E-Commerce: Trends and Innovations for Online Shopping
There’s no more getting around e-commerce. But not all suppliers are benefitting equally; smaller retailers in particular face challenges. A new whitepaper by Majorel shows which trends and technologies are currently relevant for companies that want to continue operating e-commerce successfully.
When Amazon and eBay were founded in 1995, retail platforms with millions of products delivered immediately after they were ordered were almost inconceivable. By now, they’re part of everyday life. And even in areas that were previously dominated by offline transactions, e-commerce is now advancing into areas such as food sales, healthcare, and banking. One central reason for this development is that in brick-and-mortar retail alone, a comparable increase in efficiency with a simultaneous reduction in costs cannot be achieved.
There’s no end to e-commerce growth and dynamic market development in sight: In 2015, electronic commerce accounted for 7.4 percent of global trade turnover, and this figure is expected to rise to 17.5 percent by 2021 (PWC, 2018 ). But it is the big players who dominate the market: 43 percent of sales are generated by the three largest online stores.
For small retailers, on the other hand, sales via their own online presences stagnate in many cases, while customer expectations continue to rise: E-commerce has to be individualized, fast, and accessible , or customers will switch to the next provider. In other words, the customer experience is a very good way to differentiate yourself from the competition. The new whitepaper “Future Fast Forward: Trends and Innovations in E-Commerce” by Majorel shows how this can be achieved.
Integrated customer journey
For an optimal customer experience, all steps of the customer journey must be integrated across all relevant channels and tailored to individual customer needs. This is because consumers expect individualized communication along their entire customer journey, one that takes their relevant history and individual offers into account.
This is where modern technologies come into play. They enable customer expectations to be met efficiently and effectively. On the one hand, by transferring certain service tasks to chatbots and intelligent virtual assistants who can be reached around the clock. On the other hand, by optimizing the personal contact with the customer advisors in the service center: Live video chats enable a scalable yet personal interactive exchange.
Searching for and finding products – the pre-sales phase
Before buying, it is important to anticipate trends and customer needs and react accordingly. This is made possible by analytics solutions that harness customer and market data. And, of course, customers must also be made aware of new products. E-commerce platforms are becoming increasingly important as advertising spaces, and videos have also established themselves as part of the customer journey. Consumers can find out about products and their use through videos created by other consumers or businesses. The image search also works via visual impulses: The system searches for a product that resembles an uploaded image and places it directly in the shopping basket if required.
In addition, end customers are increasingly searching for products via voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant, or Apple’s Siri. The benefit: The search input is fast, and all you need to do is ask. Voice assistants also simplify the display of search results. Instead of a long list of products or information, they often only provide one answer. In order for this to be helpful for the customer, content needs to be rigorously optimized. Regardless of which channel and method consumers use to search, the search must be user-friendly. After all, one of the main reasons why consumers abandon an online purchase is that they cannot find the product they are looking for quickly and easily enough.
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Buying and paying
Modern technologies also help the customer to make a purchase decision. Augmented reality (AR) adds digital information to the user’s environment, enabling searches, selections, and purchases that are best suited to the customer’s current situation. For example, virtual furniture can be viewed in a real room or make-up products can be tested virtually. AR is an example of how the offline and online worlds are getting closer and closer and more interconnected. However, offline shopping isn’t going to disappear completely. On the contrary, e-commerce merchants are increasingly trying to bring customers into physical contact with their brand via presence in the real world, in order to create a holistic shopping experience. The experiences of other consumers, shared on e-commerce platforms or via social media, will also continue to play an important role in decision-making.
This means that consumers have numerous channels and options at their disposal for purchase and payment. Of particular relevance in this phase are Internet-of-Things-based devices and processes that accelerate and facilitate the purchase: Smartphone notifications supported by intelligent shelves inform consumers about interesting offers in their area, beacons (digital transmitters) can automatically trigger payment processes when leaving the store, or reorder out-of-stock products.
It should come as no surprise that customers also have high expectations for delivery. Many online retailers already offer delivery on the same or next day. By 2028, deliveries within two hours could be the norm. At least 40 percent of the companies that took part in the representative “Future of Fulfillment Vision” study by Zebra Technologies expect this. Here, too, it will not be possible without technological support: Through machine learning, process automation, and the use of drones, for example, delivery can be made even more efficient and customer-friendly. The “Click & Collect” model will also become increasingly relevant The collection of products purchased online from the shop on site saves customers shipping costs and gives them more flexibility.
Inspiring customers and increasing profitability at the same time will not be an easy task in the future either. But when companies use the steps and technologies described above to ensure an optimal customer experience, they have an excellent basis for retaining their customers over the long term. Anticipatory cross-channel customer service and support play an important role, which will increasingly be supported by technology. This enables a higher degree of personalization, efficiency, and effectiveness in tomorrow’s customer service.
You can download the whitepaper “Future Fast Forward: Trends and Innovations in E-Commerce” here.