Feb 06 2019

The Future of Ecommerce is Now: Review of Our 5 Year Predictions

A couple years back, we shared our predictions for the future of ecommerce—from 2022 to 2037. While it’s easy to see now some of our predictions were a little far fetched or made based on a trendy topic at the time, a few have already come to fruition.

We were having a ‘back to the future’ moment and decided it was time to revisit our previous predictions. In this article, we’ll go through our premonitions and provide suggestions of how you can implement each of them today.

2022 Predictions

Augmented Reality

Our prediction:

“How can and will the industry implement AR? Simple! Some brands are already doing it, and it’s as easy as using an app to help consumers visualize how products will show up in their home or on them.”

What you can do now:

The beauty industry in particular quickly grasped onto augmented reality technology to heighten the personalized experience across all shopping channels. From facial scans to magic mirrors, the industry is innovatively taking advantage of this new technology. Sephora, for example, installed their proprietary Color iQ in stores which scans the surface of your skin and assigns it a Color iQ number. The number enables the customer to find precise foundation matches both in their brick and mortar stores and online retail store.

Other industries, such as furniture and outdoor equipment, use AR to allow customers to view products from all angles and visually place items in their own home to check for fit. HORNE, online home furnishings company, uses Shopify AR to enable Apple’s AR Quick Look 3D models (only available on iOS 12 devices). The AR 3D models offer an alternative to walking into a curated showroom. Customers can see not only if and how the product would fit in their home, but also how it would complement other pieces they own. Their furniture comes with a high price tag, the AR solution helps consumers build their confidence when buying an expensive item online.

Mobile Everything

Our prediction:

“It’s only a matter of time before consumers convert more strongly on mobile devices. In 5 years? We’ll be at the height of the transition to mobile everything.”

What you can do now:

While the trend is clearly showing a growth in mobile purchases, it’s still a small percentage of total retail sales (both online and offline). This is mostly due to the poor mobile checkout experiences you find across ecommerce sites. According to some sources, the mobile version rate at least half the desktop conversion rate (3.78% vs, 1.29%).

In our recent The Funnel podcast episode, Greg Harvell outlined a few suggestions for improving the mobile checkout experience. One is to improve the convenience of the mobile checkout by “reducing the amount of information you need to collect to complete a purchase and smartly placing confidence builders throughout your funnel,” says Greg. If possible, adding a one-click button will provide the most convenient and least frictional path to purchase.

The Progressive Web App is another option for creating an optimal mobile user experience. Progressive Web Apps, or PWA, is front-end architecture that allows you to present a responsive and secure customer experience regardless of the quality of a customer’s internet connection.

Josh Brinson, Solutions Engineer at Blue Acorn, says “PWAs mimic the look and feel of a native mobile app experience, resulting in an optimized, fast loading mobile website.” He adds, “The offline capability benefits both mobile and desktop users. For example, if a customer goes through a tunnel while shopping on their mobile phone, they can continue through the experience uninterrupted (some functionality will be disabled in offline mode).”

Touch-Based Experiences

Our prediction:

“If virtual and augmented reality do become mainstream, touch will have a completely new meaning as haptic devices, such as gloves and clothing, will let consumers virtually feel an object without it ever being there.”

What you can do now:

Haptic devices were trendy back in 2014 and 2015, but has yet to gain mass adoption. These devices let customers feel and touch objects using a special glove without ever leaving their coach. Brands and retailers will likely focus on their augmented reality and virtual reality efforts before dipping into haptic devices.

Another option is adding 360 experiences and videos to the product display page to give shoppers a full image of the product. Compelling images and videos not only attract shoppers to the site, but they also create an opportunity boost the shopper’s confidence in the purchase.

Voice Assistants

Our prediction:

“While AI and voice assistants are nowhere near where futuristic movies predicted, we’ll soon witness dramatic improvements to this technology.”

What you can do now:

Originally thought voice assistants would be slow to adapt, nearly one in five US adults have access to a smart speaker and nearly half have voice-activated digital devices. One of the core opportunities of voice assistants is bringing your brand to life through pitch and tone.

Experimenting is everything. What problems do your customers have, how can voice solve this problem, and how does this align with your brand? Before launching their voice assistant app, Sephora started with a chatbot to learn their customers’ tone and lingo. They then used this data to create the tone and language of their voice app.

Autonomous Vehicles

Our prediction:

“Sorry Americans, drone delivery and automated package delivery are not in the five-year plan.”

What you can do now:

Well, joke’s on us because merchants like Kroger and Walmart are already testing autonomous vehicles in the US. In 2018, Kroger added two R1 unmanned vehicles to the fleet of its Fry’s Food Store in Scottsdale, Arizona. The vehicles will deliver groceries to customers that live within the store’s zip code.

This doesn’t mean that everyone should be implementing autonomous vehicles right now. Society is still getting used to the idea of unmanned vehicles on the road. In fact, the Arizona Republic reported 21 incidents of harassment or violence against autonomous vehicles.

An alternative to autonomous vehicles is offering same-day delivery services. According to a  survey by Dropoff, same-day delivery is the fastest growing delivery option. Nearly a third of consumers say they feel frustrated when a business doesn’t offer same-day delivery. Shopify Shipping allows shoppers to schedule a shopping time within the same day through UPS or DHL Express.

One thing we didn’t predict, but worth mentioning is social commerce.

When looking up old articles about what experts predicted ecommerce would look like today, it was difficult to find one that mentioned social commerce. In fact, previous Alibaba CEO David Wei said in an article from 2010, “I don’t think it will be a very easy job for those social community sites to convert into ecommerce, because people’s social relationships are sometimes a little bit far away from the commercial relationship.” Little did he know that social media would become a significant channel for brands, not only for marketing efforts, but also for selling. Some brands were even born as a result of their founder’s social media presence. Glossier, Kylie Cosmetics, S.S.O. by Danielle were all founded by influencers who originally made their success through sponsored ads.

Social media essentially provides brands with free content from their users, content that can be repurposed for social campaigns. In addition to user-generated content, marketers are creating shoppable ads for Facebook and Instagram. Because they’re using authentic, compelling content, it’s not intrusive and it doesn’t diminish the sense of community within the channel.

If you’d like to continue the conversation of adding new technologies and solutions to your ecommerce site, or you’d like to discuss replatforming your site, feel free to reach us here.

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Shannon Kenneally

Media Marketing Specialist

After graduating from Clemson, Shannon started her career in marketing, focusing on content creation and engagement. As Blue Acorn’s Content Writer, she keeps clients and customers up-to-date on the latest trends and news in the ecommerce world. In her free time, she enjoys running with her dog and checking out the local breweries in Charleston.

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