19 Dec, 20185 Strategic Ecommerce Trends Retailers Cannot Ignore in 2019
What are the 5 strategic and disruptive ecommerce technology trends that retailers must pay attention to in 2019?
Every year in December, we have conversations about the key trends that define the future of eCommerce next year.
I was recently asked to comment on significant eCommerce trends that are making a considerable impact on ecommerce in 2019.
The blog 17 Experts Reveal the Ecommerce Trends Set to Fuel Serious Sales Growth in 2019 includes my remarks among comments from 17 ecommerce experts. The blog pointed out three top areas where ecommerce retailers need to focus in 2019:
- Customer experience will be the key brand differentiator
- Social, chatbot & AR selling will go nuts
- Google updates (1)
In this article, I would like to focus on five specific technology trends that are moving from the “early adopters” to the “early majority” phase of the technology innovation cycle. Those trends will have a long-term strategic impact not only in 2019 but in the next three to five years.
The new generation of digital commerce is the result of the fast evolution of technology and consumer behavior during the last decade. Even more, the modern retail industry is going to be substantially different from what we used to see in the past.
Online and Offline Convergence
Convergence of Online and Offline Commerce
The Future of Online is Offline. I read this phrase back in 2017 when the new e-commerce trend became quite noticeable. While many traditional retailers were closing thousands of stores, the new generation of e-commerce retailers like Birchbox, Warby Parker, Bonobos, and e-commerce giant Amazon started opening physical stores. (2) That was the unique paradox of the entire retail industry.
What is the explanation of this paradox? We need brick-and-mortar stores because we are buying more in physical stores than in online stores. Even Millennials and Generation Z are shopping in a physical store more than online. To capture more significant market eCommerce retailer started opening the new breed of brick-and-mortar stores. They digitized their new physical stores to blend online and in-store experience. eCommerce retailers can benefit from the rapid growth of Mobile commerce and Mobile marketing. Digital savvy retailers use mobile strategy to attract traffic and build customer loyalty regardless of the channel online or physical.
Convergence of Online and Offline Commerce trend is highly crucial for traditional retailers with physical and online stores as well as for new pure-play ecommerce brands. Online and offline convergence is not limited to one particular technology or a retail operations function.
The challenge is that the convergence process requires the digital transformation of the entire marketing and back-end operations.
Developing actionable transformation strategy with roadmap execution plan is critical for overall success.
You may read below about specific technology trends that are components of the retail Online and Offline Convergence and the digital transformation of the retail industry.
Mobile eCommerce is much more than an online store on a small screen
Smartphones have fundamentally changed our behavior as consumers. I heard many times an opinion that smartphones became “extensions of people’s brain”. We can make this statement not only about millennials but about almost all consumer demographics groups.
About five years ago owners of ecommerce stores started rebuilding their websites using Responsive Web Design to make ecommerce sites accessible from mobile devices. It was a significant change in web design practices. During the last few years, consumers started using mobile phones more than desktops to access websites. We see from our client’s data that desktop traffic is less than 30% for some of the consumer segments already. The focus of ecommerce experience shifted to mobile devices.
As a result, the technology vendors and leading ecommerce companies are changing their focus from supporting mobile screens as an extension of the desktop experience to an entirely new paradigm. One key indicator of this significant shift is the fact that Googlebot switched to the mobile agent instead of the desktop agent to crawl and index all websites going forward in the second half of 2018. (3)
Responsive Web Design (RWD)
We have to consider how our customers use mobile devices rather than assume that a smartphone is just a computer with a small screen. The currently dominant Responsive Web Design concept takes into consideration only changes in screen size and does not address other fundamental differences in the way how people use smartphones. Here are some of the known Responsive Web Design (RWD) limitations:
- An e-commerce site built with Responsive Web Design is primarily a reformatted version of the desktop site that is not easy to navigate and complete a purchase.
- The responsive web stores do not take into consideration that mobile shoppers have different expectations, interactions, and intentions than desktop users.
- The responsive websites rely on maintaining high-speed internet connectivity to operate which is not always the case for mobile users. If a user drops the connection, they often need to start their shopping from the beginning.
- The ecommerce sites built with Responsive Web design are slow and may drive away customers. Many users don’t want to wait when the page load time grows beyond 2-3 seconds.
- Responsive Web Design is unable to utilize smartphone features which enhance customers experience such as the camera, microphone, GPS-based location services, touch security login or mobile payments. Those features can make the mobile shopping experience even better than desktop, but most of the online stores do not use them today.
Native Mobile Applications
Can we merely develop more native mobile apps which are much more friendly to use? Yes, user experience with apps is better than with websites, but you have to download first an app from Apple or Google stores. It takes time to download an app and often you have to spend a few minutes not seconds before you can use a new app. The extra step to install an application is a significant factor that stops users from installing a new phone app unless they plan to use it regularly.
