eCommerce has been around since the early 80s. It was only with the advent of the internet in the 90s that online shopping began. Since then, we have seen e-commerce ventures like Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Target, Flipkart, Myntra, etc., completely revolutionizing the e-commerce landscape by offering the customers the best mix of technology and innovation.
Technology has been transforming eCommerce from being merely a platform to buy/sell products and services online into a platform where brands can engage with their customers for a lot more, thus doing relational business rather than a transactional business.
Online shopping is growing at a high speed. According to Statista, in 2019, global e-commerce sales amounted to $3.53 trillion and are estimated to be $6.542 trillion in 2023. The same site says that around 2.14 billion people will shop online in 2021. These statistics clearly show how big the e-commerce industry is, and the opportunities it offers are vast.
With that said, we cannot forget the role technology has played in bringing about these changes. If a customer is at the heart of the buying-selling cycle, then technology has been surrounding this cycle to bring about the needful changes that the e-commerce industry has been looking for to prosper and to help customers serve better.
, online stores are still not close to the customer experience that the brick and mortar stores deliver. Their ability to serve their customers in unique ways is fast growing. They have been trying to outdo the offline stores by numbers and leaving customers happy at the end of a purchase, focusing on customer retention. The user penetration in the e-commerce market is 56.1% in 2020 and is projected to reach 65.5% by 2024.
Since this industry sees rampant growth with technology at the helm, let’s look at seven advanced technologies driving this growth.
- Digital wallet
- Voice shopping
- Drones and Droids
- AR and VR
No doubt that these technologies have been around us for quite some time, and many e-commerce giants have either deployed or are soon planning to use some other techniques to drive business. But many medium and small companies are still figuring out how to adopt these technologies. Also, companies, no matter how big, are still learning how to utilize such technology to reap maximum benefits fully. Companies have made huge investments to deliver products and services in the most convenient ways at consumers’ doorsteps. Let’s see how exactly will these technologies shape the future of the e-commerce industry:
This a term that most of us are familiar with- browsing or shopping online via smartphones and tablets. M-commerce is an emerging trend in many mobile-first markets. According to Statista, 72.9 % of all retail e-commerce will come via m-commerce in 2021. Companies who have been quick to understand the salience of m-commerce have built responsive web designs for users that enable quick navigation, easy browsing of products, reading product reviews, etc. Statistics show that 40% of users will go to your competitor if they have a bad mobile experience.
A mobile application is another tool for facilitating online shopping. Your business, whether big or small, can’t afford to have its mobile app. It can help you establish a direct marketing channel with your customers and broaden your customer base. Communications that could have been lost otherwise in spam folders are now sent via app notifications. Your mobile app’s space on the consumer’s phone can grow your chances to convert it into sales. It is thus essential that your application has features that give users a seamless experience.
Users have a habit of switching between apps; for example, say a user simultaneously uses your app and any social media app; thus, the right message at the right time on the right platform through digital advertising can boost your business.
- Digital wallets
One of the best online shopping features has been a quick and reliable payment process, mostly digital. It not only adds convenience to online shopping but also enhances the e-commerce business. MasterCard’s study found that digital wallets were mentioned in 75% of social media users’ tracked conversations about new ways to pay. Digital transactions make the checkout process more manageable and are less time-consuming. Not offering such payment options or offering a limited number of payment methods can make you lose your customer out to your competitor.
E-commerce merchants offer multiple payment options to the users, including ApplePay, Amazon Pay, mobile wallets such as Paytm, PayPal, GooglePay or gift cards, or loyalty cards besides COD.
Though mobile wallets or digital wallets are gaining traction, traditional methods like cash on delivery or card payments are still in use by many users. The difficulty of using digital wallets is the fear of security in these payments. It is essential that money barriers are removed from the business, and this industry must build such measures that increase consumers’ confidence in digital transactions. Integrated loyalty programs and other add-on features will help improve mobile wallets/digital wallets.
IoT or the Internet of Things refers to an ecosystem of interconnected physical devices that transmit data over wireless networks without human intervention. The wave of disruption that IoT has brought to the e-commerce sector cannot be ignored, and this technology is here to stay. Studies show that 70% of retailers worldwide are ready to adopt IoT to shape their businesses.
IoT has helped businesses improve inventory management in real-time using IoT sensors and RFID tags, smoothening the entire flow without the need for human intervention. Smart shelves are proving to be useful in reducing customer dissatisfaction that arises due to out-of-stock products. The KIVA robots deployed by Amazon to automate the packing and picking process at some of its warehouses are examples of how IoT can be a time and cost saver. This technology can also enhance customer experience by offering companies the opportunities like smart suggestions, personalized advertising, selling targeted products, tailored services, etc., as per user interests. For example, Walmart uses IoT to gather insights about products popular on social media.
