If there’s one market sector that has showcased excellent performance, it’s online selling. Sales volumes are expected to top $4 trillion by 2020 by some accounts, and much of this runaway success is due to the types of technologies that online sellers are integrating into their websites. This is not necessarily news, however. In fact, e-commerce design has always evolved over time thanks to new technologies and ways to apply those technologies in innovative and groundbreaking ways.
Every year, new and interesting ways to leverage web technologies have emerged that revolutionize online marketplaces. 2018 has seen its fair share of iconoclastic design trends in the world of e-commerce. These trends have made it easier for companies of all sizes to deliver products and services quicker and more reliably, to provide higher levels of customer service, and to drive sales volume. Here are just a few of the most successful trends, the underlying technology behind them, and how they might continue to impact web design and development going forward.
Machine Learning and Automation
One major trend for 2018 is a push away from traditional keyword-based recommendation systems and instead embracing automation. The key technologies at play here are machine learning, often in the form of big data and predictive analysis. As a result, consumers beginning to be presented with much more accurate options when it comes to online shopping that are based on a much higher number of data points collected from a wider array of their online experiences.
Working hand-in-hand with machine learning is automated customer service funnels that provide a robust number of tools to make interaction with consumers easier and more streamlined. Automated chat bots integrated into an e-commerce site can answer simple queries or even manage payments in a manner that don’t require leaving to a third-party site. The automated chat bots of today can be used to great effect in an existing e-commerce site, and exciting research into these technologies will only increase these capabilities going into the future.
Increased Focus on Mobile Shopping
The writing on the wall has been there for some time — mobile shopping experiences are extremely valued by today’s consumers. Creating mobile-friendly e-commerce sites optimized for smaller screens and touch navigation has been a trend for years as a result. However, major retailers are increasingly investing in the development of standalone mobile apps alongside these websites to hedge their bets and to offer better overall experiences to their customers.
Providing mobile shopping options goes further than things like one-click ordering directly from your tablet, though. Research has shown that an increasing number of consumers will research products and services online before then purchasing at a physical location. More than 8 out of 10 consumers learn more about local businesses in this manner, for example, and often rely on e-commerce sites or apps that provide access to user reviews to help them research prospective purposes.
Voice Recognition and the Internet of Things
Voice recognition software and “smart” technology (the driving force behind the Internet of Things movement) have both progressed quickly during 2018, opening up new avenues for software and hardware programmers and designers to stretch their wings. Not simply relegated to things like mobile phones, voice recognition is used increasingly in composite devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa, both as a quality-of-life improvement and also to make it easier for consumers to purchase items by simply speaking aloud.
This trend is certainly growing strong, with research indicating that nearly one out of every four consumers has one of these smart-controlled appliances that make it easier than ever to make purchases in this manner. This makes the design of similar devices, or software created to use the infrastructure already present in these devices, likely to be high in demand. APIs and gateways to integrate third-party e-commerce sites with voice purchasing through these and similar devices could very well be in the immediate future.
Finally, one of the most interesting, yet still nascent, technologies being used in e-commerce at an increasing rate is augmented reality, or AR. Up until now relegated to novelty status by applying filters to Snapchat selfies, AR has shown its true colors with some major retailers adopting the technology to market their products. A prime example of this is how Ikea’s Place app allows users to envision how the company’s furniture would look within their own home.
While Ikea’s foray into AR was initially seen more as a gimmick and not necessarily a proof of concept, other e-commerce establishments have been following suit. The Amazon AR View function is one of those, and with the world’s largest online retailer setting the pace the demand for similar functionalities will likely increase in order to remain competitive. This will provide ample opportunities for programmers and designers going forward.
Prepare for the Future Today
These emergent e-commerce trends are just the tip of the iceberg. The future may not be completely clear, but it’s more than obvious what direction the wind is blowing and what kind of consumer experiences will be pursued with greater alacrity. As technologies continue to be developed and applied to the online retail environment, the need for e-commerce sites to adopt these new technologies will only increase exponentially.
As a result, it’s important for web designers and mobile programmers begin researching methods for integrating these new modalities into their repertoire. It’s also important for e-commerce sites that want to ride this new wave of online shopping tech trends to seek out reliable web design partners that have the requisite skills and experience to forge forward in this brave new world of e-commerce design and development.
Author: Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Writing Service. With an extensive career in digital marketing and web development, Ben’s knowledge of the industry has enabled small businesses to scale and grow through well-crafted content and strategy.