Over the past few years, the e-commerce industry has been experiencing steady growth. In fact, Statista predicts that by 2021, e-retail revenues will reach 4.88 trillion US dollars.
With more and more businesses joining the market, we'll see a significant increase in competition. To stay ahead of the curve, online retailers need to devise new market strategies, monitor consumer preferences and behavior, as well as employ emerging technologies to boost sales.
In this post, we've analyzed the latest e-commerce trends and put together a list of features and technologies that will help your business to be ahead of the competition in 2019.
In 2019, if you have an online store, you need to have a chatbot. This is because chatbots driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) are proven to enhance a customer’s overall shopping experience.
These AI assistants can also do a lot more than interacting with customers throughout the day. They are also capable of engaging in data and analytics, marketing activities, inventory management, and much more.
For example, chatbots can make product recommendations based on past conversations, online behavior, and search history. They can also send follow up messages after a purchase is made to cross-sell or build brand loyalty.
With AI driven chatbots in e-commerce, businesses are now well-equipped to deliver highly personalized shopping experiences. So it’s no surprise that chatbots are forecasted to become more popular than ever this year (and the chatbot market is expected to be worth about $1.25 Billion by 2025).
However, this doesn’t mean that humans will be replaced altogether. Instead, a live option will always be available when a chatbot is unable to answer a question or when a customer requests human assistance.
In 2019, chatbots will sound more like humans by leveraging natural language processing technologies. At the same time, you can expect voice activated bots (like Alexa and Siri) to play a more prominent role in e-commerce.
2. Augmented Reality (AR) & 360-Degree Online Shopping
AR presents some exciting possibilities for online retailers, and we can expect to see it becoming more prominent in the months to come. For example, we now have the technology to help customers interact with products before committing to a purchase.
This will take online shopping to the next level because we can almost touch and feel things we’re interested in from anywhere in the world. This will make reviews and influencer messages less important as we can have personalized experiences with products before buying them.
This form of interactive product visualization will revolutionize the industry and deliver tangible in-store experiences to an online platform. While AR technologies might still seem out of reach, businesses are already experimenting with it.
Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook said “I see AR as being profound. It has the ability to amplify human performance instead of isolating humans, and so I’m a huge believer in AR. We put a lot of energy in AR, and it’s moving very fast. We’ve gone from ARKit 1.0 to 1.5 in a matter of months. I couldn’t be happier with the rate and pace.”
According to research, as much as 63% of customers believe that AR will improve their shopping experiences. This makes sense as AR can enable product visualizations, virtual trial rooms, and geo-location tracking (by placing virtual information at a real location).
3. B2B Companies Are Embracing E-Commerce
Online shopping doesn’t have to be restricted to the B2C market. In fact, B2B global online sales are projected to reach $6.6 trillion by 2020.
According to a study conducted by BigCommerce, 80% of the B2B organizations surveyed accepted orders and payments through their websites. This has created an opportunity for B2B companies to deliver highly personalized experiences while building relationships with a B2B target audience.
For marketers, this means that they will also have to leverage social media marketing because the industry relies heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations.
As millennials become the demographic that makes purchase decisions, it’s now critical to feature testimonials, pricing packages, and live chats to ensure success.
4. The Rise of Social Shopping
Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest now act like storefronts for brands. This is evidenced by Instagram who reported more than 200 million user views of business profiles on a daily basis. 60% of Instagram users also stated that they discovered a new product on the platform.
As a result, it’s safe to say that this trend is something merchants can’t afford to ignore. With almost 3.4 billion active social media users, these platforms have to become part of your e-commerce marketing strategy.
This scenario also emphasizes the importance for brands to take a multi-pronged approach and follow their target audience wherever they go.
In the near future, we can hope that these social media platforms will enable users to purchase products within them (without ever leaving the platform). But for now, social media platform boast “buy now” buttons that help users go directly to the product page on the brand’s website.
5. Brick & Click Stores
It might seem like brick and mortar stores are rapidly going extinct, but that’s not exactly true. While e-commerce stores powered by chatbots, AR, AI, and personalization will thrive, nothing will replace in-person shopping experiences where you can talk to someone face-to-face or touch a product.
This has created a need for enterprises to adapt to the new reality of retail. For example, online retail giant Amazon recently opened physical retail stores called 4-Star across the United States. The primary objective here is to blend both worlds and deliver highly immersive experiences.
When customers enter a 4-Star store, they can interact with Amazon’s devices and make purchases themselves. These stores don’t take up much space and have fewer employees than your traditional store. However, they are well-placed to deliver highly personalized and interactive experiences during each in-store visit.