The dynamic e-commerce business environment keeps on evolving with the ongoing technology revolution. E-commerce is changing the way customers experience shopping and the traditional brick and mortar establishments are experiencing stiff competition from this development. Globalization coupled with the mobile telephony revolution and increased access to the Internet implies that customers can buy anything from across the world at the comfort of wherever they are located. Therefore, time and space are no longer factors in the shopping experience. Even most of the challenges that e-commerce customers experienced initially like limited payment gateways have been resolved with the inclusion of services like iPay, Paypal, Alipay, Amazon Pay, and Creditcall among other numerous options. The uncertainty surrounding e-commerce hinges on the dynamic nature of technological growth. The entry of artificial intelligence (AI) and block-chain technology has complicated the future of this form of commerce. Nevertheless, the principal functions of businesses remain the same, and aspects of profit-making and customer satisfaction are key business objectives. Going forward, players in e-commerce will have to remain open to new developments and keep up with the competitiveness that comes with the same. This paper explores the future of e-commerce coupled with giving suggestions on what companies can do to thrive in this dynamic and competitive market environment.
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The following aspects will play a key role in the future of e-commerce.
Customization for improved customer experience
Despite the changing business environment and ways of shopping, customers remain the key pillars of the growth and profitability of any e-commerce setup. E-commerce businesses will have to become creative in ways of personalizing and improving customer experience as a way of remaining competitive. For instance, e-commerce businesses that have limited payment gateways will have to act fast and ensure that customers do not abandon carts due to a lack of checkout options. In addition, customers are being bombarded with irrelevant information on different product offerings, which leads to time wastage. Therefore, the future of e-commerce lies in the personalization of the shopping experience to ensure that customers get specific information based on their purchase needs. According to Abraham et al., “Already brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data for customers are seeing revenue increase by 6% to 10%, according to our research – two to three times faster than those that don’t” (para. 1). Consequently, customer personalization will be one of the defining factors of the future of e-commerce.
Drones for delivery
One of the impediments of e-commerce is the long delivery timescales, which stretch to weeks in some cases. In the traditional brick and mortar setup, customers walk into a retail store and come out with the product of their choice. However, in e-commerce, one is supposed to wait for the delivery of goods days after ordering. Therefore, to bridge this gap in customer experience, e-commerce businesses will increasingly adopt drones as a way of the goods delivery. For instance, Amazon is working on its Prime Air program whereby customers will receive goods ordered within 30 minutes (Meola para. 8). Moving forward, even small-scale e-commerce entities will have to adopt this form of delivery to remain competitive and improve customer experience cum satisfaction. However, regulatory limitations will be one of the challenges facing the adoption of drones for commercial purposes, but the process keeps on evolving. Overcoming such hurdles will take time, but the use of drones to deliver goods will ultimately be realized in the coming years.
The usage of mobile devices for shopping activities has grown significantly over the last few years. In 2017, the number of global mobile users reached 4.77 billion people, and according to a report by Goldman Sachs, “mobile commerce revenue in 2018 will equal the total e-commerce revenue for 2013, some $626 billion” (Madrigal para. 9). Mobile devices are changing the way people get information because they are now working as mini-computers. With a functional mobile device and Internet connectivity, one can access all the needed shopping information. In addition, most e-commerce businesses are making their websites mobile-friendly coupled with incorporating payment gateways into the platforms. Therefore, any e-commerce company will have to think of mobile as part of a business strategy moving forward. Moreover, the emergence of mobile applications is revolutionizing the way people interact with online businesses. Companies are creating customized apps that can only be downloaded via mobile devices. The two leading mobile operating systems (android and iOS) have created app stores where users can easily access and download applications to suit their shopping needs.
Google and Apple have introduced the voice search feature in their mobile operating system and the trend is becoming popular amongst the Millennials. Chamberlain posits, “Approximately 40 percent of Millennials turn to voice-activated intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant before making a purchase” (para. 1). As such, the future of e-commerce will lean towards using voice searches to find products as opposed to the conventional contemporary way of typing in search words into browsers or other mobile applications. Therefore, marketers will have to focus on one-to-one communication using the available voice-based interfaces to meet this emerging customer trend. Additionally, developers will also need to consider incorporating such voice-based features in their apps and websites in a bid to remain competitive in the evolving business environment.