The cost to build and maintain a native phone application is much higher than for a website. Programmers have to keep multiple versions of code to support different phone operating systems. The app developers must pass the application review process by Apple and Google to allow to make them downloadable in the app stores. Developers also have to update both iOS and Android apps multiple times per year and pass the application review process each time.
Progressive Web Applications
You may already know or heard about Progressive Web Applications (PWA). Many leading eCommerce software vendors consider the Progressive Web Application technology as the future direction of mobile commerce. PWA technology combines the best of website and mobile app functionality and resolves the major pain points of mobile shopping. Here are some of the critical advantages of the Progressive Web Applications:
- The online stores build with PWA are fast, pages load quickly, and you do not need to look at half broken pages and wait and until all your phone finishes downloading all page assets to start your shopping.
- The application speed allows delivering a much better interactive and pleasant experience for shoppers.
- Shoppers may use smartphone device’s features: voice, camera, touch security that enhance their experience.
- PWA applications also store data locally. The local data storage allows secure, offline browsing during momentary lapses in network connectivity when users are in the spots where the internet connection is not perfect.
- Users don’t need to wait to download a Progressive Web Application. Customers may access it via regular web browser Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.
Many leading ecommerce, service or publishing companies already started to use Progressive Web Applications in 2018. Here are some of the familiar names that applied PWA in their mobile applications: Facebook, Forbes, BMW, Uber, Pinterest, The Weather Channel, Starbucks, Payless ShoeSource, Tommy Bahama, and many others.
According to the published data about early PWA adopters, the ecommerce brands experienced significant 2 -4 times improvement in the purchasing conversion rate.
Based on the current momentum, many industry experts expect exponential PWA adoption in 2019 and 2020.
So online retailers who did not already started using Progressive Web Application yet have to include the transition to PWA in their roadmap for 2019.
Voice search in ecommerce
According to industry research, the number of product search queries from using voice command on a mobile phone or smart speakers is increasing. Voice activated search command communicates user intent and context to make search more precise. For example, shoppers may use natural language queries like “find a deal for a trendy winter jacket for a teenage girl” to find a product.
According to Google, 52% of smart speaker owners use their devices to get information about deals, promotions, and discounts, while 39% of users are looking for business information. (4)
According to Google’s latest forecast, the number of US smart speaker users will rise at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 47.9% between 2016 and 2020, from 16.0 million to 76.5 million.
Gartner predicted the and 2017 that “By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual- and voice-search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30 percent.” (5)
Comscore forecasted that by 2020, 50 percent of all searches would be voice searches. So far the actual trends are closely following the forecasts.
Retailers need to rethink how to make their products content voice search friendly. Online merchants who have extensive product catalogs also should consider voice product search as part of the on-site shopping experience.
ChatBots in eCommerce
ChatBots in eCommerce
A chatbot is a computer program or an artificial intelligence which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. Such programs are often designed to convincingly simulate how a human would behave as a conversational partner. (6)
The number of eCommerce chatbots applications is growing. Because of that merchants have more opportunities to use chatbots for improving on-site shopping experience as well as post-sale customer service.
Many of the online stores that implemented chatbots found improvement in conversion rate.
It is interesting that according to Statista survey 34% of respondents declared they would prefer to answer the questions from AI using a chatbot or a virtual assistant regarding e-commerce. The acceptance of AI-powered chatbots is much higher among younger generations, and some of the recent surveys indicate up to 80% of millennial shoppers prefer AI-powered chatbots.
The fast progress in natural language processing and voice recognition technology make it possible to have both chat and voice conversation with AI-powered virtual assistants. (7)
Chatbot also can be integrated with product search and make product selection easier.
Retailers may leverage technologies provided by IBM, Google, and Amazon as a foundation for creating AI-powered Chatbots. There is still some work to be done by each merchant to adapt and integrate the chatbot technology with the ecommerce site backend and make it part of the overall shopping experience. Chatbots have to be on the retailer’s technology roadmap in 2019.
Cryptocurrency in eCommerce
Cryptocurrency in eCommerce
In May 2018 a leading cryptocurrency payment providers, CoinPayments, announced a partnership with the major e-commerce platform, Shopify. The joint solution will support more than 300 cryptocurrency payments for various goods.
Here are five reasons why cryptocurrencies are becoming a significant factor that impact the future of eCommerce. (8)
Lower Transactions Fees
Both retailers and consumers can benefit from cryptocurrency transactions. For example, the leading Bitcoin payment provider, BitPay, takes a flat 1% settlement charge for Bitcoin payments. Credit card companies, by contrast, can charge upwards of 3% in processing fees.
At the end of 2017, the average time to confirm a Bitcoin transaction was 78 minutes. (9) By the beginning of January, Ethereum faced slow transaction times and higher fees due to the high number of transactions processed by the network. Other blockchain networks now can facilitate multiple times the volume of cryptocurrency transactions per second.
