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The year 2018 saw e-commerce take over 11.9% share of the total global retail sales. This was a hefty growth of almost 2% from 10.1% in 2017. E-commerce platforms have seen tremendous growth in developing countries as well, such as India and China, and more and more companies are trying to get a piece of the pie, either through new setup or through acquisitions. This year will also be an exciting year for e-commerce as competition gets fiercer, and companies try their best to increase their customer base, through increased use of automation and technology. While e-commerce is not a new thing, their operational, marketing and advertising strategies have changed with time. Here are some of the trends and predictions in the e-commerce sector, for the year 2019.
1. Data-backed targeting
Google and Facebook advertisements are no more the only options out there anymore. You should be using a targeted form of advertising using data collected from various sources including, customer preferences, competitors, social media and more. This is the best way to make sure that the money you pour on advertisements gets converted into actual sales figures. By collecting information such as web-habits, age, gender, profession, and location, you can make an estimate of what type of products or services a person will be interested in, and you can show him advertisements or send him links of only those. This way you will be able to achieve high conversion rates from your ads and at the same time have an edge compared to your competitors. If you aren’t utilising data to complement marketing, you are literally leaving money on the table.
2. Enhanced Shipping
The main difference between shopping online and going to a brick and mortar store has been the time taken for us to get the product. While retail stores generally offer us the product instantly, online stores used to ship the item in a few days. Things are changing. Amazon is leasing out forty cargo planes painted “Prime Air”, to get its products to customers all over the world much faster. Amazon started its faster deliveries under the branding “Amazon Prime”, where customers were guaranteed same day or next day deliveries. Today it is even offering 2-hour deliveries on certain household and grocery items under the “Prime Now” branding. Other companies have followed suit, by forming a chain of stores (of same or even different branding), just so that customers can get their desired items delivered much faster than usual. The logistics sector has seen a huge boom, due to the need for faster, more efficient and intelligent shipping. In 2019 and beyond, we are likely to witness further improvement in the delivery speed aspect of major E-commerce players.
3. Price Monitoring with Web Scraping
Price-monitoring has been present since the advent of online stores, but never has it been as important as now. Most people do not search for items on different websites anymore. They just search on a search engine like Google and follow the link that quotes the lowest price. In such a scenario, it is imperative that you crawl pricing data off the web to make sure that your products are priced competitively so as to make sure that you do not lose relevance in the market.
4. AR Product Demo
So you want to buy a pair of sunglasses. But how do you decide without trying it on? How about you take a picture of your face and the website shows you how you would look while wearing the sunglasses? Yes, that is what most companies selling products of this sort are trying to implement, so as to minimize returns. Different industries are using augmented reality, from healthcare to education, but there is none that would benefit using it as much as the e-commerce sector. With AR, people will be able to understand the product they want to buy much better and it will help them to distinguish between similar models or competing brands as well. While AR has a long way to go to be fully functional, 2019 is going to see more companies having AR demos of their products.
5. Voice Search
When we saw the video of the Google Assistant making a reservation for a salon at Google I/O 2018, we were shocked at how well voice assistants are able to mimic a human. But that is not all voice assistants are going to be used for. People have already started using Alexa to place orders on Amazon. More companies will be integrating the technology with their websites so that you can order things with a few verbal instructions on your phone (or even laptop). Voice search will not be limited to ordering, but finding the same item at a lesser price, address fill ups, billing, and more. What used to be a tedious 3-4 step process that needed at least a few minutes of attention from your eyes and hands will only need you to speak to your voice assistant for a minute.
6. Image searches
You saw your favorite football star wearing a shoe and you want to buy that for yourself! But then, you have no idea how to search for it online. How about you upload the picture in an e-commerce site and see if they can identify the shoe for you. Many e-commerce sites are using reverse image search to identify products. They first try to match the image you upload with their existing product list and then fetch you the details of the product. Although this feature is in experimental or beta stage in most websites, more and more companies are researching on it or adding it to their arsenal of features. 2019 is going to see an increase in customer use of image search on e-commerce sites and hopefully, the feature will become better so that customers can take full advantage of it, and there are less false matches.
7. More of Subscription based services
Whether you use Uber, or Amazon, or I-Tunes, most tech companies have started following a subscription-based service. E-commerce sites like Amazon have started their annual (or monthly) subscription-based services, that make you a premium user. Once you avail the subscription, you will get free deliveries, more offers, and better discounts. Subscription based services benefit both customers and companies. While a one-time payment might be preferred by some, you have to understand that a subscription-based payment helps companies get a steady supply of working capital and this gives them an incentive to keep adding new features to their interface and bring out new updates more frequently.
8. Chat bots – the new personal shopping assistants
There was a time when many physical stores had shopping assistants, who could help us by pointing us in the right direction after listening to our requirements. This has developed into chat bots in the e-commerce sector. You can go on to mention your requirements and price constraints and the chat bot would specify 2-3 items that fit your requirements well. You could also ask questions about a specific item that you have in mind, and it can clear your doubts.
9. More Payment Options
Gone are the days when credit/debit cards used to be the only ways that a person could pay during checkout in e-commerce platforms. Nowadays payment options are many- net banking, pay-later options, various types of cards, Paypal, mobile-wallets and more. In certain cases, if you do not have a particular payment option, you might lose out on a set of customers. 2019 is going to see even more payment options along with each e-commerce website offering their own wallets too.
10. Pay-Later Options
Why speak about a specific payment option in details? Well, a high percentage of customers drop off at the payment page. Apparently getting up to get their card to make the transaction can be a reason for people not placing their orders. This is taken care of when you have the facility of pay-later. There has been a decrease in people stopping at the payment page since the integration of the pay-later option. However most e-commerce sites offer this only to frequent and loyal customers who are trustable.
While most of these points seem to use advanced technologies or softwares, it is indeed true, that science and technology has begun to play a huge role in all businesses. From robots delivering goods, to intelligent web-scraping engines, e-commerce sites will have to keep up with technology to remain in the game.