With e-commerce driving nearly all retail growth around the world, the industry has really evolved over the last decade. As e-commerce continues to forge ahead through technological advancements, brick and mortar stores are becoming less appealing for shopping experiences for consumers. But like any industry e-commerce has largely been about execution.
And we feel that the speed of execution would only get faster with a tie. With this constantly changing environment and fast upgrading technologies, retailers would continue to work towards developing more interactive online experiences for their customers. Thus we feel that in addition to the usual developments where delivery times will improve, customer service will get increasingly better, and product selection will become greater, the e-commerce industry would see a slew of new technologies that would completely change the landscape of the industry.
But how would the future of online buying really look like for a consumer?
We believe that the future lies in Omni-channel retailing. Consumers commonly use 3-4 different shopping channels before eventually deciding to buy. With Amazon also entering into physical retailing in the U.S, companies are realizing that synchronizing all channels and touch points is the need of the hour to provide a seamless and consistent user-experience. The customer’s experience must be consistent the whole way through the buying process in terms of branding, pricing, product description, stock control, imagery and customer service.
Consider this example. A consumer walks into a store and selects a product. But the sales rep tells her that this is only for display purposes. But before the customer could go back disappointed she is given access to the entire inventory via her mobile device. The customer places the order online for the same product which she had liked and gets it delivered to her doorstep. If an item is not available in store, or out-of-stock, the sales rep can use the mobile device to help the customer place an order online for future delivery. This not only helps customer satisfaction but by integrating multiple devices effectively retailers can also improve the overall customer service and experience.
Technically though Omni-channel can be challenging especially when integrating across multiple stores, e-commerce sites and warehouses. However, with more and companies realizing its importance the work on it has certainly accelerated.
Other technologies that would shape the e-commerce industry in the coming years would be ‘Augmented Reality (AR)’ and ‘Virtual Reality (VR).’ Where ‘Augmented Reality’ works by overlaying the physical environment with virtual elements, Virtual Reality is slightly different wherein it creates a simulated environment placing the user inside an experience using a headset, and allows interaction within the 3D worlds. Though their involvement in e-commerce is still in early stages both the technologies are covering the ground fast.
Companies like IKEA have already adopted AR such that they are able to superimpose a piece of furniture into the consumer homes. This has already reduced the return rates by as high as 1% for the company.
With the industry moving towards more and more personalization and e-commerce is becoming highly personal. Owing to this we virtual stores with virtual changing rooms where one can try any item from the comfort of their homes would become Omni-present. This hybrid of realities that allow the virtual and real world to anchor each other would have a massive impact on the entire e-commerce space in the future.
E-commerce has always been about traffic and sales conversions. And these more accessible levels of consumer interaction are ought to lead to higher levels conversion.
In the end, we feel that advancements in technology will continue to drive e-commerce to new levels. Global markets are now easily reachable for sellers and small and medium sized business should start thinking of going global. Though Virtual and Augmented reality related works are in early development stages but are an exciting area for e-commerce.
By- Piyush Jaidev
Co-Founder & COO