E-commerce has become a routine part of today’s economic environment. With the rise of e-commerce giants such as Amazon and an increasing online presence for other traditional retailers, the online retail experience is here to stay. In 2018 alone, there was a reported 23.3% increase in e-commerce sales, and between 2014 and 2017, e-commerce saw average growth of 25.6%.
Like any type of technology, online retailers and e-commerce undergo changes and updates. So what changes in e-commerce can we look forward to in the next several years? Here are a few upcoming shifts affecting the future of e-commerce as we know it:
Personalization of the Customer Experience
With an increasing amount of competition in the e-commerce market, retailers are battling to secure sales from customers. Unlike a physical retail store, e-commerce retailers don’t offer the benefit of face-to-face interaction with a sales associate. Sales associates are able to advise customers on a particular product’s features, suggest companion products, and upsell additional items in the store. In order to compensate for a lack of face-to-face customer interaction, e-commerce retailers are developing opportunities for personalization throughout the online retail experience.
Online retailers track your personal data, which includes pages that you visit, things that you search for on sites like Google, and other information about your purchasing history. By leveraging this information, e-retailers can provide you with personalized recommendations based on other items you’ve purchased, advertisements that use your search history, and even marketing copy that is directed at you. Personalization drives sales, with customers spending around 48% more when they have a personalized experience.
In a similar vein, artificial intelligence in e-commerce will begin to increase in the coming years. AI and automation are already having a huge impact on our daily lives, and the integration of them into the sphere of e-commerce is no exception. AI assistants and chatbots can take on a significant amount of customer interactions quickly and easily, freeing up time for human employees to complete other more complex tasks. Shipment status, returns, and questions about a product can all be handled by a chatbot or AI assistant, a method that we’ll likely begin to see being used more in the coming decade. They are also capable of learning, collecting data from user interactions, and improving the ability to assist with the online retail experience over time.
With the increase in bots and AI in our daily lives, many people feel quite comfortable interacting with something that they know is not human in order to obtain answers to basic questions. In 2017, Statista reported that around 34% of people surveyed said that they would be comfortable in interacting with an AI or chatbot while shopping online. The number will likely only increase as artificial intelligence continues to evolve.
In the early days of e-commerce, most retailers focused on the accessibility and design of the desktop site when creating the online shopping experience. However, that is already starting to change. Increasingly, customers are shopping on their devices, such as mobile phones or iPads, and the e-commerce industry is starting to make the shift. Now more than ever, retailers are designing their websites based on how they will work on a mobile device. Statistics suggest that by 2020, approximately 45% of shopping decisions will occur on a mobile device of some kind. Even more interesting, about 56% of shoppers use their mobile devices to shop while they are at home. This directly contradicts the idea that mobile sites are designed for use on the go when a desktop or laptop computer is not available.
Our mobile devices are about convenience and accessibility, and now people want the full desktop experience available in a quick and easy package on their mobile devices. Improving the mobile site experience directly translates into increased sales. After Walmart improved its mobile site design and organization, the retail giant witnessed a 98% increase in mobile sales. Other retailers will likely follow suit by redesigning and optimizing their mobile sites in order to provide a better customer experience.
Over the course of the next decade, we will likely see a number of these changes take hold, and perhaps even more are on the horizon. Stay tuned in to the world of e-commerce, and keep an eye out for a greatly enhanced experience as it continues to change and develop.