Innovation has long been the life-blood of commerce, and technology its catalyst and conqueror.
In ancient times, it was customary to exchange goods and services, until the creation of currency introduced a commerce-driven dynamic. For the next few hundred years, small commerce thrived, before the progressive East India Company began the corporation-movement. Until the early 90s, the chain and department store dominated, until the internet put a nail in the coffin of the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. And, most recently, the smart phone revolution has provided an anywhere, anytime paradigm for shoppers, launching the m-commerce movement.
If this whirlwind history of commerce teaches us anything, it’s that innovation driven by technology is inevitable. And, with the tech sector set to build upon its trajectory of rapid growth, the time has come to ask – what’s next?
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a popular concept within the e-commerce sphere. Offering forward-thinking e-commerce organisations the opportunity to improve site-search and revenue, its value is considerable.
However, the value of AI extends beyond the analytical and algorithmic. It can also be leveraged as a virtual, personal shopping assistant.
AI assistants such as Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant possess the capability to order and purchase goods and services directly from websites via voice command, without any manual interaction. This not only provides a simplified means of ordering products quickly, but the assistants can also be put to work scouring the web for the best deals on those products – thereby saving the consumer money as well.
With continual updates rolling-out across all four of these market-leaders, the accessibility of this technology and the ease of purchase they provide are only going to increase in the future.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been dubbed the “next big thing” for a number of years now – but with the continued creation, release, and purchase of internet-enabled devices, its time may finally have come.
From refrigerators and clothing, to cars, lights, thermostats and alarm systems, the sheer volume of products that use the internet to communicate is huge, and if current trajectories are to be believed, IoT devices may soon become a ubiquitous presence in the household.
Imagine a refrigerator that tells you when you’re running low on certain products and lights which pre-empt when their bulbs need replacing. And now imagine that these products can be programmed to facilitate the purchasing of replacement parts at your discretion – no more empty fridge and no more gloomy household. Ever. It’s commerce so simplified that shoppers aren’t even needed, just machine communicating with machine at the service of the human race.
While this may still seem a futuristic notion, Gartner projects that by 2020 more than 20 billion “things” will be connected to the internet, which means that IoT-assisted commerce may well be closer to fruition than you think.
Also known as interactive product visualisation, virtual commerce is the notion of leveraging virtual reality, 3D imaging, and augmented reality to interact with a product.
Interactive product visualisation, though in its infancy, has already emerged as a growing trend in e-commerce, thanks to its ability to remove customer hesitation from the buying cycle.
Companies such as IKEA and Audi are already utilising the technology to great effect, providing shoppers with an immersive 360-degree shopping experience that allows them to interact with products as if they were standing directly in front of them.
This is important for online stores not only because it improves UX and allows shoppers to virtually try before they buy, but also, research has shown that when customers view products in 3D detail, they're also more likely to complete a purchase.
Looking to the Future
Innovation in commerce is no new phenomenon. The mantra for e-commerce businesses has always been ‘adapt to survive’. So, with new technologies on the horizon, each offering a method of simplifying the shopping experience, online stores that wish to stay competitive must take a look at optimising their offerings for possible new markets.
To learn more about the value of simplifying and streamlining the shopper experience, as well as a short list of tips of how it can be achieved using site-search, download our search and navigation UX design guide.