Like all things, business changes constantly, with technology often leading the charge. Home computers and internet connections created a dramatic shift in commerce. The emergence of Web 2.0, social media and smartphones have created a similar shift in how we buy and sell things, and only one thing is certain — the changes will keep coming.
Success means keeping an eye on the emerging trends and understanding the effect they have on business. Technology will never stop evolving, and all industries will change to reflect that. More sales happen via mobile devices than ever before; the Google Shopping Ads, local SEO, and others have led to the emergence of a new wave of trends altering the way that we buy and sell goods and services. These trends have the potential to change ecommerce forever.
Have you heard of m-commerce? It’s short for mobile commerce, and it’s not a passing trend. A natural extension of ecommerce, m-commerce refers to transactions performed on mobile devices. This allows consumers to buy goods or services anywhere, and it has completely changed the nature of sales.
Now that consumers have the ability to make purchases on the mobile web or from within apps, the amount of sales completed on mobile devices continues to grow. Customers can buy clothes, hail Uber drivers or order pizzas — paying for all of it on their phones or tablets. Mobile purchases already make up a solid percentage of consumer sales, and that number will only grow as more and more mobile-friendly buying options emerge.
2) One-Click Payments
Amazon pioneered one-click payments way back in the halcyon days of e-commerce in 1999, but the company’s patent kept the technology on lockdown. That patent expired in 2017, and since then more and more businesses have incorporated one-click payment options.
Now, users, e-commerce sites and browsers have the capability to store credit card numbers and consumer information. Essentially, users only have to input their information one time, and it will remain stored for future sales. By enabling one-click purchases, websites create drastic reductions in online retail losses — most notably lowering buyer indecision and cart abandonment.
Now we see one-click payments emerging within mobile operating systems, allowing consumers to browse for products within an app or on a mobile site and make a purchase without having to fumble for their wallet or trying to remember their credit card expiration date. This streamlined purchasing process, securely conducted behind the walls of authentication measures, means higher sales for businesses and quicker purchases for consumers.
All of this equals good news for e-commerce merchants, and we can expect to see more one-click purchasing options from now on.
3) Improved Chatbot Technology
The idea of chatbots isn’t new, but the technology has reached a point where they have actually become an effective tool. Chatbots rely on natural language processing, or NLP, to interact with human users — the same technology used in virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri. Until fairly recently the results have proven laughable at best but in the past few years, NLP has improved considerably, leading to chatbot technology that businesses and consumers find very useful.
So what do chatbots do? At their simplest, they provide a conversation-like experience for consumers, without the need for a call to customer service representatives. Chatbots haven’t replaced the customer service department yet, but they do provide solutions to many of the easier problems that the public might have.
While many of us prefer to talk to a person over the phone, more and more mobile device users prefer to interact with a company via social media or messenger apps, making chatbots a practical solution to companies that want to offer messaging or chat capabilities.
Chatbots will probably never fully replace human interaction, but now that they can communicate more eloquently, you should expect to see them play a larger role as the first step in customer service or support.
4) Technical SEO
By now everyone knows about SEO — search engine optimization — and the important role it plays in driving traffic to websites. Now that so many consumers access the internet via mobile devices, technical SEO has taken on more importance as well.
What is technical SEO? The term refers to optimizations that help speed up the process of crawling and indexing websites in order to establish search engine rankings. Search engines like Google will rank a website higher when it has certain technical aspects. Tweaking a website or server to include those characteristics is what technical SEO is all about.
Sites secured using SSL will get preferential treatment over those that don’t, but the load time is equally important. Search engines would much rather place a quick-loading page higher in the rankings than a slow one. Now that so many people access the web on their phones, a site must be mobile-friendly for technical SEO.
Technical SEO also favors sites without any duplicate content issues, those that include an XML sitemap, enable AMP and include structured data markup. All of these will only grow in importance in the near future as technical SEO begins to affect search engine rankings more and more.
5) Digital Marketing Content
Advertising will never vanish, but as we consume more and more information on our mobile devices, marketing has evolved. While audiences still see banner ads, pop-ups and other ads on the mobile web, more and more businesses have turned toward digital marketing content to catch the attention of potential consumers.
Also known as content marketing, this approach hinges on consistently creating relevant, useful or entertaining content to help achieve a number of potential goals. These can include brand awareness, engagement, lead generation and nurturing, customer retention, selling, up-selling and cross-selling.
You probably already consume media created as part of a digital marketing campaign. Blogs, podcasts, and video are some of the most popular vehicles for content marketing. While businesses will not abandon more traditional advertising, you can count on digital marketing content playing a significant role — if not more — when it comes to attracting consumers.
6) Shoppable Tags
One of the latest emerging trends, shoppable tags work in concert with digital marketing campaigns. These tags allow brand followers to go directly from a social media post to a website where they can make a purchase. In some instances, you can even shop directly from the post itself, as is now the case with Instagram.
Google Ads also feature shoppable tags now in what they call Showcase Shopping ads. These help advertisers attract customers via pay per click campaigns — specifically targeting users on mobile devices.
7) Contextual Commerce
If you’ve ever thought that it would make shopping easy if every chat or message could enable a purchase, then you’ve stumbled on contextual commerce. The idea is that if someone sends you a picture of an item, your messaging app could include a button for purchasing — meaning that the potential consumer won’t have to follow a link to buy or search for a merchant. Instead, the purchase can occur almost instantly.
Contextual commerce has a lot of growing to do, but expect to see more of it taking root in a number of messaging apps this year. Eventually, group chats will allow people to buy movie tickets while discussing a night out, or even purchase plane tickets while planning their vacation.
8) Augmented Reality
Until recently, augmented reality was clumsy at best. While it has a long way to go, the development of location-based augmented reality games has helped shape the technology into a useful platform.
Imagine shopping for furniture and being able to see how it looks in your living room or browsing through an online clothing store and with just a click or two, see an image of how you look wearing an outfit. These examples are already possible, even though the technology is still in its infancy.
Plenty of naysayers view augmented reality apps as a novelty, but with the continued popularity of a number of AR games, developers will continue to perfect the technology — which will no doubt lead to more immersive m-commerce applications. In time, we can expect to use augmented reality in the majority of our mobile shopping activities.
The Changing Nature of Commerce
The past century has seen the business shift from commerce, to global commerce, to ecommerce and now to m-commerce. We now have the power to buy and sell to and from anywhere, and that has opened up an entirely new way of conducting business. How we shop, sell, and market will never be the same again — and that’s a good thing.
These trends illustrate the direction in which commerce is heading. Mobile platforms, non-traditional marketing, and one-click purchasing will all become the norm. While these trends won’t eradicate more traditional forms of commerce and marketing, they will forever change the way we do business.