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Digital Strategy, Ecommerce • 12 min read

Is your company prepared to embrace these trends in E-commerce?

Steven Coymans | 25-11-2020

There are always new trends in e-commerce looming on the horizon. It may seem like the velocity that technology evolves with, and new applications surface, just keeps increasing. Of course, implementing new technology isn’t the goal in itself. But being able to implement new tools, and experiment with new features swiftly and with minimal effort, can give you the edge on your competition. Especially when combined with a valid business case that’s part of a wider, structured, e-commerce growth-strategy. Let’s take a look at some new and upcoming trends, and how they tie into your e-commerce platform.

GENERAL TRENDS

Voice

Enable voice-based order entries on your platform. This is very well suited for orders where a customer doesn’t need to do any research. This can be especially valuable in B2B situations where customers often want to place recurring orders, and ease-of-use is essential because access to a screen and keyboard can be limited.

Visual commerce & social selling

Publish rich, visual content on your platform. Don’t limit yourself to product details, but aim for inspirational and imaginative information. Think about the product context, how to use the product, alternative use cases, or what the products means to customers. Enable your customers to create and share their own content. Review and publish this content on your channels, and motivate customers to share it on their own channels too. This way, the visual commerce trend perfectly complements the trend of social selling. Many platforms, such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram, facilitate commercial promotions.

Subscription based models

Regardless if you call it a subscription, replenishment or private lease, subscription-based commerce is becoming more and more mainstream. Think of Amazon prime, Blue Apron (meals), or any telecom provider (and specifically in the Netherlands: Bol Select, Hello fresh, and Boldking). Subscription based services are beneficial for almost any product category. From personal care and meals, to transportation and holiday homes; offering your product or service through a subscription-based model has many benefits.

From the perspective of e-commerce functionality, settling on a SaaS service for your subscription handling is advisable (such as chargebee or chargify). This takes care of payment schemes, invoicing, reminders, changes and cancellations for you. Optionally, if your platform has the right capabilities, integrating this service in your existing platform is always a good option.

Omnichannel or Unified Commerce

This is not the easiest trend to follow and rollout successfully, depending on how far you want to take things. An omnichannel setup requires proper architecture, the right hardware, and connections to your physical stores, internal processes, in addition to trained employees. To top things off, your customers demand this is all accessible for them without any siloes. But don’t let all these requirements overwhelm you. The main takeaway is the necessity of developing a clear view and understanding what your organization will look like several years down the line, ensuring that all new projects are aligned with this vision.

Personalization and AI

Okay, so this isn’t really a new trend. The rise of Personalization and AI is more like an old promise that still has some trouble maturing. Nevertheless, as technology advances and personalization options keep developing and growing, this will eventually become a real and powerful commodity. One such technology is the use of a Data Management Platform, or a Customer Data Platform, that consolidates interactions with your customers and anonymous visitors in a unified profile, that also includes their behaviour. The other hyped and upcoming technology, AI, includes Machine Learning Algorithms and Natural Language Processing (NLP). This technology is becoming more easily accessible and commonplace, even if only as a feature in your marketing software. When successfully connected to your internal workflows and fully integrated in your web’s frontend, these tools can become hubs with customer knowledge that continuously learn and direct the experiences of your customers across all your channels.

(B2B) Marketplaces

Do you think marketplaces are old news? Actually, for B2B, this trend is just gaining traction. As a manufacturer or wholesaler there are many marketplaces available for you to expand your business, such as Alibaba, ThomasNet, eWorldTrade, or good old Amazon.

Opening up shop on an existing marketplace can be a low-cost alternative if you want to easily reach new markets or categories. Of course, the competition here is even more fierce, dedicated marketing more difficult, and as a result the connection with your customer isn’t as strong. But when combined with your own platforms, marketplaces can play an important role in your marketing efforts. First, identify which parts of your business you want to outsource to the marketplace. Do you want to focus on reach and transactions, or also include warehousing, fulfilment, invoicing and customer service? Depending on your approach, you can decide how to properly integrate the marketplace in your platform and internal processes.

IOT and blockchain

Internet Of Things applications can offer interesting functionality for specific B2B organizations, such as easy monitoring of your supply chain, checking machines for repair or replacement parts, and sensor-based replenishment of stock. IOT combined with a blockchain application enables participating organizations to track the location of products, but also capture additional data such as temperature and humidity changes along the supply chain, and makes all this data easily accessible, traceable, and immutable. Making IOT applications requires hardware, which usually means sensors and more sensors. But an equally important aspect of making these new technologies work is proper integration. How capable is your platform of sending and receiving rich data from multiple sources? How easy is it to translate this data and use it on your platform to model your processes accordingly?

Evolutionary Architecture

Traditional centralized architectures are known to be slow to change, complex and hard to understand, and equally challenging to maintain. Modern future-proof architecture models however, are built for flexibility and scalability, making them perfectly prepared for all the changes outlined in this article. Unlike a full-featured monolith, a future-proof architecture is built on loosely coupled elements with great synergy. This results in a best of breed system, or a micro-service structure if you will. As is the case with unified commerce, it’s not easy to implement a system like this as a complete package. With a clear vision and the right strategy, a step-by-step approach will guide you there. Of course, a strategy of this nature keeps evolving. We would start by validating that your platform and organization is ready for a headless frontend, Single Page Applications (SPA), or Progressive Web Apps (PWA).

CONCLUSION 

In this article, we didn’t even touch on the subject of virtual and augmented reality, or trends in payment such as mobile commerce and those QR codes we’re all so found of. But more important than listing existing and new trends in technology, is the question which of these specific developments create an opportunity or risk for your organization. It’s not feasible nor desirable to implement every new hype that hits the market. It’s all about making the right choices, following a future-proof vision, and defining what steps can be taken today. Make sure short-term projects pave the way for your long-term vision, bringing you one step closer instead of further complicating requirements.

How well prepared is your e-commerce platform for dealing with potential changes? Based on which criteria did you select your current platform? How many add-ons and integrations have been added since then? Is your platform still flexible and adaptable enough to welcome future developments with confidence?

Whether you already run a matured e-business operation, or are just starting on this new journey, we’re ready to share our knowledge and expertise with you. Together we can build a strong and flexible foundation, that supports your current needs but is ready for the future at the same time.

To read more about e-commerce, visit our dedicated page here.

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Steven Coymans

Head of Commerce

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