Attribution modeling for e-commerce
Attribution modeling determines the marketing technique that leads to the purchase of a certain product. In other words, attribution modeling allows marketers to measure the return on investment (ROI) for the different marketing strategies employed in e-commerce. Through attribution modeling, marketers can channel more resources to lead channels that generate more return on investment. For instance, a consumer may learn of a certain advert through Facebook. Later on, after learning of the advert, s/he may decide to Google the same advert to learn more, which directs him or her to the company’s website. Once on the website, s/he may be compelled to sign up for the company’s newsletter. Later on, s/he may learn of an offer through the newsletter, and a purchase. In this case, attribution modeling would determine the marketing lead that finally secures a purchase from that customer. In the above case, it appears that the newsletter closed the deal and earned the company some sales. Therefore, attribution modeling will be at the center of e-commerce in the future because companies have to monitor and evaluate how marketing resources are being used.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is an emerging technology sphere where machines are becoming aware of their environments. Machine learning, which plays a central role in the execution of AI functions, will shape the future of e-commerce. Currently, e-commerce platforms enjoy the sophisticated integration of apps to ensure the automation of customer services from marketing to payment gateways. However, moving forward, AI algorithms will help e-commerce platforms with the optimization of functions for the realization of the best results by minimizing human errors that exist in most systems. For instance, using smart technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT), Samsung has come up with a refrigerator brand called Family Hub. This fridge is fitted with AI systems to collect data on whatever is stored inside and make orders to replenish the stock coupled with giving recipes. In the future, more smart products will hit the market thus revolutionizing the shopping experience through e-commerce.
Incorporating human elements in the selling process
One of the areas that e-commerce has failed largely as opposed to in-store shopping is the lack of human elements in the selling process. In the traditional setup, a customer will walk into a store, meet the store attendant, and have a conversation and inquiries before making a purchase. The store attendant may convince the customer to change his or her purchasing decision, but this aspect is lacking in the e-commerce world. While online platforms cannot fully integrate the human experience, which is offered in in-store purchases, they will have tailored functions to improve customer experience. For instance, e-commerce platforms will incorporate tailored functions to remember the customers’ searches and probably offer customized discounts as a way of closing a sale. Normally, customers in in-store shopping end up buying a product after bargaining and getting a discount from the store attendant. Similarly, online systems will be tailored to offer discounts and present products that match customers’ shopping needs. Therefore, e-commerce platforms will seek to introduce human experience through their platforms as a way to ensure customer satisfaction.
E-commerce has come a long way and it continues to evolve as occasioned by the technological advancements taking place in the 21st Century. Online presence is a mandatory aspect for any organization seeking to remain competitive in the modern-day business environment. Access to the Internet has revolutionized the way customers experience shopping. Currently, a consumer can purchase anything from anywhere around the world and have it delivered to the doorstep, which underscores the magic of e-commerce. The primary objective of businesses selling goods and services for a profit has not changed. Therefore, the future of e-commerce will revolve around how companies interact with customers from marketing to making deliveries and ensuring satisfaction at the same time. Customized customer experience will be the center of focus because clients have to remain happy to make a purchase. As discussed in this paper, m-commerce will also play a central role in shaping the future of e-commerce. Mobile phone usage in shopping activities is expected to grow exponentially moving forward and thus companies will have to integrate such features into their online platforms. Drones will be the preferred mode of delivering goods as it is cheap and convenient. Ultimately, AI will change the way people experience shopping with the introduction of smart devices to bring convenience. In as much as the future of e-commerce is uncertain, the practice will be the next big thing in the business world. Consequently, companies should embrace it and be prepared for any developments.
Abraham, Mark, et al. “Profiting from Personalization.” The Boston Consulting Group, 2017. Web.
Chamberlain, Lauryn. “40 Percent of Millennials Use Voice-Activated Assistants for Purchase Research.” Geo Marketing, 2017. Web.
Madrigal, Alexis. Goldman: There will be as Much Mobile Commerce in 2018 as E-Commerce in 2013. The Atlantic. 2017. Web.
Meola, Andrew. Shop Online and Get Your Items Delivery by a Drone Delivery Service: The future Amazon and Domino’s have Envisioned for Us. Business Insider, 2017. Web.