The previous part of our series looked at why e-commerce providers are driven by data-based hype. We are now going to consider what kinds of technology underpin new offers and business models. Only those who recognise and prioritise the potential of innovative technology trends will be able to use them for their own processes. And enhancing the purchasing experience will enable them to gain competitive advantage in the future.
IT leaders must factor these technology trends into their innovation strategies or risk losing ground to those that do."
- David Cearley, Vice President of the consultancy firm Gartner
However, many firms find it difficult to stay on top of things and try to implement their innovation budget strategically due to the rapid pace of digitisation. This leads us to the ask the following question: Which technology trends will mark the future of e-commerce in the long term?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a mega trend in current e-commerce discussions as confirmed by an article published in the Huffington Post on artificial intelligence revolutionising e-commerce. This is hardly surprising given the apparently endless uses ranging from an intelligent back-end, which is capable of outputting individual landing pages based on previous customer behaviour or filtering out fake reviews, to dynamic pricing and smart, digital purchasing assistants, which leads us on to the second trend, namely Conversational Commerce.
We now have access to highly complex interactive systems based on innovative machine learning technologies which communicate with customers, accompany them on their journey, advise them in their product selections, guarantee smooth-running order processes and help with support requests. A number of variants exist in the form of voice searches (e.g. Siri from Apple) and intelligent chatbots even including personal voice-controlled assistants such as Alexa with Amazon Echo.
Augmented Reality (AR) is also developing as a major differentiation factor and sales trigger. More and more customers are expecting three-dimensional visualisation and virtual fittings. Products can be presented more clearly in context and better explained thanks to Augmented Reality. AR fills two major gaps, at least in part, between stationary trade and e-commerce: emotion and experience. The benefits: studies show that the average shopping basket is increasing, and the rate of returns is falling.
Blockchain technologies such as the bitcoin currency are on the rise. Industry experts are predicting huge changes in e-commerce with the growing acceptance of cryptocurrency which will benefit customers and retailers alike. Sending and receiving money will be as easy as scanning a QR code. Transactions will be faster, safer and more economical which presents a huge advantage, for example, for smaller payments. Market research institutes predict that blockchain technologies will generate up to ten percent of GDP worldwide by 2025 and well-known financial institutes (such as Mastercard) are already experimenting with these technologies for payment transactions.
Although this is not a new theme, it has never been so relevant: providing a seamless, convenient purchasing experience involving all channels. The “online or offline” question is well a thing of the past – we must think “online and offline”. Fully developed, flexible trading platforms providing smart networking between the Internet, mobile and social media and stationary business are therefore essential. Innovative technologies such as geofencing, clienteling and beacons offer exciting possibilities for optimising omnichannel strategies.