The Future of E-commerce
E-commerce is largely about execution. If you get the maths right, the rest should follow, given enough traffic and time for your site to establish. But for anyone involved in the e-commerce game, it is an environment that is constantly changing and upgrading as technologies improve and companies battle against each other to win a greater share of the pie. The future of e-commerce is uncertain, but some things remain constant – delivery times will improve, customer service will get increasingly better, and product selection will become ever greater. But how might the future of buying online actually look from the customer perspective, and what should you be implementing in your own business over time to stay ahead of the curve?
Personalisation & Experience
Nearly all retail growth in the US at present is driven by e-commerce, and this looks set to continue in the years ahead as more people spend more money online. Greater personalisation and a better customer experience will be the holy grail for e-commerce businesses in the future, as it becomes increasingly difficult to secure customers against a backdrop of ever increasing competition. Customers will eventually flock to those offering as close to the in-store experience as possible, and major e-commerce retailers are already striving to make things more personal and more tangible on web.
Curation & Pay Monthly Models
Product curation and pay monthly models are likely to continue to form an increasing part of the future of e-commerce. People don’t want to buy generic products from you – Amazon is cheaper and quicker. But they do want to buy curated products, lifestyle products, and e-commerce packages where your product knowledge and expertise can create an altogether more enjoyable, rounded experience.
Tracking Into Stores
The boundaries between e-commerce and physical commerce, i.e. the retail store, will become less definite as time passes, and companies are already looking at ways of tying together online tracking and customer information with their real-world experience. This also complements the idea of greater customization of the shopping experience, allowing retailers to use existing online data to personalize their entire relationship – both online and offline.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in e-commerce is one we are already starting to see in testing – drone delivery. Drones will in the future allow companies to deliver packages much more efficiently and quickly, with delivery times of just 60 or even 30 minutes from order entirely plausible. Drones will be sent out from distribution centres and travel directly to the delivery addresses provided, at significantly lower cost and logistical hassle than at present. Amazon, among others, are already seriously close to making this a reality across the entirety of their business, and it seems that others will be clambering to follow suit as quickly as possible.
Pop Up Shops
Customers are already shopping in new, alternative ways to before. “Showrooming” and “webrooming”, where customers visit a local shop then buy online for a cheaper price, or vice versa, present new challenges for retailers, in bridging the gap between the online and offline. As an online-only e-commerce retailer, you miss out on the webrooming aspect, because any sales made in a physical retail environment off the back of research on your site will be lost on you and your business.
Pop up shops can provide the answer, and can serve as a low-cost way of reaching out to new customers and winning new long-term fans. Pop up shops give customers a chance to connect with your brand in a physical way, while helping you reach corners of your market that might otherwise have been impossible for you through your online channels.
The future of e-commerce is of course still unclear. But any prudent e-commerce business owner should take stock of what analysts are saying about the future direction of their industry, so they can be sure to capitalize on these new opportunities as they arise.
Measurement Across All Devices
Not everyone sticks to a single device when buying from you. In fact, more people are moving between devices, from the web to mobile to apps, before turning into paying customers. Measuring analytics across devices is still in its infancy, but it is becoming a more significant field of interest for those in e-commerce.
Once tracking of usage across multiple devices becomes more sophisticated, the processes of testing, tweaking and optimizing the user experience still further can be set in motion. This will unlock even more value for e-commerce retailers, through providing further detailed insights into how the same people respond to their offering across platforms.
E-commerce already enjoys a significant advantage over other types of business, in the sense that there are thousands of high quality apps, all readily integrated into each other so that even small-budget players can rapidly automate the entirety of the process. At the same time, technologies rapidly change and improve, thanks to the strong competitive drive across the industry – after all, another retailer is only a click away.
The next step for e-commerce will be the application of AI systems, running evolutionary algorithms designed to find the absolute optimum. It’s all maths anyway – whether it’s optimizing your sales process, or choosing the statistically highest converting design for your website. By developing systems using these algorithms, which are designed to effectively test, optimize and repeat on loop, e-commerce will move into an even higher level of sophistication as this technology improves.
The upshot for those running e-commerce businesses is to embrace these processes as soon as viable. Where the major players go, smaller retailers follow, and it won’t be long before a proliferation of AI driven systems improves the capabilities of the e-commerce industry even further.
Attribution modelling provides the basis for calculating ROI, and thereby tailoring your marketing strategy to deliver optimal results. Assigning value to something in or related to your funnel is important, because it makes it possible to calculate your return. Attribution modelling looks at the best possible actions to which you should attach value, so you can focus your marketing spending and resources on those that offer the strongest return.
For example, say you have a simple two-step funnel, whereby you catch an email sign-up or a sale. Both elements here have a value – there is value in the sale, but also in the lead, which might one day buy from you (or might buy from you several times over, depending on your data). By attributing value to each of these actions effectively, marketers will continue to generate more sophisticated insights into how best to channel their efforts.