The global pandemic did the heavy lifting required to upend our daily routines, and that includes shopping—which has shifted definitively to the trends in eCommerce experience to the tailored “connected consumer” who works and shops from home. Almost twice as many consumers now shop for retail products from home as did a year earlier, and technology is the key enabler that has empowered consumers to research and purchase seamlessly while using different devices and shopping on different platforms.
Here are some important statistics on the tech-driven transformation that is shifting the entire pattern of the eCommerce landscape, from a 2020 report by PYMNTS/VISA:
- 24% of consumers use food delivery apps more now than they did before the pandemic.
- 32.6% of consumers use voice assistants.
- 90.1% of consumers own smartphones, and 55% shop on marketplace apps more now than before the pandemic.
- 30% of consumers own a connected car, and 17% make purchases while commuting.
- 31% of consumers bank on their smartphones via an app.
Artificial intelligence, personalized user experiences and digital currencies are some technologies that have also made the business of eCommerce fulfillment easier and less costly for online sellers. And you always want to be looking for more effective and lean alternatives to trim your operational costs, work smarter and improve sales, right?
Let’s look closely at 7 technology trends that we have found to be transforming trends in eCommerce in 2021 and will continue reshaping the industry for years to come.
1. Trends in eCommerce: Robotic order fulfillment
Mixing robots and humans together to accomplish the work required in a warehouse environment for eCommerce fulfillment is increasing rapidly. Robots are fantastic at lifting heavy loads and moving across long distances quickly—which are critical elements of warehouse fulfillment. As warehouse management systems continue to improve and Internet of Things (IoT) technology becomes more common, robots will increasingly be able to collect data, instructions and operate better and faster in warehouse environments.
One global study predicts the deployment of nearly 600,000 autonomous mobile robots for order fulfillment by 2023, as human labor becomes harder and harder to hire, and eCommerce sales continue to increase. In addition, robots can be rented out during the peak season, offering human workers steadier work schedules. Definitely watch this space!
2. Trends in eCommerce: Chatbots
Chatbots, which imitate real human interaction in written or spoken mediums, leverage NLP (natural language processing) technology, especially when used for live-chatting. The technology’s ability to match a real, person-to-person experience is nascent, but improving very quickly, and chatbots are getting better at advanced communication with people every passing year. The technology is today transforming eCommerce mostly as virtual support services on eCommerce sites in order to save both shoppers time and e-tailers costs by automating around the clock customer support. Chatbots are much more cost-effective than hiring human operators, and they may one day become indistinguishable from a real person.
Chatbots are also extremely good at lead generation activities, by gathering initial information about customers, and then redirecting a good prospect to the products and services of their interest found on other pages of an eCommerce site. This is an excellent way for chatbots to show real ROI. There are research findings that show people are impressed with eCommerce sites that offer chatbots—38% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support, and 63% of consumers are more likely to buy again from a company if they offer live chat support. These are big reasons to take chatbots seriously.
3. Trends in eCommerce: Voice Assistants
Voice technology is making great strides in the form of home-based assistants that provide smart, seamless user experiences and have great potential to transform eCommerce due to their ability to field increasingly complex queries, and answer shopping-related questions. They are part of a software-enabled future known as ambient computing, which is opening up new opportunities for first-mover eCommerce e-tailers and brands to stake out new territory before the competition understands the power these technologies offer.
Users simply utter commands, like conducting an internet search, and the device gets instantly activated to perform the task requested. Devices from across the spectrum, from smartphones to home-based speakers, are today integrating more and more voice technology—forming a connected ecosystem to share information. Services like Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Cortana from Microsoft, and the very popular Amazon Alexa. There has been a 23% increase of daily active users of smartphone voice assistants alone from 2018-2020.
Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, as well as Google Home devices are used by a larger number of people today to order goods directly from eCommerce sites by voice command. In addition, voice assistants can recommend the most commonly requested products on eCommerce sites, and the technology is being used by online shoppers to find deals and to order food deliveries from local restaurants. 23M people are using voice assistants to make purchases, a 43% increase from 2018 and a 10% increase from 2019. E-tailors are beginning to understand the importance of optimizing for voice, which is similar to optimizing an eCommerce website’s ‘searchability’ using Google algorithms—and this same approach is used in voice search logic.
You can prepare your eCommerce site for voice queries by taking the following steps:
- Optimize your site and social media content to increase your chances of appearing in voice searches.
- Add an Alexa voice skill and also a skill on Google Voice Assistant devices.
- Offer voice-based navigation on your website and mobile app.
- Ensure your products can be purchased using a voice command.
4. Trends in eCommerce: Augmented and Virtual Reality
Virtual reality (VR) builds an entirely new artificial reality, while Augmented Reality (AR) adds only some virtual elements into the real world. Both could radically transform the future of eCommerce by enabling online shoppers to virtually interact and even touch items before purchasing them. Imagine virtually trying on clothing, feeling the textures of the fabric, and seeing how it looks on you. These technologies not only have the potential to transform the future of apparel e-tailing, but also beauty, furnishing and the automotive industries are also exploring ways to visualize mobile purchases.
