by Aaron Peters, Managing Director of Sprout Media
Ecommerce brands are under immense pressure to keep pace with both technological developments and increasing expectations from tech-savvy consumers. With the sector primed for further digital transformation this year, brands must embrace rapidly evolving technologies if they are to keep pace with competitors and stay relevant in the minds of audiences.
With a wide array of tools already central to smooth operations in the ecommerce world, we explore the technologies that will continue to shape the industry and help brands manage, market and optimise their online sales and operations.
Already a growing trend in the ecommerce space, and one which we will undoubtedly seeing more of in 2024, headless ecommerce is a model that offers an effective separation between the front-end and back-end of applications and platforms. With customer-facing presentation and back-end functionality separated, development can more easily be streamlined, allowing for greater flexibility and agility.
Ecommerce brands are increasingly using this model because it offers unprecedented creative freedom in content delivery across various channels, while still being able to integrate operational tools without vendor lock-in.
Platforms such as Shopify have enjoyed enduring popularity for this reason. They offer a robust ecommerce solution that allows brands to get up and running quickly, while also offering best-in-class tools, extensions and plug-ins that can be integrated and adapted depending on the needs of an individual business.
As developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning continue to come in leaps and bounds, it’s application in ecommerce is already shaking up how the industry operates.
AI has the potential to vastly improve the customer experience of ecommerce sites, with features such as more relevant product recommendations, better and faster search, and the application of augmented reality tools that allow customers to virtually try on products such as clothing and accessories, or place home décor in a virtual representation of a real space.
From a marketing perspective, AI tools – and the data that powers them through technology such as CRM platforms – provide the means to auto-segment audiences, allowing effective, granular marketing and reach-out campaigns that more precisely target customers at every stage of the buying cycle.
More widely, these technologies are powerful tools for the operational aspects of running an ecommerce business, assisting with pricing strategies, identifying seasonal demand, and managing inventory. The result is better conversion rates and optimised pricing and inventory strategies.
With ecommerce more competitive than ever before and brands vying for attention in a crowded market, they must increasingly respond to and accommodate higher customer expectations. User experience [UX] has therefore become a key component of success.
Consumers are tech-savvy and expect seamless online shopping experiences that are tailored to their own specific preferences. Ecommerce brands must ensure these expectations are met by designs and tools that prioritise personalised features and interactions, and an overall smooth experience.
Mobile-first design that provides responsive seamless experiences on smaller screen and touch-screen devices has never been so important, as is ensuring easy navigation and a smooth checkout process. With global ecommerce sales on mobile expected to reach $4.5 trillion in 2024, tools and design that enable mobile-first strategies are becoming crucial to ecommerce success.
Digital assistant integration
Virtual assistant technology has become ubiquitous, with nearly everyone possessing some form of it in either their mobile phone or smart home devices. We’ve become increasingly accustomed to using this technology to conduct online searches and find relevant brands, products and services.
With the unparalleled convenience offered by voice search and digital assistant technology, and companies like Amazon investing heavily in voice command technology to improve their customer experience, 2024 could be the year we begin to see a more widespread integration of voice search and virtual assistants in the wider ecommerce sector, with customers able to search, find recommendations and purchase without ever having to touch their devices.
The technological trends of this year will be heavily characterised by data-driven tools such as AI to streamline operations and offer better customer experiences. Tools and platforms that enable brands to respond to customer expectations rapidly and effectively, exploit new channels and create new marketing opportunities will continue to define the ecommerce space and online shopping experience.