With eCommerce expected to exceed $713 billion for the retail industry in 2020 the priority for brands needs to focus on user experience (UX) and leverage emerging technologies with their online ecosystems in order to maintain customer loyalty and steady growth. With the knowledge that over 20% of American shoppers buy online at least once per week, the need for a robust online shopping experience has never been more important. Successful retailers understand the critical nature of brand loyalty, as new customer acquisition is infinitely more costly than keeping its current base. Enter user experience, which can either reward loyal customers or turn them away in search of something new. It is the user experience on your website that will play a significant role in shoppers coming back for that all important second purchase.
Here are 9 trends you may want to consider on your eCommerce website if you are a retailer:
1. Customer Reviews
Reviews are critical for retail, as people trust other people when it comes to purchase decisions. Apparel purchases can be difficult based simply on the variables associated with sizes, which tend to vary from retailer to retailer. This can lead to a high number of returns as shoppers will purchase 2 to 3 different sizes of the same item knowing that they will be sending back the non-conforming items in favor of the correct size. By allowing customer reviews on both your website and social media you are allowing customers to share information with their peers that will allow them to make informed purchases.
2. Ethical brands win hearts and minds, and wallets
Today’s shopper wants to save the world and they prefer retailers that can help them do it. Customers seek out brands that demonstrate a proven track record on sustainability, ethical business practices and philanthropy. Smart retailers know that they can incorporate these values into the eCommerce process by educating consumers on the origins of their materials, the workers they employ and how their products create a minimal environmental footprint during manufacture. In addition, ethical companies are proactive, perhaps encouraging a purchaser to make a donation to a worthy cause during the checkout process that they will match.
3. Virtual assistants
With emerging technology products like Alexa and other smart speakers becoming commonplace in US households, the ability and frequency of shopping using only your voice are growing rapidly. Virtual assistants make browsing the web all the easier and more convenient for shoppers to make purchases. It is estimated that retailers that utilize voice search into their eCommerce experience will help to increase online sales by as much as 30%. Visual search is also an emerging trend, where shoppers can use their phones to take a picture of something they like and search the web using it to find a match.
4. Augmented reality
Anyone who has ever shopped online knows its limitations, especially with retail. Sitting on your couch browsing through thumbnails will never replace the tactile experience of traditional shopping. Enter Augmented reality, or AR, which will take us one step closer to replicating the experience in a virtual setting. AR is an emerging technology that enhances the experience of the real world, providing data that can be of value across multiple modalities. In retail, AR presents the opportunity to create a more engaging, personalized and exciting user experience. For example, shoppers can use AR to superimpose a sweater onto a photo or even video of the shopper so that they can see for themselves how the sweater will look in a real world environment and share on social media, dramatically increasing the probability of a purchase.
5. Mobile shopping
Smartphones rule our world. Easily accessible and increasingly powerful, more and more people now use their phone as a replacement for their desktop or laptop. This includes online shopping, and retailers are in a race to keep ahead of the curve with mobile eCommerce. Responsive websites have been around for years now, which dramatically enhance the user experience on mobile devices and make online shopping mobile-friendly. In 2020, if you do not have a responsive website you need to seriously examine your web strategy (see A Responsive Website Isn’t Just Good, It’s Required). By providing your customers with an optimized mobile shopping experience, brands will be able to increase online sales and customer loyalty using devices that are literally in millions of pockets right now.
While videos have been around for some time, we are seeing an increase in videos on eCommerce websites. It’s well-documented that quality videos can enhance user experiences, leading to higher conversions, social interest and referrals. But the most compelling reason for adding videos on your eCommerce experience is that shoppers that watch videos about a product tend to buy them more often than products that do not have videos. Videos provide a convenient method for displaying the attributes of a product that shoppers feel are more unique and valuable to the decision-making process. Add in the ease of posting videos to social media and the emergence of blazing-fast 5G wireless networks and it’s not difficult to understand the value videos bring to an eCommerce experience. Videos tell the personal story about a brand and its products and fosters to a loyal customer base.
7. Shoppable ads
Social media platforms have been introducing shoppable ads over the past year. Shoppable ads allow brands to use lifestyle images to tag multiple items on a single image. This ad format is new, but we can expect to see them increasingly trend as it allows a convenient way for shopping while strolling your favorite social platform. Shoppable ads can get endorsed by social influencers, who have immense followings, and for retail brands this can provide the ideal platform to build customer loyalty.
8. Artificial intelligence
24/7 live support is helpful to the shopping experience, answering questions and providing insights that lead to increased sales. Many shoppers consider live support to be a necessary feature for online shopping. This is fine for the big brands that can afford the service, but can leave smaller retailers in the dark. Enter artificial intelligence, or AI. With the emergence of AI over the last several years in all areas of life, it was just a matter of time before the technology found its way into a shopping cart. The most popular AI applications you come across on an eCommerce website are chatbots, which are software applications that simulate real conversations via text rather than a real human-to-human encounter. Chatbots can provide invaluable support and service for customers at an affordable cost. Research has shown that shoppers are more likely to make a purchase on websites that provide live chat, either from a real human or a chatbot.
Your customers know who they are, what they want and why they want it. Do you? Providing shoppers the ability to search a website using personalization allows them to find the product that best fits their needs in unique fashion. As an example, a shopper living in Oregon may use the search bar to find shoes that are particularly water resistant. Providing the eCommerce platform that allows customers to shop using personalization will increase brand loyalty and likelihood of purchase. Using available AI applications, a website can make recommendations based upon customer preferences in a friendly and non-intrusive environment.
As trends continue to emerge and mature, we will see that the retail industry is a marketplace for innovation and online growth.
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