In technology years, eCommerce is a dinosaur. Hard to believe, but it’s been around nearly four decades. But a lot has changed since CompuServe introduced the Electronic Mall in 1984. The Mall had limited success, but that was only the beginning. With new improvements in technology each year, online shopping just keeps getting better. That’s good news for the 80% of shoppers around the globe who shopped online in 2020.
6 of the Hottest e-Commerce Trends
So what new advances can we expect as we move into the coming year? Here are some of the trends expected to impact the near-term future of eCommerce.
First it was Eliza in 1966. Then came Parry in 1972, Racter in 1983 and Jabberwacky in 2005. Chatbots are certainly not new. Over the years, they’ve grown increasingly more sophisticated, although also sometimes frustrating for customers. In 2021, however, bots have come a long way. Some researchers were quick to say that customers preferred humans over chatbots. But a more recent study finds that today’s chatbots can leave customers with a positive impression. For example, when a customer’s issue cannot be resolved, they are more likely to give the bot a pass.
Of course, the goal of chatbots is not just to avoid angering customers. Rather, it is to provide superior customer service via instant gratification. In 2021, they’re doing precisely that. Chatbots are improving the customer experience for online shoppers. They can answer questions, help locate products, find the correct size, place and track orders, recover abandoned sales carts and even detect fraud. For example, when a customer signs on from a different location, the chatbots use AI to serve up a series of verification questions to correctly identify the customer.
2. Rapid Customer Research
The pandemic ushered in a new day. With rapid changes in consumer buying preferences and habits, history isn’t a reliable predictor of what the future will bring. Today’s industry disruptors already know this. They use data to identify customers’ needs and provide products and services in new and different ways. For example, who knew that there was a whole group of movie enthusiasts who didn’t care about new releases and were willing to wait a few days to get a DVD in the mail? Netflix, that’s who. Blockbuster didn’t see it coming.
Brands that thrive in the new economy will be those with foresight and the ability to divine what customers want by gauging their interactions in real time. Rapid customer research compresses the typically slow approach to provide findings more quickly, allowing companies to adjust their strategies and make decisions to meet evolving needs.
3. Augmented Reality
Some things are difficult to purchase online. The clothing industry, for example, has historically high return rates. Some shoppers even follow a practice called bracketing. They buy multiple sizes and colors, intending to return the items they don’t want. For clothing, roughly half of all rejected items are returned because they do not fit. But it’s not just clothing. Nearly one quarter of shoppers return over 30% or more of what they buy online. It’s one of the biggest challenges retailers face.
Although customers love the convenience of online shopping, they want to see items firsthand. Augmented reality offers an experience that is very close to in-person viewing. It allows shoppers to see, for example, a clothing item more clearly and even virtually try it on. They can also try on glasses or get a virtual makeover simply by snapping a selfie or opening their smartphone camera app. In combination with depth-detecting sensors on the latest Apple and Android smartphones, customers can use augmented reality to see how objects will appear in their homes.
4. On-Site Personalization
You may be tired of hearing that Amazon is the poster child for all things eCommerce. But statistics help us understand why they are so successful. Eighty percent of customers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer a personalized experience. Customers love personalization when it makes their lives easier. The top companies use proprietary data to create an individualized customer experience that cannot be easily imitated. It’s the competitive advantage that puts the leading companies ahead of the competition.
eCommerce sites are investing heavily in artificial intelligence to make the online shopping experience more relevant. To start, websites now require customers to accept cookies and other settings to collect data. This allows companies to track customer interactions, including browsing history, click-through rates and other critical activities. From there, AI-enabled analytics develop comprehensive profiles on each customer to better understand their needs.
In the coming years, brands will increasingly collect more data and use it to create a personalized experience that attracts and retains good customers, whether they are B2B or B2C. With the increased use of AI and big data comes the need for informed consent. The debate about how AI acquires data, the regulations surrounding it, and whether this data can be used is one that will extend into the foreseeable future.
5. More Ways to Pay
There are many different ways for customers to pay online. The best thing your business can do is offer several types of payment methods so that customers can choose the one that is most convenient for them. Of course, there are the usual ones, including credit and debit cards, PayPal and its alternatives like Stripe, digital wallets including Google Pay and Apple Pay, bank transfer and even cash on delivery (COD).
However, some new payment trends are appearing that customers may expect to see on their favorite shopping sites. These include:
Buy Now, Pay Later
These platforms allow customers to stretch out their payment over time, usually with an initial payment and then two weeks between subsequent payments. Afterpay is one such service.
Banking details are securely stored and can be used during a greatly simplified buying process. For example, on Amazon you can use the Buy Now button to purchase with one click. Uber offers invisible payments, as well.
6. Customer Onboarding
Although you only need to bring on new users once, onboarding is an essential step in the customer journey. It’s your first and perhaps your last opportunity to turn a prospect into a paying customer. You have products and services they need, but sales will only happen if you retain them successfully from the start. Therefore, your customer onboarding experience must be effortless, secure, and fast. Here are two trends that are key to onboarding customers safely:
Address Verification Services (AVS)
AVS helps limit fraud and chargebacks by verifying the customer’s address against the credit-card account. It’s a MasterCard service used by many major credit-card companies. If a transaction looks suspicious, it is declined.
Adaptive Authentication (AA)
Username and password authentication is no longer sufficient. AA supports multi factor authentication, delivering a personalized user experience that is based on the customer, the event, the device and the level of risk involved. Not all activities carry the same level of risk. AA is an essential part of your broad multi factor authentication system. It is the most secure way to manage identities and ensure that low-risk activities are not overly burdensome.
Instnt AcceptTM eCommerce Solutions
For online customers, these technological advances help improve the customer experience. With the increasing deployment of leading-edge solutions, customers will find it easier than ever to shop online with greater confidence in the companies they purchase from. The most progressive eCommerce brands are using smart technology-based strategies to stand out in a fiercely competitive field and differentiate themselves from the competition.
Instnt AcceptTM offers an easy, reliable onboarding solution that you can have up and running in minutes, not days. We use AI and predictive analytics systems to validate the device and user behavior, ensuring that only good customers make it through. Get started today!