2019 is seeing a big splash in the ecommerce tech market. More than a few trends have congregated to create quite an interesting landscape made up of new customer engagement platforms and marked by the omnichannel mentality.
As it goes, digital retailers are trying to play the catch-up game with these tendencies, all in the midst of their never-ending transformations. These efforts are resource-intensive and require comprehensive strategies that would provide for both business growth and changes in customers’ needs and preferences in the long run. That is why it’s crucial to keep tabs on market developments and plan out for their timely adoption.
This brief ‘state-of-the-things’ overview will help both established companies and emerging digital-first brands to navigate the ever-increasing complexity of ecommerce technologies, to see where they can go yet another extra mile to meet their online customers where they are.
The Omnichannel Ride
Even when shopping digitally, customers still seem to expect a little bit of the physical reality blended into their experience. The opposite is also true: when shopping in-store, people keep showrooming with their smartphones in hand. What does it mean for retailers? The answer is, prioritizing any single channel is no longer sufficient.
One strategy proving effective right now is click-and-collect, made possible through the use of unified customer data platforms in the back-office. This convenient option has branched out into many value-adding services allowing to buy or reserve online and pick up in store or other physical locations. Critical to this mode of cross-channel buying is loyalty scheme synchronization and personalization so that customers can enjoy continuity of their experience from one touchpoint to another.
On the digital-only side, ecommerce brands need to work on the seamless integration of all the customer-facing assets and teams. From the very first brand encounter, perhaps through a mention by an Instagram influencer, on to the mobile store browsing and post-purchase service, customers shun disappointments such as completely irrelevant welcome pages or the need to enter personal details over and over again during checkout.
While technology is instrumental to implementing an omnichannel strategy, it’s not a silver bullet in itself. Going omnichannel successfully requires a receptive organizational culture as much as a robust data management roadmap. Without these two, you still get fragmented customer channels with no ‘glue’ to keep them together.
Headless vs Monolithic
Going deeper into the omnichannel topic, we encounter something that promises to make online personalization a more gratifying task: headless commerce.
While the term itself appeared back in 2016, it wasn’t until recently that headless CMSs became quite prominent on the market radar. This vivid metaphoric name stands for a new type of ecommerce architecture with no ‘head’, or the classic presentation layer, coupled with it. Instead, a web store backend can communicate with any amount and diversity of screens and devices via APIs and microservices, delivering dynamic personalized content in response to a user’s real-time behavior.
Needless to say, legacy monolithic solutions would require extra maintenance or even refactoring to streamline this process. In addition, headless platforms are much more scalable, capable of sustaining peak traffic during sales seasons, and allow for shipping new features to production faster. All this makes digital retailers opt for a more agile and reliable way of doing their online business.
Leading ecommerce platforms can’t afford missing out on this opportunity, and are catching up fast. The good old WordPress, the most popular CMS in the world, has introduced its REST API as a way to decouple the backend from the content management frontend. Other platforms, such as Magento 2, Contentful and Shopify Plus come prepackaged with headless functionality too for ecommerce companies to build their advanced UX personalization strategies with ease.
Voice Commerce on the Rise
Shopify reports that about 20% of global search queries are made via voice in 2019, and this figure will only keep rising. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and many other are emerging as virtual assistants becoming our everyday companions. With over a billion of voice-enabled devices sold in 2018 alone, voice is becoming the channel that ecommerce brands can’t ignore.
In this challenging environment, online sellers either get ready to accommodate voice shopping or get pushed to the fringes. It’s not enough to just optimize for long-tail keywords; voice needs to be recognized as a full-fledged, maturing customer interaction channel and thus put on the customer journey map.
However, voice shopping is not for all, a recent research shows. It seems that people are more confident buying cheaper goods via voice rather than authorizing pricier purchases like flights or home appliances. It’s not accidental then that the grocery category is leading the pack, and such brands as Amazon Whole Foods and Walmart are already testing voice orders via virtual assistants.
Shopper authentication based on voice recognition, special discounts for those placing voice orders, and contextual personalization based on a user’s location are just some of the possible scenarios of voice use in ecommerce. All considered, online retailers need to take advantage of this voice tech surge and plan for it accordingly before their competitors do.
Blockchain? Not This Time
You may wonder why I left blockchain out, yet the answer is straightforward. Blockchain for ecommerce is still far from going mainstream, and for now is reserved mostly for tightly-knit crypto communities and large-scale enterprise consortiums figuring out their complex business challenges.
Blockchain does prove efficient in supply chain management and other back-office operations, but is yet to show its specific applications in ecommerce that go beyond assumptions. Payment fraud protection is perhaps one of the areas where digital retailers could get a taste of blockchain advantages, but we still need to wait a few years before blockchain blossoms into an empowering ecommerce technology in its own right.
Ready to bring your ecommerce business into the future with these innovative technologies? Altabel is the one to help you here. Get in touch with me to book a free consultation on your custom ecommerce development.