Eager to know what 2019 holds for the world of e-commerce? Here are five key e-commerce trends that promise to fuel retailers worldwide in the coming year, including the continuous rise of machine learning to a more sophisticated focus on the omnichannel customer experience, selling on social media and more.
1. Machine Learning Changes Everything
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning’s influence is only set to grow as technology becomes faster and more widely available.
Amazon.com is working on fashion-specific AI innovation in the hope to be able to predict what’s coming into fashion in advance, and surfacing relevant products just when people begin to start searching for them. The online giant will do this by analyzing social media posts from across the internet, using the data to plot a certain item or accessory’s fashion credentials and potential rise to ubiquity. It’s all part of Amazon’s assault on the world of fashion.
AI is also helping to ensure that every business can match and even exceed Amazon’s degree of personalization, using machine learning and big data to automatically adjust the output toward a given set of goals, like increasing conversion rate or average order value, or decreasing bounce rate.
AI can now analyze every single interaction with your site, using information such as what’s clicked on and where shoppers dwell to build a comprehensive understanding of your site and how people shop it. The use of automation means that a huge number of insights can be gleaned and immediately acted upon without the need for human intervention and hours upon hours of data analysis.
2. Voice Shopping Makes Waves
Smart speakers were the Christmas gift hit of 2017, and with a predicted 70 percent year-over-year growth forecast, that was expected to be the case for the upcoming holiday season. Thanks to Amazon’s shopping heritage, the company naturally has the edge when it comes to converting the Echo speaker into a shopping device. However, Google has partnered with Walmart to give its Google Home speaker similar shopping capabilities.
Fifty percent of voice-control device owners have used it to make a purchase in the past year, with consumer packaged goods (CPGs) cited as the most common purchase made. But there are some high rollers out there: 21 percent of people would order an Amazon product over $50 without seeing it online first.
2019 is set to provide us with more clues about how the smart speaker will integrate into the omnichannel experience.
3. Customers Demand 1:1 Personalization
Consider these findings: 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with a brand that recognizes them and provides tailored recommendations based on their previous history, and 40 percent have left a site that overwhelmed them with irrelevant options. Many businesses are risking turning consumers off while they perform A/B tests and manually adapt their site in an attempt to appeal to their target demographic.
So how do you provide customers with a website that doesn’t just offer them a well-curated selection of products they’re likely to buy, but displays them in a way that appeals to them? The answer is to use AI to build the perfect shop, offering one-to-one personalization at every opportunity.
4. Drone Delivery Comes Closer to Reality
Fulfillment has always been a hot topic within e-commerce, with Amazon raising the bar time and again for fast and cheap delivery options. With 65 percent of retailers planning to offer same-day delivery within the next two years, the need for a more efficient method of fulfillment is more pressing than ever.
Over 40 percent of consumers would already consider drone delivery, and countries around the world are putting in place regulations and planning the trials to make that a reality. In the U.S., for example, 10 regions have already begun a three-year test of feasibility, while over in the U.K., a monitored low-level flying space is being created so that the current restriction for drones to remain in the flyer’s line of sight can be lifted. Delivery trials are predicted to begin in the U.K. in 2019. In Iceland, products are already delivered by drone across the wide river in the capital city of Reykjavik; in Japan, Rakuten shoppers can already choose drone delivery; and DHL in Germany has tested its own "parcelcopter" for more efficient last-mile delivery.
5. Instagram Video Advertising and Pinterest’s Latest Shopping Feature
Both Instagram and Pinterest have taken advantage of their highly visual platforms by integrating the ability for users to shop for products straight from the app. Instagram launched its shopping feature last year, and for this recent holiday season it added three new features: the ability for users to save interesting products to their feed, to shop the products featured in videos, and a redesign of the "Shop" tab on business profiles.
Pinterest launched its shopping integration this year. Its new Shop the Look pins contain pricing and inventory availability information, sending shoppers straight to the retail website. Within the home decor and fashion categories, Pinterest will also suggest similar shoppable items to users. While Pinterest might not be the hot new social network, a recent study found that it matches Instagram for driving product discovery, making this shopping feature an important one for online retailers looking to appeal to consumers.
For now, it’s those with Pinterest Business accounts that have access to these features. In both cases, retailers can link their account to their site, and then tag products from there. However, with the rise of social shopping, it’s a logical next step for this technology to soon extend to influencers and even micro-influencers.
Jim Lofgren is the CEO at Nosto, a global leader in e-commerce and mobile personalization.
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