In the wake of social distancing restrictions and concerns following the global pandemic, beauty retailers such as Sephora and Ulta started prohibiting customers from physically testing makeup products on their skin in-store. They instead experimented with AR to help customers digitally test out thousands of products to assist them in making a purchase. These techniques have been seamlessly integrated into their online eCommerce platforms successfully as well. AR technology is helping retailers to completely reimagine the digital shopping experience with virtual storefronts. A great example is Kohl’s recent collaboration with Snapchat to create Kohl’s AR Virtual Closet. Consumers can step inside an AR dressing room simply by using a smartphone and the Snapchat app. Once inside, they can mix and match apparel items, and make a purchase without having to physically visit an outlet. They can have the entire shopping experience on their device, and while at home. Items that are available for purchase online are continually updated based on consumer demand and needs.
AR and VR are providing new opportunities for e-tailers to enable virtual interaction with products that were never possible before. The more customizable, the more valuable these experiences become, and this builds further confidence in a brand during an online shopping experience.
5. Trends in eCommerce: Blockchain for Payments
Payment technologies have always been intrinsically linked to success in eCommerce. As the number of online transactions grows worldwide, there are bound to be stresses and strains on the global payment infrastructures which could result in higher fees, stricter regulations, slower transactions and disputes regarding ownership of goods on eCommerce sites.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a digital system for recording the transaction of assets in which the transactions and their details are recorded in multiple places simultaneously. Blockchain is the best known DLT and works by bundling transactions into blocks that are digitally linked together (like a chain), and then broadcasted to a network. These innovative technologies unlock the potential to validate the authenticity of financial transactions without the need for a central authority—like a bank. Blockchain powers digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple which have already been proven successful in transforming the payment industry by enabling cheaper, faster and more secure international currency transfer, and have also provided retailers with a new payment method. Overstock is one of many that has already enabled customers to pay on its eCommerce platform with Bitcoin.
eCommerce merchants are hopeful that blockchain technology could facilitate financial transactions globally in a faster, more secure and less expensive manner when a blockchain is used to record the transaction history of every product and service and eliminate online fraud.
6. Trends in eCommerce: Delivery with Drones
Currently, the eCommerce delivery system is heavily dependent on people, but this is transforming rapidly in tandem with how robotics are working together with people in the warehouse fulfillment space. As with robotics in eCommerce fulfillment, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities are enabling even greater automation of manual work. In the transportation industry today, we are at the point where an automated vehicle no longer requires a human operator to pick up and deliver passengers and goods. Delivery of goods purchased online with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, is the next step in this process and its adoption will bring great benefits to e-tailers, especially in cutting down the costs of logistics operations and boosting online purchases. Domino’s delivered a pizza with the help of a drone in 2016, and Amazon has been at the forefront with its fast drone delivery system for Prime members.
Advances in AI, the global positioning system (GPS) and cloud computing are all being heavily leveraged by cutting-edge drone delivery systems, and the future promises to focus on the location of an individual person and their expected location and time, instead of a physical address. A smartphone app could be used to pinpoint an exact location and then imagine the ease and convenience your customers could gain from having drone deliveries to wherever they happen to be when their shipment is out for delivery.
7 . Trends in eCommerce: Automated dropshipping
For those who don’t know it yet, dropshipping is a supplier method that allows retailers to sell products that they don’t have physically in their warehouse. When an order is placed in their store they send the information to the supplier of the item that ships the products directly to the final customers. It is already started but 2021 will see the rise of automated dropshipping software. This means software that can offer ready to import product pages, that can collect the orders data automatically and then fulfill these orders without the shop owner doing even a single click.
Then it is also essential for this kind of software to take the tracking number of each order and send them directly to the final customers making the shop owner save a lot of time and headaches.
All of these services and much more are offered to you by Yakkyofy. The best dropshipping software directly integrated with both Shopify and Woocommece that will help you completely automate the management of your dropshipping store. Its unique image recognition technology will allow you to get quotations for your dropshipping products in real-time, import products in only one click, automate the entire fulfillment process and send the tracking directly to your customers.
Yakkyofy also offers fast shipping (3-8 working days) in the TIER 1 countries, check the quality of your items and ship them, when needed in customized packaging.
Adapt your eCommerce to be in the future
All the technology described above will have a huge impact on the future of your eCommerce business. Some of them are not under your control, like the automated warehouse fulfillment with a robot, but some of them can be easy to add to your store. So try to create a structure for your business that is ready for the future, use chatbot, implement vocal search, automate your dropshipping store and why not, also 3D images if possible.
For sure eCommerce will continue to be transformed by technology beyond 2021, but one thing will remain constant—and that is eCommerce sales growth related to mobile commerce. In order to be successful as an eCommerce retail far beyond 2021, there is no alternative but to make your goods and services easily shopped and experienced on a mobile platform. Some of the technologies highlighted above are developments that took off from or leverage mobile commerce as a platform for further innovation. It is estimated that in 2021, mobile commerce could bring in revenues of $3.5 trillion, and that is only going to continue growing for many years to come.
Ray Ko is the Senior Ecommerce Manager at ShopPOPDisplays. With years of experience in the retail space, Ray is an expert in formulating and implementing e-commerce strategies to increase revenue.