When ecommerce arrived on the retail scene it didn’t just change the game: it re-invented it. Well, what goes around comes around, and today’s mature and sophisticated ecommerce marketplace — which in 2018 eclipsed $518 billion in the U.S. alone — is itself now poised to experience significant, and in some cases staggering disruption. According to blockchain technology expert Nando Caporicci, here are some keys ways that ecommerce will change in the decade ahead:
- The rise of voice commerce.
Alexa and Siri aren’t just helpful for turning off the lights or forecasting the weather: they are ready, willing and able to fulfil purchase instructions for everyday household items like groceries, laundry detergent, batteries, and so on. This will transform how individuals, families and even businesses shop, as well as how brands target and engage their most profitable target audiences.
Adds Nando Caporicci: “Eventually, voice commerce — or vcommerce — will compete with traditional online purchasing of all kinds of products, as well as services such as fixing a leaky roof or installing a light fixture. The technology for this already exists, but like a lot of things there is a cultural change management component that will take some time to take root. For example, for many years most ecommerce companies basically used the web as a digital vending machine, because that’s how they conceived it. It’s only recently that they’ve started leveraging other technologies to drive engagement and sales, such as chatbots, personalized content, targeted recommendations, and so on.”
- Retail won’t die — but it will change.
For a while, it seemed as though the only way that retail could co-exist with ecommerce was to abandon the brick and mortar concept, and aggressively adopt a pop-up model that was blatantly designed to boost social media engagement; especially on Instagram. However, there is some growing backlash against this approach, because customers — and not just older generations, but digital natives like millennials and Gen Zers — want more than a purely transactional experience with brands. Often, they need additional services that require functional in-person engagement. Nando Caporicci provides the example of a store that sells drones online, but that also has a physical location where customers can learn how to safely fly their new devices, as well as engage other drone lovers, join clubs, purchase related products and services, and so on. In this sense, the offline world will supplement and compliment the online world, and create a cohesive, seamless experience across all touchpoints. We are already seeing this shift happen in how retail store employees are trained. They are functioning more as consultants and advisors who add customer value, and less as clerks and administrators who merely carry out policy.
- Brands shift the focus to compete on service, not just on price and convenience.
The big pitch for ecommerce vs. retail has always been that it’s more convenient to shop online than wade into a crowded mall or store, and that the prices are either the same — or in some cases, lower (for example, many items on Walmart.com are cheaper than in stores). While these variables certainly still matter, as ecommerce evolves it will be forced to recognize an emerging reality: customers are demonstrating loyalty to brands that deliver exceptional before and after-purchase service, even if it means they pay more or must wait longer compared to a competitor. Adds Nando Caporicci: “Ecommerce companies can no longer take a passive approach to customer service, and only react to complaints and problems. They need to lean forward, create relationships, and foster conversations with customers and across customer communities. This is very good news for smaller, boutique operations that have a great story to tell. They don’t have to lie awake in bed at night worried about when Walmart or Amazon will undercut their price position. They can leverage brand loyalty to remain strong and profitable, even though their prices will be invariably higher than the biggest players and market share leaders.”
- Ecommerce companies get flawless — or go home.
Last but certainly not least, for several years’ customers were willing to tolerate some common ecommerce frustrations, such as unexpected shipping costs and other fees that pop up at checkout, slow-loading pages, poor UX, bugs, tedious account creation, and so on. Well, those times are ending — and within a decade, they will be permanently done. Contrary to what some ecommerce companies believe, this isn’t a case of rising customer expectations. Frankly, customers have lowered their expectations for years, because ecommerce was so new and novel, and the benefits compensated for the flaws. Now, Nando Caporicci explains that ecommerce is mainstream and conventional, and customers expect things to be at a level that is standard for mainstream shops.
Every year, ecommerce continues to become a larger percentage of all sales retail sales and that isn’t looking to change anytime soon. Nando Caporicci hopes that if you have not already started to utilize ecommerce websites that you start to do so.