is hardly the mainstream sales channel it should be. Why is this? Social commerce is often talked about as one key strategy for the future of digital sales; however, the major social networks have yet to make it work—even on their platform, truly. Early success stories in social commerce are from the use of third-party platforms. Case in point; Marvel uses automated chatbot checkouts to sell tickets directly from organic and paid social media posts. Even in its infancy, social commerce has—and will continue to make—a significant impact in the world of e-commerce.
As the adoption and use of smartphones have rapidly increased, so too is the notion of using your smartphone to make your purchases. Enter m-commerce— an advancement of e-commerce—enabling people to buy and sell goods or services from almost anywhere while using a mobile phone or tablet device. Just as it was for enterprises who did not develop the essential mechanisms to deliver a responsive desktop experience, businesses who fail to provide a mobile-oriented shopping experience may incur drops in generated revenue, and a lack of new or loss of repeat customers. Further benefits of m-commerce include:
Mobile apps that offer the ability to engage with customers daily.
The ability for businesses to determine the location of a customer and market products and services to them—known as location-based marketing.
Omnichannel is the New Normal
In today's landscape, consumers desire total control when making their buying decisions. They can purchase products and services on their own terms, whenever they want, however they want. The success of a retailer in today’s online space isn’t solely dependent on your products, services, or how amazing your customer service department is. It is dependent on how well your business keeps track and documents your consumer's journey when they’re looking to purchase a product or service.
Enter Omnichannel. This engagement leverages a multichannel sales approach that provides the customer with an integrated and seamless shopping experience—whether they are shopping online, from their mobile device, or in-store. With an omnichannel strategy, companies can:
Benefit from serving consumers where they are and like to buy.
Gain valuable consumer insight to deliver the best— often personalized—experience.
Enhance the in-store shopping experience.
Interact with consumers in real-time and improve customer service.
Boosting your delivery of products and services with the right technology means providing customers with not only what they want when they want it, but also where they want it.
Personalization, Personalization, Personalization
Personalization is the most significant e-commerce trend—where tailor-made technology is vital in delivering a personally-relevant shopping experience based on your consumer's preferences. According to an Infosys report:
59% of customers say that personalization influences their shopping decisions.
31% of customers would like their shopping experience to be more personalized than it is.
74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.
And according to a Marketo study, over 78% of consumers will only engage offers if they have been personalized to their previous engagements with your brand.
The impact of e-commerce technology is notable. Almost every consumer action performed digitally across the website can be captured and turned into big data; influencing your marketing, business growth, and especially personalizing the consumer buying experience. Technology, like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning analytics, detects and sets customer behavior patterns and trends. Intelligent, AI-driven algorithms can help personalize a consumer's shopping experience by analyzing their past buying habits. Furthermore, businesses can benefit from AI for order and inventory management while fulfilling orders and meeting or surpassing consumer expectations with minimal issues.
Image Search Technology
‘A picture is worth a thousand words’, or more aptly for today's digital climate, ‘A picture is worth a thousand search results’. Image search is an emerging technology impacting the e-commerce market due to it being increasingly adopted as a search option in consumers’ online buying behavior. In fact, according to Moz.com, almost 27% of web searches are conducted on Google Images, making it one of the largest mediums for online searching and second only to Google.com. Some of the ways image search technology is changing the e-commerce game include:
Reverse Searches: Imagine a user takes a photo of a pair of shoes and reverse searches them online to come to your store and purchase. Companies take advantage of this by loading up images and pointing them back to their store.
A Platform for User-Generated Images: Imagine a user is thinking of purchasing and sees another consumer or social media influencer enjoying your product. Companies can take advantage of user-generated images to help build brand confidence and reviews.
Scan-in-Buy-in App Technology: Imagine a consumer scans or takes an picture on their phone so that they can easily find and purchase your item. Companies can make shopping for items convenient by allowing customers to take advantage of the same technology.
It is no surprise that AI is making waves, not only in e-commerce but in many industries. In addition to the use of AI for big data, the technology trend of businesses hiring their first AI employees is emerging. Retailers today, on average, carry between two and ten times more SKUs than they did ten years ago! Some of the biggest retailers are finding it difficult to keep up with the product content demand that comes with carrying more inventory. Content is king, as is the importance of good product content. It provides discovery and selection capabilities through search and images and provides the consumer with detailed product information to convert them to buy. AI-based technology solutions will now see automation of the creation, optimization, classification, translation, and syndication of product content. Some examples are Ali Baba's AI-based copywriting tool, which can produce 20,000 lines of copy per second. Stokes (a Canadian retailer) uses Dynamic Yield’s AI-based merchandizing system based on user behavior and the best sellers in each category. Finally, Amazons AI provides a real-time product recommendations engine.
The Comeback Kid: Quick Response (QR) Codes
The time when the Olympics were hosted in Vancouver. The time The Royal Wedding of Prince William. Marketers all used QR codes. The first QR Code scanner and reader applications were released for a variety of smartphone platforms and begin to gain prominence in America thanks to some massive company campaigns such as Best Buy and Macy’s. After eight years, the QR Code is back! No longer native app dependent—nor natively built into smartphones—this code is reemerging as a technology that will dig into product descriptions, pricing, and other related product information. Both businesses and consumers alike will benefit from QR Codes, as they can address the unfavorable practice of ‘showrooming’—browsing in-store but completing the purchase online instead of in the visited merchant’s store, or comparison buying from a competitor.