Technology has dramatically changed the retail space to the point where customers are expecting great shopping experiences, increasing product options, immediate functionality, and fast delivery. Here’s how the digital retail scene is evolving this year, according to Harley Finkelstein, COO of popular commerce platform Shopify.
Mobile checkouts are on a growing curve and set to overcome desktop or tablet shopping in the future. In the United States, almost 40% of e-commerce sales are expected to come from mobile this year.
Although mobile e-commerce has been slow to take off in South Africa, mobile spend is projected to increase by 123% by 2018, according to PayPal and Ipsos, which provides an immense opportunity for online retailers.
Fueling the growing mobile e-commerce trends are improved smartphone functionality, mobile-friendly websites, and integrated payment systems through iPhone and Android platforms.
Finkelstein believes mobile shopping will transform over the next years through game-changing technology like facial recognition and voice commerce. Simply looking at your purchase on your device or giving verbal commands for Siri, Alexa, or Google Now to buy products on the spot will truly revolutionise online shopping.
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Social Media Shopping
Purchasing products and services directly on social media platforms is getting better. In-app purchasing on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest finally give social media users the opportunity to immediate shop without leaving the virtual comfort of these networks.
Brands are probably the biggest gainers of the rising trend in social media shopping. Impulse buys are finally no longer the pinnacle of traditional retail only – shopping gratification is now as easy as liking a post on Facebook.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It’s already happening – augmented reality integration in online shopping apps finally let buyers visualise the product they want to order and decide if it’s going to be a good fit or not – perfect for apparel and home and décor enthusiasts.
There are a few popular applications of AR in online shopping. The user watches as the selected product is shown on a mannequin or in their environment by pointing the phone to that specific location. There are still many possibilities to be explored.
As with other industries, AI-powered chatbots are gaining ground to create a better customer experience. Machine learning is used to optimise the retail chain, including tracking and shipping updates, and handling customer requests or concerns.
AI and AR technologies are perhaps the most important industry advancement from a retailer’s perspective leading to improved business efficiency and performance while doing what retail is expected to do: keeping customers happy.
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