Online shopping is already an integral part of our lives. The differentiating factor between a successful online business and the one struggling to make a mark leans more towards user experience than product offerings. With smartphones becoming a significant platform for digital shopping, it is important for brands to realize that in order to stay in the competition and beat the still-dominating offline retail, they will have to constantly improvise to provide the unparalleled user experience.
Going by the encouraging statistics which show that over 51% Americans prefer to shop online, e-commerce players need to adopt new trends to keep up with the growing pace of digitization.
Here are six fundamental trends that are subtly shaping the future of online shopping.
1. Advanced Digital Payments
In the bid to make digital transactions easier and enhance the user experience, online giants are introducing faster payment options such as Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, and PayPal. Customers no longer require their plastic cards for payment; they can now make faster transactions with their online pin number or even their fingerprints.
The year 2016 has already proved to be a great year, with respect to increased online payments. Customers adopted various online payment channels using their smartphones, and to some extent even watches, thereby paving the way for more advancements and expansion in 2017.
In the year 2014, the U.S. had a major problem with respect to credit card fraud that cost retailers over $32 billion. Since then, online payment security has been a major focus area and various security measures have been put in place to avoid such circumstances. The enhanced online payment safety and electronic payment devices by Lintech, which are embedded with high-security features, have also helped in making digital payments safer and the preferred option for customers and companies.
2. Social Media Selling
There’s no doubt that social selling is a phenomenon that will continue to grow in the future. It is a great way to catch customers outside the website. Popular social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and more allow online marketers to further influence their customers and drive sales. Owing to the keen interest customers are showing in social media, Snapchat tested and rolled out specially-crafted e-commerce features towards the end of 2016.
Based on a recent survey by Animia, 56% of customers follow brands on social media to browse merchandises for sale. Over 31% of online shoppers use social media purposely to look for new items to purchase. Brands are using these figures to identify customer preferences and come up with a specific social media strategy to engage and subtly persuade customers to like and buy their products.
3. Subscriptions Sales
It’s hard to beat the happiness of a finding a package at your doorstep simply through subscriptions. It eliminates the need to travel all the way to the supermarket or even select online items manually for your monthly essentials. No wonder people are signing up for these subscriptions every day.
In the U.S. alone, over 2000 subscription box services exist (as of March 2016) and are growing. In the last three years, visits to these subscription websites have grown by more than 3000 percent. Big brands have already started cashing in on subscription sales. Walmart introduced a makeup and beauty box subscription back in 2014 itself. Amazon, Adidas, and many other top brands have a strong subscription model catering to their customer base.
4. Focussing on Millennials
Millennials are essentially the group of people between 18 and 34 years of age that have proven their prowess in using technology. Studies suggest that millennials are more likely to search for a particular product and use social media for sharing, buying, and giving reviews. They tend to use social media for ideas and advice too, which makes them prospective targets for persuasive customer engagement.
An increasing number of brands, especially the ones related to technology wearables, are targeting this group. Technology wearables have the highest adoption and usage rate among millennials. Focussing on millennials will make it easy for brands to make an impact, and sell their products and services.
5. Loyalty Schemes
In the world of online shopping where 49% customers say that they will gladly switch brands for a coupon, the importance of customer loyalty should never be underestimated. High level of personalization and exclusive rewards will be the key to gaining customer loyalty.
Several online retailers are already doing it, but only a few get it right. The beauty industry, however, is putting other categories to shame by showing double-digit growth with loyalty programs as huge contributors. Understanding customer interests, carefully studying their purchase pattern and other related aspects, and then offering a highly personalised loyalty program is significant. A loyalty program cannot be generic and if not carefully implemented, can drive customers off your brand.
6. Chatbots CRM
A chatbot is short for Chat Robot. It is a highly-advanced computer program designed to interact with customers as a care executive in natural language. It is programmed to understand the user intent and send apt responses based on the business rules and organizational data.
Ensuring that the customer experience is similar to (or even better than) that of interacting with a human chat executive, these chatbots are embedded with a high level of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to better understand and respond to the context of the conversation.
While chatbots were initially used only in a few countries, they are soon going to be a part of most online retailers’ customer communication strategy, thanks to the drastic decrease in their development cost. Giants like Facebook and Microsoft have also pledged their support to chatbots in 2016.
With new product categories being launched every day and more customers joining the online bandwagon, the above-mentioned trends will continue to drive the e-commerce world in the near future. Mobile e-commerce is growing continuously and these trends will help in ensuring enhanced user experience and satisfaction, thereby fuelling overall growth and business.