Technology is not only transforming the way consumers buy products but is also offering e-commerce platforms innovative ways to interact with its target audience. Till a few years ago, e-commerce was all about flash sales and faster delivery. However, with cutting-edge technologies bringing the shopping experience to users’ screens, consumers are now demanding more. As foreseers, it’s our responsibility to provide them that luxury by keeping pace with the latest digital transformations and accommodating them in our industry.

“Smart” Shopping Impact

The future of e-commerce is palm-sized, and it’s a trend that is already prevailing. As consumers prefer to shop via smart phones exclusively, their expectations from e-tailers become more dynamic; with 40 percent of users saying they will go to a competitor when they have a bad mobile shopping experience. While mobile optimization of your e-commerce portal is a step in the right direction, businesses need to do more to facilitate a seamless shopping experience. An exclusive app, efficient UI, and faster checkout process will help to make shopping more mobile-friendly and also lead to higher conversion rates.

“Retail industry has witnessed a massive transformation over the last few years, and still continues to grow”

Chatbots to the Fore

E-commerce consumers have become more ambitious than ever, comparing and scrutinizing everything you offer, at the same time expecting faster responses to queries. Chatbots are now smarter than ever and can help serve these customers more efficiently, recalling, and evaluating information from past interactions. They are predicted to tackle 85 percent of customer service interactions by 2020, while the global chatbot market is expected to reach $1.25 billion by 2025, with a 24 percent annual growth rate. This proves chatbots are meeting expectations on both ends, and are the future of customer service, which is one of the reasons why we, at Intel, have been working on chatbots and related technologies closely.

Surge in Social Commerce

Social commerce is a by-product of social media consumerism, resulting in the emergence of P2P marketplaces for online retailers and enabling anywhere shopping. Last year, Instagram launched shoppable media, a feature that gives brands the option to tag products within an Instagram post or story - something that transforms how e-commerce brands will utilize social media platforms going forward. The social commerce sector has been growing steadily and is on track to go up by 25 percent over the next five years, making up over a quarter of the e-commerce market.

Search to Searchandising

E-commerce search and online merchandising have a great history, which led merchants to try integrating search and merchandising to realize high levels of returns and customer satisfaction. This evolved into e-commerce lexicon Searchandising, referring to site search applications, which customize search and navigation with merchandising strategies. The idea is to integrate user data in order to design a personalized and rewarding customer experience, increasing sales and conversion rates. With Searchandising, search becomes not just a device for marketing but marketing itself.

Voice Triggering Paradigm Shift

We witnessed voice assistants making a huge impact in 2018, with the likes of Alexa, Siri and Google invading our homes and offices. Their impact in purchase decisions has also increased, with 19 percent of consumers having used a smart appliance to make a purchase, while 33 percent plan to do so in the near future. As retailers are identifying the benefits of voice-driven sales and engagement, it’s becoming more and more obvious that voice technology will dominate the future of e-commerce, becoming what experts label “voice commerce”.

Personalization Paying Off

In today’s cut-throat e-commerce environment, providing a hyper-personalized shopping experience to the customer is more significant than ever. Through omni-channel personalization, e-retailers can collate offline and online data in real-time to create exhaustive consumer profiles that offer users more customized recommendations across all touchpoints. E-commerce personalization also improves the experiences of returning customers by enabling them to pick up where they left off when they revisit a site, directly influencing sales.

Evolution of E-Wallets

According to Forrester, 41 percent of consumers are expected to have used digital wallets in 2018, with the adoption rate expected to increase further in 2019, making e-wallets the next step in payment disruption. The merchant circles have also been very receptive towards the evolution of e-payment methods, with Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Android Pay and Samsung Pay continuing to dominate the sector. 55 percent of merchants will accept e-wallet payments in the next 12 months, while 67 percent believe most transactions will occur through e-wallets by 2022. This shows an astronomical rise in e-wallet sector in the coming years with the increase in demand for more electronic transactions.

New Realities Driving Customer Experience

Though e-commerce platforms have been doing well, the experience of walking into a shop and choosing a product has remained unparalleled for most customers as it gave them a tactile advantage of perceiving how it would look in their homes or offices. However, that gap is now being bridged, thanks to advancements in AR and VR technologies. Interior design and home decor were the early adopters but big brands, such as Starbucks and Volkswagen, have now joined the bandwagon. With businesses starting to deploy AR and VR in their services, the online shopping experience has become more visceral – which is why I believe product visualization will be one of the biggest e-commerce trends globally in the coming years. The AR-VR industry is touted to be worth $120 billion by 2020; all the more reason for e-commerce to invest on and perfect the technology.

The Way Forward

Retail industry has witnessed a massive transformation over the last few years, and still continues to grow. The e-commerce market share in all retail sales increased to 11.9 percent in 2018, from 3.5 percent a decade ago, encouraging retail players across the globe to be ever competitive. However, data privacy and security still remain major concerns for e-commerce, which might put retailers and their consumers at risk, if not taken care of properly.

It’s important to remind ourselves that the path to conversion in e-commerce is not linear. Most purchase decisions come after interactions with numerous touchpoints through multiple channels over a period of time. Brands and e-retailers need to adapt to this new reality and devise strategies accordingly in order to make every touchpoint remarkable and the shopping journey seamless. Technology-driven marketing techniques that can inspire micro-moments or purchase decisions will be the deciding factor in the current e-commerce environment.