While there was no shortage of new ecommerce developments this year, there were a few that really made significant leaps forward.
A Growing Industry
With the ecommerce global market expected to close the year at 3.53 trillion dollars US, the time to capitalize has never been more ideal. Regardless of how big or small your business is, or whether you’re selling solutions to other businesses or to consumers, there are ample ways to start generating digital transactions, and quickly.
New opportunities to penetrate the market also invite new forms of competition, and alternative ways to steal a larger piece of the ecommerce pie. And while this – combined with the seemingly infinite amount of trends and tactics to stay abreast with to remain a contender – may seem overwhelming, there are a few in particular that really made a strong impact in 2019.
A Beyond Screen Experience
As we near the end of this decade, one does not need to look too far back to realize how far we’ve come when it comes to digital consumption methods. No longer are users limited to desktops, laptops, or even smartphones or tablets anymore. Over 26 billion connected devices are expected to be installed by year’s end, with experts predicting that number to dramatically increase nearly threefold by 2025.
It’s not simply individuals who are becoming more accustomed to using new device types like smart speakers and wearable technology, but brands as well. In fact, some of the best ecommerce businesses took time this year to develop a multi-device experience designed to engage consumers in ways we’ve never seen done before.
Voice search, for example, presented a major opportunity this year for businesses who took the time to optimize their search presence accordingly. As most people use their voice assistants for asking questions, businesses who optimized their digital content to provide clear, indexible answers found themselves getting an increase in both traffic and brand awareness.
One of the biggest setbacks ecommerce businesses have to face when compared with their brick-and-mortar counterparts is the fact that consumers are limited to reviews, pictures, or videos to get a sense of how the product may look or feel. Even though this can be helpful, it pales in comparison to being able to walk into a brick and mortar store and actually try the item out and physically see and experience it firsthand.
In 2019, we saw augmented reality close the gap in this regard, giving consumers the flexibility to browse and even view how products would look on themselves or in their households. Brands like Sephora, IKEA, and Adidas all served up creative ways to incorporate this new technological trend to enhance the customer experience, and it would be prudent to expect this to grow and evolve as we move deeper into the future.
With desktops, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and smart home technology all playing an important role in our everyday lives, businesses who created an omni-device journey had the opportunity to make an incredible impression on its followers this year.
For example, a user may use their laptop or computer to first come across your digital storefront. They may then leave your website, only to be served a retargeting ad on their mobile device shortly after, leading to a purchase. It doesn’t end there though; after the purchase, that customer may then use their smart speakers to determine its delivery status, and then use a wearable to scan or even pay for the product when it arrives at their doorstep.
Optimizing your ecommerce business for multiple devices is a great start, but those who went above and beyond by creating an integrated journey stood to benefit the most in 2019.
Adoption of Artificial Intelligence
Delivering a highly personalized, automated experience has been a continuous trend in recent years, and while this one may already be on your radar, it’s important to understand the strides it has made in 2019 compared to previous years.
In 2018, it would have been enough to have automated cart recovery communications in place, or product recommendations based on similar items purchased. This year, we saw more advanced forms of machine learning that enabled businesses to understand a customer’s buying habits at a micro level.
This automated technique measures various elements of your business, such as overall sales history, customer search queries, buyer demographers, and key economic indicators so that you are getting a complete picture of precise data which can be used to better allocate budget and marketing efforts based on seasonal peaks. Predictive forecasting can also be used to support a dynamic pricing model.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of an ecommerce website, 2019 saw more of an emphasis being placed on using various forms of AI to improve its algorithm so that users are not only finding their products easier, but are also being presented with new product suggestions and trending items based on their queries. Elements such as natural language processing (NLP), reinforcement learning, and computer version technology were all used more cohesively this year to provide a better customer experience when navigating via a product search.
With digital transactions increasing this year, so too did the risk for either malicious or unintentional fraudulent activities (also known as “Friendly Fraud”). Ecommerce businesses that leaned more heavily on machine learning technology to identify transactional information and provide a more secure purchasing experience enjoyed the fruits of their labor this year. One such example of this is dunning management, which automatically notifies customers who may have an expired or declined card on file, proactively encouraging them to update it so that there is decreased risk of churn.
As the years go by, ecommerce businesses have ramped up their efforts to compete against some of advantages that brick-and-mortar businesses have. One such effort is the adoption of more conversational techniques, designed to rival the experience a shopper might receive when they walk into a physical store and converse with the salesperson. This year, we saw adoption rates of conversational technology increase by both consumers and businesses.
In particular, there are two key types of technologies we saw engaged more frequently this year.
Studies done this year revealed that nearly half of all digital shoppers now expect there to be a live chat component on an ecommerce website. This number isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon either; live chat is expected to grow by as much as 87% over the next 12-18 months. Combining this with the fact that 38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a business that offers live chat support, and another 63% of them would return to a website even if they don’t complete their purchase, this functionality proved to be a surefire way to boost transactions in 2019.
We saw messaging applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat increase in popularity this year. Not only are individuals using these mobile applications to communicate with their friends and family, they are using it to converse their favorite brands as well, and businesses that implemented accommodating chatbot technology this year saw a huge return on their investment.
Chatbots offer a great way for businesses – who are either looking to reduce spend on customer service, or provide more of it – to automate the answering of some of its most frequently asked questions. In fact, companies who don’t utilize this by 2020 run a serious risk of falling behind, as 80% of ecommerce businesses will likely have some form of this in place.
The Road Ahead
While there are certainly no shortage of insights to process when it comes to ecommerce developments in 2019, it’s important to understand that there are ample ways to implement all of the above capabilities without a strenuous amount of effort.
When it comes to budgeting for 2020, make sure you’re setting aside an adequate amount for technology investments and enhancements. Much like maintaining the physical foundation of a brick-and-mortar business, increased maintenance and implementation of digital technology is paramount for success if you want to earn a larger share of the market next year.
Take risks, try new things, and always review the data!