Technology is driving changes in the e-Commerce industry and decisively impacting the way we shop. The e-Commerce landscape has been changing throughout the years. Amazon launched its mobile commerce site in 2001, once e-Commerce on the web became familiar to most web users. Mobile-friendly purchasing then gave way to social shopping, with marketing gearing toward social media, apps, email, and websites.
The present and future of e-Commerce continue to be exciting and full of prompt change, propelled by emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
The Emergence of Blockchain
The surge in popularity of cryptocurrency effectively makes 'blockchain' among the most buzzed-about tech terms. Invented in 2008 for use in bitcoin and as a public transaction ledger, blockchain's usefulness extends well beyond purchasing and selling cryptocurrency.
E-Commerce is growing, particularly with the embracing of the blockchain, with retail giants like Walmart seeking to seize the tech's potential. Walmart's recent patent describes a 'smart package' that records information on a blockchain regarding the package's contents, environmental conditions, location and more. Walmart also has a patent regarding a blockchain-based drone package delivery tracking system.
The strong interest of retail giants like Walmart in blockchain suggests a very active future for the technology. In the patent, Walmart touches on the will of online customers to purchase items that require a controlled environment, such as food or other sensitive materials.
The blockchain, as a result, strives to make shipping 'smarter' by providing blockchain encryption in deliveries, as well as technology to situate a controlled environment. The blockchain component can provide a hashtag that includes a seller private key address, a buyer private key address, and a courier private key address.
In addition to Walmart, Nestle and Kroger are in partnership with IBM to use the blockchain to improve food traceability. Retail giants that mold the e-Commerce landscape believe strongly in blockchain's potential. Businesses offering subscription boxes can also benefit. Each year, major carriers increase their service rates and surcharges by at least 4.9%. With blockchain, subscription box businesses can better track and ensure a suitable environment for delivery, cutting down on liability costs.
Enhanced Consumer Experience
Businesses are constantly seeking ways to engage customers. In e-Commerce, there's an evident desire to stand out from the competition. An enhanced customer service, featuring augmented and virtual reality, can effectively help businesses to stand out and provide a memorable experience for consumers.
Using either AR or VR, consumers can take a virtual tour around a digital store, such as how a BBC video enables a 360-degree view that's fully controllable by the viewer. The 360-degree view effectively provides the e-Commerce landscape to give the intimate feeling of a brick-and-mortar while still being conveniently online via a 360-degree video experience.
Beauty and clothing websites, in particular, are embracing AR and VR, letting consumers see how a specific eyeliner or blouse looks on them with a few clicks. AR apps like 'Get The Look' enables consumers to try on any makeup look they like and purchase that makeup directly via Google.
AI is emerging in some capacity in most industries, and e-Commerce is no exception. Intelligent, AI-driven algorithms can help personalize a consumer's shopping experience by analyzing their past buying habits. Additionally, AI can assist with order and inventory management, helping businesses fulfill orders without issue. Chatbots are another rising trend in e-Commerce, using AI in place of customer support to help answer basic questions and inquiries.
Technological strides make multichannel selling a greater possibility than ever in e-Commerce. Serving several channels increases a business' reach, with the rise in software that can communicate via APIs to various sales channels echoing a desire in e-Commerce to expand. Today, software is capable of working seamlessly with data sets from an online store, social media, retail store, and catalog to help bring in customers, personalize their experience and culminate in a purchase.
These emerging technologies are changing the landscape of e-Commerce, mostly for the benefit of consumers in providing more secure shipping and personalized shopping experiences.