As with everything else in the technology sector, digital retail and eCommerce has been changing at the speed of light. 2017 promises to be no different, and as we look forward to the final two fiscal quarters of the year, here’s what we think we be major players in the world of online shopping.
Virtual Reality → Virtual Retail
Virtual reality (VR) devices are getting more powerful, cheaper, and into the hands of more and more people. Digital retailers are increasingly tapping into this pool of users, encouraging multi-sensory engagement with a shopping process that once lacked the tactility offered by traditional retailers. Whereas shoppers once had to rely on written descriptions, images, and to a limited extent, video to gather information about items they were interested in purchasing, businesses are beginning to offer users an enhanced shopping experience via virtual reality.
The market shares held by online and traditional retailers have been converging exponentially the past few years, and the increasing use of virtual reality means that, from the perspective of users, the retail landscape is slowly morphing from two distinct entities to one. While some goals, such as allowing people to try out clothes in a virtual dressing room or taking specialized gear out into a virtual field, remain in the future, some retailers, such as beauty subscription company bellabox, have used the technology to increase customer engagement by offering things like virtual chat with company management.
One of the biggest things fuelling mobile sales is mobile-first social media networks like Instagram. Facebook ads are nothing new, but Instagram just rolled out a feature that allows companies to tag their products the way you might tag your friends. Whenever someone sees a well-curated group of products in a tastefully shot Instagram, they can now tap on the product description and be taken to a site where the user can learn more about and purchase that very item. While it may seem like a small thing to eliminate the few steps it would otherwise take a user to perform an item lookup (including closing the social media’s app, performing a search, and navigating to the product page), minimizing friction and making the transaction as easy as possible is crucial to increasing conversion rates.
Mobile devices have become ubiquitous, and as their use in the general population rises, so does the number of eCommerce transactions originating from phones or tablets. People are spending more and more time on these devices, making it natural to do their shopping during this time. Furthermore, tools such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and PayPal have streamlined the checkout process, making it that much easier to complete transactions. Entering payment information into a mobile site was once cumbersome at best, and an exercise in frustration at worse, but this no longer needs to be the case.
In 2016, consumers spent over $3 billion via eCommerce transactions on Black Friday, and a sizable portion of this came from shoppers on mobile devices. Such sales numbers represent increasing trust in the digital shopping process, especially when doing so on a mobile device.
We also expect to see increasing usage of mobile wallets. For example, PayPal, which has adopted a mobile-first approach in terms of strategy, saw a 51% increase in mobile volume over the same time period in 2016. This resulted in transactions totaling over $32 billion. Brands like CVS and Samsung, which implement CVS Pay and Samsung Pay, respectively, saw great success with their branded digital wallets. Companies can extend such functionality and tie in rewards programs and opportunities to send users special offers, incentivizing users to make the purchase.
Artificial intelligence (AI) promises to be a big component of technology in 2017, and this is certainly the case for ecommerce.
In 2016, chatbots become very popular, with companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and J. Crew all implementing them. Whereas engagement with customers once occurred over channels like email, phone, and most recently, live chat with a real person at the other end of the line, so to speak, use of chatbots continues this trend of real-time, personalized approach toward customer service. The primary difference, however, is that there’s no person behind the chatbot — the experience is 100% simulation. Despite this, chatbots are great, because customers can get the help they need, and companies can provide service 24/7 at a lower cost. We expect more and more retailers to offer this option of customer engagement in 2017.
Virtual reality, social shopping, increases in mobile sales volumes, and chatbots are some of the many technologies that promise to disrupt many retail industries. The digital marketplace changes at the drop of a hat, so it can be overwhelming to know what the best course of option is for your organization. Contact Rigor today to see how our suite of monitoring and optimization tools, as well as experience in the world of digital experience, can help you map out a plan to keep you competitive today and tomorrow.
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