eCommerce, like many industries, has experienced a rapid evolution due to the development of new technologies, particularly with the growing capabilities of mobile devices. Mobile commerce is growing at a harrying pace. Now, almost a third of all transactions are conducted on mobile devices, and this trend is expected to grow.
What lies on the horizon for business owners looking to stay on top of market trends? The most predominant evolution is the confluence of the brick and mortar shopping experience and the mobile shopping experience. In the early stages of eCommerce, then mCommerce, it seemed business owners were advised to approach each offering with a completely different strategy.
However, it appears that these experiences are beginning to overlap, and consumers are using mobile devices to enhance their brick and mortar shopping experiences, while using brick and mortar experiences to make mobile shopping more convenient.
Trend 1: Mobile Apps + Loyalty Programs = Customers Who Keep Coming Back
Many online businesses, or brick and mortar businesses with an online store, have opted to develop mobile applications as part of their mobile strategy. Mobile applications provide a whole new means of engaging and connecting with customers.
One way forward-thinking businesses can take advantage of new mobile responsive eCommerce technology is through the development of a loyalty or rewards program. Starbuck’s program has been wildly successful. The Starbuck’s app keeps track of how many times users have visited Starbuck’s and alerts them when they are due for a free cup of coffee.
Trend 2: Mobile Payments
One of the primary barriers that has kept mobile commerce from exploding on an even greater scale than it already has has been customer difficulty navigating through the payment process on mobile devices as well as concerns about the security of payments completed on mobile devices. Mobile Payments address this challenge by providing quick and easy one-click payment capabilities.
Mobile payments have come a long, long way since they were first introduced. And, they still have a way to go to earn customer trust. However, with larger brands like Wal-Mart and Target jumping on board and developing their own mobile payment solutions, it is only a matter of time before mobile payments are a daily reality for customers. Businesses who are prepared and on the forefront of this trend will be primed to take advantage of the growth that will inevitably result from widespread adoption.
Trend 3: Mobile Beacons and the Omnichannel Shopping Experience
Many brick and mortar retailers are realizing that mobile devices do not provide simply another means of payment, they also provide a gateway to information and live, interactive media related to products and services. Here are a number of ways mobile devices are enhancing the in-store shopping experience.
- Some of the larger retailers have experimented with mobile beacons, devices attached to the walls which help customers with smartphones learn more about products, locate products in the store and even make purchases.
- New technology also allows customers to scan products and learn more about them and about potential promotions.
- Customers are also using mobile devices to purchase items for in-store pickup to save on shipping time and cost.
Trend 4: Wearable Technology
It is estimated that 15% of the United States population owns and wears a wearable device. Wearable devices are potentially the new frontier for advertising and customer communications. It is expected that by 2018, 112 million units of wearable technology will have been sold.
Smart retailers have developed ways to alert customers, based on their location, of promotions and deals close to them. “Hyperlocal advertising,” the new wave of marketing, is made possible by this new technology. Imagine coupons, product info and location alerts being delivered straight to your customers’ wrists. We may not be quite there yet, but the future of eCommerce appears to be heading in this direction.
Trend 5: Mobile Image Recognition (MIR)
One current use of mobile image recognition technology allows customers to browse through paper catalogs and take photos of products they would like to buy. They are then immediately directed to checkout to purchase those products. This “snap to buy” technology is much quicker and more convenient than logging on to a website to make a purchase or calling a sales rep.
Some MIR tech providers are working on the capability to “snap to buy” any product customers encounter. For example, you happen to meet a friend for lunch and fall in love with her new handbag. She doesn’t remember where she got it, but she doesn’t need to. You take a picture of it and immediately receive information about the product as well as the option to purchase it right then and there. This technology hasn’t been developed yet, but it is really only a matter of time!
Widespread adoption of these trends is years away for the average small business. However, by investigating new trends and emerging technologies, it is possible to better understand the mindset of the modern consumer and adapt to his or her needs on a smaller scale. Customer expectations are changing yearly as new technology develops and changes the way customers interact with their favorite brands or discover new brands. Understanding how customers prefer to buy is the first step in selling them more, on whatever scale.