The future of eCommerce is looking bright for online retailers. By 2021, it’s estimated that there will be about 2.14 billion online shoppers located around the world; in other words, over 25% of the global population will be browsing through eCommerce stores just 2 years from now! As business leaders have been considering the potential of this massive audience and the capabilities of their online stores, many have started to implement smart commerce features and strategies in an effort to stand out from their competitors.
What is Smart Commerce?
Ernst & Young determined that smart commerce includes two core factors: a simplified buying process and an improved communication system between the customer and retailer. Smart commerce relies on a type of collaborative technology that allows businesses to easily keep track of customer data, plan marketing strategies, and directly interact with customers. It also aims to integrate a company’s website, brick-and-mortar store, and social media profiles to create a streamlined fulfillment process and an active multi-channel presence.
The emerging trends of smart commerce seem to be heavily focused on the capabilities of AR/VR, AI, and IoT, such as virtual assistants or chatbots. These tools allow customers to find exactly what they’re looking for and instantly answer their questions, which can dramatically improve your conversion rates and sales. The smart commerce model itself is based on an AI-driven algorithm so it makes customer segmentation, personalization, and marketing easier than ever.
Studies show that there is already a huge demand for this type of smart commerce features, and these consumer trends will only continue to increase in the next few years. Business leaders that start thinking about smart commerce practices now will be ahead of the curve when they become the new norm for online retailers.
Main Features of Smart Commerce
The collaborative design of smart commerce includes several small details that must come together to form a seamless presence that will benefit both the consumer and the retailer. However, the most important details to remember involve these following features:
- Chatbots. By 2020, approximately 80% of businesses will have chat bots integrated into their eCommerce stores that can provide customer service 24/7. Chatbots and AI can also save businesses up to 30% more by directly engaging with online shoppers.
- Search remove. be capable of adapting to the changing marketplace expectations. Wertz writes that “Multi-channel is vital for captivating consumers and keeping them engaged from first impressions to the eventual point of sale. Focusing on providing excellent service across sales channels will pay big dividends in the coming year.”
- Improved checkout process. The checkout process should offer plenty of payment options while requiring customers to fill out a minimal number of forms. Asking customers to provide their emails prior to checking out, having several forms, or only accepting a few payment methods can lead to increased cart abandonment.
- Emphasis on mobile. To further integrate online stores and physical shops, retailers are considering new ways they can utilize cell phones to reach customers. For example, some companies are working on the possibility of using location services to direct consumers to the nearest physical store.
- Voice search. Siri, Cortana, and Alexa have become immensely popular in the past few years, with over 35.6 million people using one of these technologies at least once a month. These virtual assistants have become so convenient that thousands of customers often shop by using voice search! In fact, shopping by voice is estimated to reach $40 billion by 2022.
- Personalized customer experiences. With the help of AI and deep analytical tools, customers will see more relevant product recommendations, targeted ads, and promotions that will cause them to spend more time exploring your online store.
- AR/AI. Augmented reality apps can help customers develop a sense of how the product will look before they buy it. For example, virtual dressing rooms allow users to see how different items will look on their figure without having to go through the hassle of changing clothes multiple times in-store.
Advantages of Implementing Smart Commerce Methods
Currently, several brands have already started to see benefits from including smart commerce tools on their websites. Virtual assistants and chatbots help eCommerce stores reach the next level by immediately improving their customer services, and smart commerce marketing strategies like social selling have dramatically affected a number of online businesses in a positive way. Brands have accrued thousands of customers by simply being active on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram!
Along with the advantages that come from staying on the cutting edge of technological advancements, other benefits of smart commerce practices include:
- Concrete customer data. With smart commerce, you can take all the guesswork out of your marketing decisions. Due to the array of channel-specific data, you will have access to, your promotions and marketing strategies will become much more effective and worthwhile. AI can help in this regard by predicting accurate customer behaviors and habits as well.
- Improved customer satisfaction. Simply put, advanced features allow customers to shop faster and with more confidence from online retailers. With the abilities of AI and AR/VR, users will experience seamless shopping journeys that will likely improve conversion rates and customer loyalty. In addition, features like voice search will make online shopping more accessible to a greater number of potential customers.
- Easy access to data in-store. Employees that work in brick-and-mortar shops can access a customer’s purchase history to recommend similar products and engage with the consumer on a more personal level. As customers switch between online and physical stores, this data can provide employees with the right information to drive sales effortlessly.
