This just in: the internet is not a fad.
The warnings were shouted loudly — that the world wide web wasn’t here to stay and online shopping addictions would disappear slowly, but surely. Well, the naysayers were no Nostradamus and consumers didn’t get the memo since 79% of Americans make purchases online. With the new year right around the corner, what can we expect in 2018 from the bigger and stronger e-commerce?
1. Omnichannel experience
As technology evolves, so does shopping. Whether it be in a physical retail store, through an online website, or on a mobile device, consumers can find and buy what they’re looking for anywhere at any time. So, what does this mean for businesses? A shopping experience across all platforms needs to feel streamlined and easy; a customer who wants to buy online will give up on your website if it’s too hard to navigate, taking their discretionary income elsewhere. Not only that, but it is estimated that 50% of e-commerce will be done using a mobile phone in 2018, making it prudent to have your online store optimized for every possible viewing device.
2. Customer awareness
More often than not, consumers are educated about the purchase decision they are going to make, researching many products at various retail locations before making that final choice. For this reason, having a comprehensive online presence with a wide array of products is a must. Drop shipping options allow for retailers to carry exactly what customers want without committing to the cost of physical inventory and give you the vendor expertise so customers get all the answers to their questions.
With endless options available at the consumers’ fingertips, you can imagine that they might be overwhelmed. A CRM that gathers information allows you to tailor your customers’ shopping experience, showing them relevant products that speak to their taste. Then, narrow their focus by providing recommended additions to their purchase that are specific to the items they have bought or are about to buy. Did the customer at your POS just purchase the latest and greatest iPhone? Now is the perfect chance to up sell with the perfect screen protector and case, ensuring their shiny new toy stays looking like new.
4. Voice purchasing
“Hi, shopping.” Personal assistants are no longer just for business executives. Voice controlled personal assistants are available on many mobile devices and are changing the way consumers interact with retailers. Shoppers' wishes are truly commands, as items they are looking for can be purchased by simply asking for them. Whether it be the latest video game, an everyday household item, or a reorder from a previous transaction, voice purchasing makes buying almost effortless.
5. Messenger apps and chatbots
In the age of constant communication, nothing is more frustrating for a consumer than having a burning question with no way to get an answer. Whether a simple usability inquiry or a larger issue with their product, customers appreciate being able to get in touch with a company's support team.
Thanks to messenger applications and chatbots, it is now easier than ever to stay in touch and provide support to your customers. Pre-loaded chatbots can evaluate queries and provide answers based on other resolved issues. If a problem requires more detail, work-through, or support over and above your average FAQ, the bot can then push the customer through to a live chat where human support employees can make all the customer issues disappear.
6. Augmented Reality (AR)
According to the Business Insider article, “AR is now a must-have in retail.”
Altered physical reality is one of the most exciting innovations in retail in the last year. It offers merchants the opportunity to not only showcase their products in a captivating way but also gives customers the chance to experience brands, products, and companies in a new medium — and maybe even have fun doing so. Through digital signage, handheld tablets, or touch-screen tables, customers can maneuver virtual images as though they were really there. Shoppers are actively looking for ways to digitally engage with the brands they love, and AR is allowing that to happen – whether it is just for fun like Netflix’s use of Snapchat to promote their hit series Stranger Things — or it has a functional purpose, like in the case of clothing brand Timberland who used AR screens to take window shopping to another level.
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Shutterstock / Yulia Grigoryeva