E-commerce is a rapidly changing and evolving industry that has seen exponential growth in the past few years, especially in terms of technology use. Continuous advancements in technology have impacted the e-commerce industry in a big way, changing the way consumers interact with brands and also making them empowered to shop more cost-effectively. Newer technologies that have brought a paradigm shift in online businesses are artificial intelligence (AI), mobile payments, social commerce, etc. In the next few sections, we will talk about some of these key technologies that have impacted the global e-commerce landscape.
Artificial Intelligence plays an important role in everyday life, having a major impact on how we live and work. AI has embedded itself into all aspects of our lives, ranging from the growing number of self-checkout cash counters to advanced security checks at airports. This is probably one of the most impactful trends that have transformed the way e-commerce companies operate and made the entire customer experience more involving and personalized. New software platforms have enabled e-commerce players to create innovative visual search capabilities and taking away the impulse control of the shoppers. In addition to finding matching products, AI has also helped the shoppers discover complimentary products whether it is size, colour, shape, fabric or even brand.
AI has also changed the way e-commerce enterprises operate. The latest AI technologies have helped e-commerce companies to solve key business challenges such as lead generation, through providing timely intelligence. AI has already impacted e-commerce in a big way and has started to evolve the sales process with new data. The use of AI has ensured that customers will no longer be offered products that are not matching their expectations. AI has also changed the way businesses deal with their customers, gaining faster access to information and harnessing employees’ talent for better use. Current AI-driven e-commerce strategies are mainly supported by computer vision, natural language processing (NLP) and reinforcement learning technologies. As the technology evolves, AI will help retailers deliver a better and more seamless omnichannel experience with IoT; enhance search with visual, conversational, and guided product discovery; and offer adaptive, device-responsive, and dynamic outreach.
Alibaba launched its self-developed image search engine “Paulita” in 2014. Since then, Pailitao has been widely implemented on Alibaba e-commerce platforms “Taobao” and “AliExpress” to automatically return visually similar pictures to those uploaded by consumers, to coordinate clothing, accessories and other products, as an example.
In 2017, Pinterest launched its visual search tool “Lens” as an idea discovery engine on its mobile app. The company partnered with Target to integrate Pinterest’s Lens into the target.com e-commerce platform to help customers find items of interest through images.
After AI, personalization is arguably the biggest trend in e-commerce right now. With the ever-increasing progress in AI and ML (machine learning) technologies, new and deeper levels of personalization have penetrated the e-commerce industry. Larger brands have been providing a highly personalized experience for a few years now which impacted customers’ expectations in a big way. AI-based personalization techniques enable e-commerce companies to take a multi-channel approach. New AI engines such as Boomtrain sit on top of the multiple customer touchpoints to help the business analyze how customers interact online.
Customer preferences continue to evolve and now expect a relevant shopping experience based on their personal preferences. AI and ML analytics now drive customer behavior patterns, while simultaneously interpreting this data. Along with AI and ML, big data has made personalization a basic requirement, with businesses catering their support and services to reflect this. Personalized product searching and recommendation algorithms based on individual user information (e.g., social behavior, occupation, preferences, etc.) will become increasingly common on e-commerce platforms. Also, as customers prefer unified interaction across all sales channels, omnichannel personalization has gained in importance. This helps retailers combine offline and online data in real-time to make comprehensive customer profiles that ensure enhanced personalized experiences across all touchpoints.
Shift to mobile
With m-commerce witnessing a rapid surge in adoption across most global markets, mobile platforms have increased in importance. Companies now are forced to provide an immersive mobile-oriented shopping experience to retain their customers and to get new customers on-board. Mobile apps are winning customers over with more enhanced accessibility, personalization, engagement enabling features, privacy and other unique benefits like “no disruption“ (due to no obtrusive pop-up ads) in-app experiences.
Having mobile-friendly technologies in your arsenal is key in maximizing chances of future success for the e-commerce players. Companies have also started integrating VR and AR technologies to provide an engaging mobile shopping experience for their customers, thereby connecting them with their brands in a deeper and more meaningful way. The use of IoT has also helped enterprises understand consumer trends across a range of connected devices, including mobile phones and tablets. It has also provided for delivering personalized mobile shopping experiences to customers.
The future of mobile apps is likely to be hyper-personal, secure experiences, with a higher focus placed on privacy and security. While they offer hyper-personal experiences to customers, brands are well aware of the need to ensure that those experiences are safe for the consumer.
Compared to the traditional marketing channels which flow in only one direction, the new concept of conversational marketing has opened up two-way communication, creating numerous opportunities for e-commerce growth. Getting information directly from customers makes more sense than attempting to predict it. Below are some of the most efficient technologies for developing customer conversations:
- Live chat
- Mobile messaging
While concerns around the security of mobile payments continue, we are seeing an increase in the use of and acceptance of mobile payments. While it still lags behind traditional payment methods, this trend is likely to continue. In the future, credit and debit card providers will likely face strong competition from Apple Pay and Google Pay, as well as other e-payment providers, as buyers’ confidence in mobile purchases increases and the roll-out of 5G allows for improved mobile experiences and enhanced access. With this combination, we will likely see a significant uptick in payment innovation as well-funded internationals and fintechs drive rapid innovation and look to win on the checkout page.
Consumers today are demanding more out of the customer experience. Identifying their ever-evolving needs and offering proactive solutions-at a faster pace-is the new norm. With AI, retailers have exciting, engaging new ways to win and retain consumers in a competitive environment. E-commerce personalization will also play a significant role in driving business and individuals’ brand experience. We will likely see more and more e-commerce companies taking the personalization route to offer hyper-personalized recommendations and shopping experiences on multiple channels and at every touchpoint. AI & ML are expected to change the entire automation in personalization, and we will see new avenues in e-commerce personalization in the near future. E-commerce companies will need to refine their product pricing and audience engagement strategies to align with customer expectations.
“The level of AI technology adoption in leading, global industries is growing every year. Currently, AI-based solutions are well on their way to moving from being a part of companies’ competitive advantage strategies to becoming a market standard, and eCommerce is not an exception” – Kamila Stępniewska, Owner at Ginger Tech
“E-commerce and mobile commerce have dramatically changed the way brands reach customers, making it faster and easier for consumers to make purchases on the fly while avoiding the hassles of going to the store” – Hil Davis, Co-founder, J Hilburn
Author : Prasanth R Krishnan
Prasanth works as an Associate Director with Avalon Global Research and is primarily responsible for project delivery, client management and business development. He has over 14 years of experience across research, consulting and financial services industries. At Avalon, his focus industries are Automotive and Industrials along with ICT. Outside of work, he is an avid Automotive enthusiast and likes to keep track of all the latest developments in the Automotive world.