While the rise of internet shopping has led to the slow decline of the high street, last year also saw a reduction in online sales. With trading conditions likely to remain challenging during 2019, eCommerce businesses will need to be at the top of their game if they are to make headway. Doing this means keeping abreast of the latest developments in eCommerce and taking advantage of those which are likely to bring the greatest benefits. In this post, we’ll look at the new trends set to have an impact this year.
Improving the customer experience
Social media and review sites give consumers enormous power to influence each other in their buying decisions and one of the things they are increasingly making judgements about is the experience they have when shopping with a business. This experience covers every aspect of their interactions with you, from their first encounter (e.g., seeing an advert) to after sales and beyond.
What are they looking for? In short, quite a lot. They want brands whose values they can identify with; websites that load quickly, are easy to navigate and work on any device; and purchasing processes that are simple, secure and fast.
In addition, customers prefer sites that provide personalised recommendations and offers based on their previous interactions and this means businesses will need to collect more data and do more analyses in order to make recommendations that actually appeal.
Following the purchase, they want a speedy delivery and an easy, no-quibble returns process. Ideally, they want standard delivery to be free and to have all this backed up by easy to contact, friendly, customer service.
The consumers’ concept of trust has developed over recent years and businesses need to take these changes on board. Yes, this still means they need to trust you with their banking details when making purchases – so things like SSL certificates remain essential. However, with so many data breaches taking place, they want guarantees that any personal data you hold on them is going to remain secure and not end up being sold on the dark net. Following on from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, trust also means not having their data sold or used by third parties – particularly for use by political analysts or by insurance companies.
Trust is also increasingly linked to a company’s values and this means having moral integrity. The recent case of the clothing brand that sold fake fur coats which turned out to be made from real fur, is a prime example of something that can damage trust. The high-profile cases of people dying from allergic reactions because food retailers didn’t adequately label their foods is another example. Indeed, the online demonisation of those companies perceived to be at odds with today’s shifting values means, in order to gain the trust of the general public, all businesses need to do the right thing, whether it concerns LGBT rights, race and gender equality or supporting the more vulnerable members of society.
Live chat is a key tool for enhancing the customer experience, however, it can be an expensive service to offer. Having staff available 24 hours a day to deal with customer queries isn’t cheap and the more successful your business gets, the more agents you will need.
Thankfully, there is now an alternative and cheaper solution that is expected to take eCommerce by storm over the next couple of years and that is the AI chatbot. AI chatbots are essentially computer programs that can understand a customer’s questions and provide human-like responses about your products and services. Unlike humans, they can deal with unlimited customer enquiries at once and operate at all hours of the day.
The other advantage of a chatbot is that it can be used to generate sales. It can do this by sending automated prompts to get users chatting about a product they are interested in, it can offer them discounts or even make personalised recommendations based on their session data.
The progressive web app
With 60% of internet surfing taking place on mobile phones, the key focus over the last few years has been to develop responsive websites. However, the majority of our mobile surfing time is spent on apps, not websites. Rather than developing their own apps, many businesses are using a new format to tempt app-loving mobile surfers – the progressive web app.
The progressive web app is a website that uses APIs to let it function and appear just like an app. It works on all types of devices but, unlike a website, doesn’t need to be downloaded on a phone as it is cached and stored on the home screen. It also gets rid of the issues that businesses with separate apps and websites have, such as when a customer puts an item in a basket on the app but finds its not there on the website.
The use of progressive web apps will enable businesses to provide a multipurpose web portal that better suits our preferences of surfing on mobiles and computers but which works seamlessly between the two.
Hopefully, this post will have given you an insight into the emerging trends set to develop eCommerce over the next year. With the trading challenges facing online business, adopting some of these trends can be a way to keep your company ahead of the competition and help you meet your targets for the coming year.
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