- Increased customer engagement. When you begin to sell on multiple platforms and channels, you’ll have access to a much wider and diverse audience, so be sure to use this for your advantage! Post polls or surveys on Twitter, host a Facebook Live video or share some pretty photos of your latest business venture on Instagram. Staying active across your platforms will help with your social selling strategies and help you reach more potential customers.
- Added security. By staying updated with the latest eCommerce trends, you can invest in protective measures that will ensure that your customer’s payment information won’t be stolen by hackers or be compromised in any other ways. Accepting a variety of payment methods, such as Apple Pay or PayPal, can also help improve customer trust when buying from your site.
Understanding Smart Commerce Data With Infological Models
When you’re selling products on a global scale while offering personalized customer experiences, an information management system is a must. Collecting valuable knowledge and insights from buyers is only half the battle; online retailers also have to be able to visualize, analyze, and interpret the consumer data accurately and efficiently. To sift through the seemingly endless amounts of data from multiple channels, some eCommerce business leaders are turning to infological models for assistance.
Researchers from the National Research University Higher School of Economics published a study that claims, “Infological models are a new intuitive way to visualize information which allows us to improve the perception, ergonomics and automated analysis of data through information presented in the form of a human-readable, interactive graph.” When used for eCommerce, the modern organization methods and technologies of infological models can:
- Efficiently monitor and manage data. Infological models can monitor where data comes from, such as third-party sources, and track it accordingly. This is especially helpful for developing an omnichannel presence and managing inventory across multiple platforms. The process can also track items by specific dates or time periods to make it easy to find data from a certain week, for instance.
- Manage information flow. Business leaders can see the “big picture” of the data collected through the system, or they can toggle their preferences to see the factors they want to keep track of. For example, a user may want to view the total amount of products they have in stock, or they can narrow the results enough to track one single package. The flexibility and scalability of infological models can help with updating catalogs, customer recommendations, consumer trends, and much more.
- Provide a clear visualization of the data. The simple interface can be utilized by anyone, even those who are brand-new to the world of eCommerce. One major highlight of infological models is the interactivity of the technology; users can hover their mouse over any element of the generated graph to get more specific details about each aspect.
- Automatically generate customer-specific pages. Infological models can predict consumer behaviors by analyzing past purchase history and shopping habits, making it easy to create personalized recommendations for each customer. This can also be useful in creating new promotions for the entire site based on average consumer trends or post-sale data.
- Automatically analyze new data input. All of the content and data within the system can be integrated into a single semantic network, which means that any new data can be automatically interpreted and organized with the right pre-set templates and machine-learning capabilities. You will always have the latest consumer data at your fingertips without having to jump through hoops or manage complex technologies.
Smart eCommerce Trends You Can Start Utilizing Today
Unless you already have a flexible web platform designed for multi-channel sales, implementing some of the smart commerce methods mentioned above can be time-consuming and frustrating. There are numerous components that have to work together in smart commerce in order for it to be useful effective. For example, if you collect customer data and information but don’t have AI capabilities, you’re missing out on a major time-saver!
However, whether you’re on a tight budget or you’re feeling hesitant about jumping into the evolving world of smart commerce, there are some smaller ways for you to begin improving your online shop in no time. Some of the top smart commerce features and strategies include:
- Fully embracing the power of social media. Social selling has been a game-changer for all types of businesses by letting them connect and interact directly with their customers. Companies can quickly resolve customer complaints, answer questions, and share news about upcoming products while promoting a long-term relationship between the business and the customers. Think about using the range of features that you can use to create engaging content, such as video tutorials, photos, blog posts, or Q&A sessions!
- Replacing product descriptions with videos. According to Social Media Today, 60% of online shoppers would rather watch a video than read the product description. In addition, customers are 64-85% more likely to purchase a product after seeing it in a video. Seeing the products in use can help bridge the gap between online and physical stores and make the customer feel more confident about their purchase.
- Optimizing your checkout experience. One-click checkout for returning customers makes the buying process as quick as possible, but you can optimize your online checkout for first-time buyers as well. Make sure your checkout can be easily navigated on mobile devices, exclude any unnecessary forms, and take note of the page loading speeds.
As your business continues to grow and expand in today’s online marketplace, stay up-to-date on the latest technologies and trends by checking out our other blog posts and eCommerce solutions to make sure your company always stays ahead of your competitors!