If you search the internet for the top eCommerce trends you will get a lot of different opinions, and I mean a lot. I have looked at many of them and I have also spoken with many customers and partners and I have decided to put together my own list of trends. Each one is arguable and to be honest they are not in any particular order, this is not a David Letterman top 10 (ok, I may have dated myself with that comment).
#10 – The return of brick and mortar
With the advent of ROPO (Research online, purchase offline) we will see a surge in differentiated brick and mortar buying experiences. From stores with sales consultants holding only iPads for check out to buy-online-pickup-in-store; the brick and mortar will return. The standard point of sale will be a thing of the past and store engagement devices connected to the same online ordering system will give a complete 360 view of the customer, their profile, shopping habits, and personalized offers. Experiential and informational online sites will further drive customers to visit the stores in person and be more focused on informative sales than attribute driven catalogs. According to a study by Deloitte, brick-and-mortar spending is expected to grow by $36 billion over the next four years.
#9 – The web browser will lose additional market share
Online catalogs will begin to be replaced by devices and AI. Shopper “chatbots” and AI devices like Siri, Google Home, etc. will begin to be a big piece of the shopping experience. Mobile will continue to completely dominate the shopping experience but it will be more tied to social media applications and the devices voice interactions. This also includes smart TV’s; soon shopping right from your couch will be a common thing – like on-demand digital streaming, speaking to and ordering from your TV with natural language.
#8 – Voice and image search will be fully realized
We can pretty much do voice today with our mobile phones – the little voice to text options for any input field, but it will become more pervasive as sites adopt full natural language processing; supporting more and more complex queries. This also goes for image searching. Uploading a photo of a friend or a celebrity and have the site return products that are similar to what are found in the picture will be embedded in applications like Instagram, Snapchat, and other community related applications. We will see more partnerships between retail and social media applications.
#7 – Personalized marketing will finally be real
With the advent of AI into marketing you will see less and less “clutter” from companies and more personalized messages being sent to you. We are finally at an age where companies are starting to actually “know” their customers. Better AI models and associations across things like social media accounts and brand touch points will make the stores smarter with what they email their customers. AI or what I like to call machine learning will dominate marketing – suggestions will not only be made to marketing professionals but the “systems” will now learn over time and adapt to what works and what doesn’t work.
#6 – B2B and B2C will finally be indistinguishable
Green screen ordering and horrible ordering user interfaces will be a thing of the past. The buying and research experience between B2B and B2C will be identical. Unfortunately, I don’t think EDI is going away any time soon but expect to see much better B2B ordering experiences as we see things like fulfillment and supply chain merge, along with inventory visibility across all stores and DC’s be readily available.
#5 – Augmented reality will begin to dominate
Whether its uploading a photo of yourself to see what a sports coat will look like on you or positioning that new table in your dining room, augmented reality is here and ready for the taking. Major retailers are using this today and I expect new ways of using augmented reality will surface in the next 12 months with retailers.
#4 – The year of the marketplace is here
With companies adopting order management and fulfillment systems that support complex shipping optimization models, the concept of marketplaces will continue to flourish. The announcement of Amazon taking on 20,000 marketplace sites is a clear sign this market is huge. Expect to see solutions like Mirakl to be used by retailers to compete with the Amazon behemoth.
#3 – Crashing eCommerce sites will be a thing of the past
Companies will adopt technologies like Docker and Kubernetes to automatically vertically scale for traffic spikes. No longer will companies have 2-3 month projects to “prepare” for Cyber Monday or Black Friday, everything will “just work”. Whether you are using a SaaS product or an on-premise eCommerce suite, you will have this option to scale to the demand put on the server in realtime.
#2 – Ship from store will be pervasive
Next day shipping is here and if retailers want to compete they will adopt a ship from store model where each brick and mortar store essentially becomes a fulfillment node. Complex fulfillment and shipping AI will make this desirable by all retailers; saving money on shipping costs and inventory control will be a primary focus in this competitive landscape.
#1 – AI in the line of business tooling
With the integration of channels, social media, and applications, marketers and merchandisers will rely on AI to work smarter and faster. Things like catalog attribution and segment identification will all be augmented by artificial intelligence and in some cases will be done automatically. More and more tedious work will be completed by AI.
Well there it is. Let me know what you think!