The pace of innovation in ecommerce is enough to set heads spinning.
Online retail is highly competitive. Ecommerce companies, large and small, work hard to distinguish themselves from their peers. Customers benefit from a marketplace that is eager to grab a share of their attention and wallets.
Keeping up with the rapid pace of change can be difficult for e-tailers. A website owner’s ability to decipher the next big thing from a a hype-driven flash in the pan trend is not always easy.
Here’s a look at three ecommerce trends with staying power.
1. Social ecommerce
Many businesses use social media to promote products and services. Social ecommerce is different because it moves the sales process directly onto social media platforms. The entire journey from product discovery to checkout takes place on a social channel. Consider: Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest “Buy Now” buttons; they all allow users to make low-friction purchases.
Social shopping was an obvious next step. “Social media has played a critical role in the evolution of online shopping. In fact, 9 out of 10 consumers turn to social media for help with a buying decision and 75% of people bought something because they saw it on social media,” according to Sprout Social.
If you pay attention to one trend this year: social ecommerce (a.k.a social shopping) should be it.
2. Conversational ecommerce
Chris Messina suggests conversational commerce “largely pertains to utilizing chat, messaging, or other natural language interfaces (i.e. voice) to interact with people, brands, or services and bots that heretofore have had no real place in the bidirectional, asynchronous messaging context.”
In essence, “[c]onversational commerce is about delivering convenience, personalization, and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare,” Messina shares.
I’m a bot skeptic. I don’t think conversational ecommerce will ever replace the affordances for browsing and faceted search offered by a dedicated online storefront. But there’s no doubt as a supplement to an online store, conversational interfaces are here to stay.
Amazon’s Echo and Alexa leads the way: an interactive voice interface that can be used to quickly place orders without lifting a finger, for example. As I mentioned earlier, Facebook is also on-board the conversational train with Messenger’s “Buy Button” and a thriving chatbot ecosystem.
3. Low-friction ecommerce interfaces
“It’s been about 15 years since Steve Krug first advised us to not make users think,” in his book Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability. Jerry Cao, describes “[f]riction is anything that prevents users from accomplishing their goals — confusion, distraction, hesitation, or anything else that forces them to think.”
If there’s an overarching ecommerce trend, it’s this: online shopping will be simplified and the mechanics of purchasing will fade away. This is clearly exhibited by the fundamentals of social and conversational ecommerce as they make it possible for shoppers to purchase when, how and where they want.
Unfortunately, way too many online stores still operate with clunky checkouts and painful registration processes. But that won’t fly for much longer. The trend towards low-friction user interfaces (UI) is being driven by mobile. And that’s exactly where online stores need to step up their game.
E-tailers can’t afford to offer a painful user experience if the alternative is shouting at an Amazon Echo from across the room.
On a somewhat related note, Amazon’s US patent on one-click checkout expires this year. This will enable other online retailers to deploy similar technology on their sites.
In coming months, innovative online retailers will go all-in on a frictionless, mobile-first, and deeply personal retail experience. They will change what customers expect from ecommerce. Where they lead, customers will follow.
This article has been edited.