Thus technology is shaping the e-commerce world in a way like never before. As more smart devices get interconnected, more data will be shared, leveraging to gain consumer engagement. Leaving mass marketing behind, one-to-one marketing is gaining trend. Personalization is becoming easier by deploying such technologies in businesses.
- Voice shopping
Another technology that will be the next significant disruption in the e-commerce industry is voice search and voice-activated devices.
Voice search technology allows users to search for information on the internet by verbally asking a smartphone, smart device, or computer. This technology has enabled users to sit comfortably in voice assistants and shopping by describing the product name, features, prices, etc. Voice shopping is projected to reach $40 billion by 2022.
This tech is making lives more comfortable by giving recommendations according to an individual’s needs. It is easier to order online by asking a voice assistant to reorder the commodities previously purchased and leave reviews and ratings without needing type. By performing an in-depth analysis of patterns in data and improving its capabilities without human assistance, this technology is making shopping ‘smart.’ It is also socially inclusive since it allows visually challenged people to reap the benefits of technology.
Voice assistants such as Google Home, Alexa, Cortana, Siri are the significant players bringing drastic changes in the e-commerce space like never before, giving shoppers an effortless and fun shopping experience at the comfort of their homes.
- Drones and Droids
Robots have been long used in various industries for automation and eliminated human errors, even if the scale hasn’t been that massive. But with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning coming into play and the e-commerce sector becoming responsive to these disruptions, companies are gauging the benefits these technologies would provide to their businesses, and some have even used them.
Drones will shape the future of e-commerce in the sky and droids on the ground. Reportedly, drones can carry up to 5 pounds and travel up to 15 miles currently. There have been companies that have done doorstep drone deliveries in some cases. Companies are trying to differentiate themselves from others in every aspect possible, offering same-day delivery or same-hour delivery. Once the air space governance and regulation guidelines come in place, e-commerce will be revolutionized through drones.
Droids are an uncrewed ground delivery vehicle that travels on sidewalks. These robots are generally six small-wheeled, can carry up to 20 pounds currently, and useful in last-mile delivery to the customer’s doorstep.
Leveraging such technologies would undoubtedly need substantial financial commitments, but they could be huge time and cost savers and encourage online shopping once deployed.
- Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
While AR adds some virtual elements to the real world, VR builds an artificial reality, and the pace with which these two technologies are going to shape the e-commerce space is going to astounding. AR and VR are being used in beauty, fashion, furnishing, and many other verticals.
In-home augmented or virtual reality technology enables users to experience how a pair of goggles or how a dress would suit them, how a sofa would match their houses’ walls, how the product would look like, and this is what is helping this technology gain popularity. AR and VR are trying to reduce the gap posed by not being able to touch or feel products when buying online, hence more cart abandonments, product returns, etc. Users can select a product, visualize it, interact with it, all without being physically present in the vicinity of the product.
AR or VR is the next big thing in e-commerce, and eBay was quick enough to understand this when it launched the world’s first virtual reality department store. On entering the virtual store, several categories of retail items are shown. Users can select their areas of interest, and further experience is built around their choices. As one goes ahead, selecting or rejecting things, the store’s algorithm further adapts to what it thinks the users might like.
Imagine how beautiful life would be if you could be sitting at your place and you could shop with your friend in another country! Techies are trying to make that possible too. It is just a matter of time when e-commerce would outdo the mom-and-pop stores.
Though there has been much controversy around blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, blockchain helps build trust in online payments due to its concept of a distributed, genuine ledger of all digital transactions.
This technology excludes fraud and provides a new payment method.
It also ensures transparency, decentralization, and security, thus making it more the way a lucrative option to adopt online payments. Payments and exchanges with fiat currencies take longer and are costlier, so cryptocurrencies are gaining popularity. Shipping can also be made ‘smarter’ by providing encryption in deliveries using blockchain.
The future of the e-commerce marketplace Ecoinmerce will be blockchain-driven and can hugely transform the industry. The applications of this technology are manifold and will facilitate customers’ online shopping experience in significant ways.
It is said that acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining a customer. Knowing about these technologies and acting upon them to give the consumers the best shopping experience will be the critical differentiator between e-commerce stores. The industry is making relentless efforts to offer customers an experience like never before, and advanced technologies will be the guiding light on this path. As goes a famous quote by Sean Gretty: “The technology you use impresses no one. The experience you create with it is everything.”
About the author
Ekta Patel is an eCommerce consultant and technical writer at Selected Firms. She is also a digital enthusiast who loves to write on various trends, including Tech, Software Development, AI, and Personal Development. Ekta is a passionate blogger and loves to read and write. She has five years of experience developing content and new ideas for presentation for company websites, blogs, whitepapers, business collateral, and case studies. Besides her passion for content writing, she is an avid fan of football and loves to dance.
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