Nearly all retail growth in the US at present is driven by e commerce, and this looks set to continue in the years ahead as more people spend more money online. Greater personalisation and a better customer experience will be the holy grail for e commerce businesses in the future, as it becomes increasingly difficult to secure customers against a backdrop of ever-increasing competition. Customers will eventually flock to those offering as close to the in-store experience as possible, and major e commerce retailers are already striving to make things more personal and more tangible on web.
Perhaps one of the most exciting developments in e commerce is one we are already starting to see in testing – drone delivery. Drones will in the future allow companies to deliver packages much more efficiently and quickly, with delivery times of just 60 or even 30 minutes from order entirely plausible. Drones will be sent out from distribution centres and travel directly to the delivery addresses provided, at significantly lower cost and logistical hassle than at present. Amazon, among others, are already seriously close to making this a reality across the entirety of their business, and it seems that others will be clambering to follow suit as quickly as possible.
Product curation and pay monthly models are likely to continue to form an increasing part of the future of e commerce. People don’t want to buy generic products from you – Amazon is cheaper and quicker. But they do want to buy curated products, lifestyle products, and e commerce packages where your product knowledge and expertise can create an altogether more enjoyable, rounded experience. Think Graze.com, or Flavourly.com.
The boundaries between e commerce and physical commerce, i.e. the retail store, will become less definite as time passes, and companies are already looking at ways of tying together online tracking and customer information with their real-world experience. This also complements the idea of greater customisation of the shopping experience, allowing retailers to use existing online data to personalise their entire relationship – both online and offline.
E commerce already enjoys a significant advantage over other types of business, in the sense that there are thousands of high-quality apps, all readily integrated into each other so that even small-budget players can rapidly automate the entirety of the process. At the same time, technologies rapidly change and improve, thanks to the strong competitive drive across the industry – after all, another retailer is only a click away.
The next step for e commerce will be the application of AI systems, running evolutionary algorithms designed to find the absolute optimum. It’s all maths anyway – whether it’s optimising your sales process, or choosing the statistically highest converting design for your website. By developing systems using these algorithms, which are designed to effectively test, optimise and repeat on loop, e commerce will move into an even higher level of sophistication as this technology improves.
The upshot for those running e commerce businesses is to embrace these processes as soon as viable. Where the major players go, smaller retailers follow, and it won’t be long before a proliferation of AI-driven systems improves the capabilities of the e commerce industry even further.