Typically, a credit card payment can take anywhere from 24 hours up to three days to process the payment. The reason for this time is because the transaction process goes through many steps to get from one bank account to another.
There are no middlemen involved. Cryptocurrency transactions are peer-to-peer. The crypto transactional technology is designed to enable instantaneous, cheap and secure settlement of values without the intervention of any middleman (i.e., banks or other financial institutions).
Protection against fraud is another significant benefit of using cryptocurrencies for e-commerce transactions. A blockchain transitional records are irreversible and secure. The combination of public key encryption and a decentralized blockchain record provides a level on encryption that is virtually impossible to break.
More and more e-commerce platforms that accept cryptocurrencies offer reward programs. With more than 1,600 digital tokens already in existence, coin issuers and companies are embracing the tried-and-tested loyalty programs to differentiate themselves. (10)
Cryptocurrency companies are trying to capture the attention of younger consumers. Almost one in five Millennials owns digital currencies, according to a survey of 2,001 Americans commissioned by Finder.com.
The adoption of Cryptocurrency is much more critical to global brands than for brands that focus only on the domestic market. For instance, the luxury brand Bellatorra Skin Care has found strong demand for cryptocurrency customers in markets such as China and India. (11) Cosmetic companies such as Nuciya Beauty in Canada have found that people tend to spend more per purchase when they use cryptocurrency.
While cryptocurrencies are not on the radar of ecommerce companies who sell primarily locally, the brands should consider cryptocurrencies if they are expanding their business internationally.
We expect that many of the e-commerce platform providers will offer the crypto payment option next year. Merchants will be able to use the cryptocurrency payments method similarly with other forms of payments.
Conclusions and Next Steps
Retailers must pay attention to these 5 disruptive ecommerce technology trends that are reshaping the whole retail industry.
You need to start working on your actionable strategy in January 2019.
In conclusion, we would recommend the following priorities:
Mobile experience. You need a mobile commerce strategy that covers three elements:
- Web store user experience
- Mobile marketing
- Online to offline convergence
Voice search. Making your product content as friendly for the natural language search is the first step to enable voice search for your store. It is also a necessary step to make chatbots much more effective and capable to help your customers.
Chatbots. Chatbots is not just a cool site feature. You may consider your chatbot as a new type of the customer service employee that is able to handle different types of tasks. You may train your Chatbot with skills to help your customers to find the right product online, answer questions about products or shipping terms and also handle post-sale inquiries.
Your first step is to learn how chatbot works and decide which skills you need to introduce first. Chatbots are very adaptable so try to determine how you can use it for your business unique advantage.
Cryptocurrency. First, check how is your retail category adopting cryptocurrencies. Do you sell only in one currency? Are you planning to expand internationally? Depending on the answers you may decide when it will be the right time to add Cryptocurrencies to your payment options. Some of the retailers may start to use cryptocurrency payments with suppliers first rather than with customers.
Happy selling everyone!
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- “Convergence of Online and Offline commerce – – i95Dev.” 8 Jun. 2017, https://www.i95dev.com/convergence-of-online-and-offline-commerce/
- “Google Search Mobile-First Indexing and eCommerce SEO.” 30 Apr. 2018, https://www.eradium.com/google-search-mobile-first-indexing-and-ecommerce-seo/.
- 5 ways voice assistance is reshaping consumer … – Think with Google.” https://www.thinkwithgoogle.com/consumer-insights/voice-assistance-consumer-experience/.
- “Gartner Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and Beyond – Smarter With ….” 3 Oct. 2017, https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-top-strategic-predictions-for-2018-and-beyond/.
- “Chatbot – Wikipedia.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatbot.
- “Chatbot Report 2018: Global Trends and Analysis – Chatbots Magazine.” 17 Mar. 2018, https://chatbotsmagazine.com/chatbot-report-2018-global-trends-and-analysis-4d8bbe4d924b.
- 5 Reasons Cryptocurrency Payments May Spell the Future of E ….” 20 May. 2018, https://medium.com/cybermiles/5-reasons-cryptocurrency-payments-may-spell-the-future-of-e-commerce-95dc93e1525a.
- “How Long Does it Take for a Merchant to Receive Funds?.” 5 Dec. 2013, https://www.creditcardprocessing.com/2013/12/long-take-merchant-receive-funds/.
- “Forget Airline Miles. Crypto Coins Are Coming to Reward Programs.” 30 May. 2018, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-30/forget-airline-miles-crypto-coins-are-coming-to-reward-programs.
- “Bitcoin Merchant Adoption Might Just Be Accelerating In Asia – CoinDesk.” 17 Apr. 2018, https://www.coindesk.com/crypto-payments-are-booming-in-asia.