E-COM­MERCE TECH­NOL­OGY: TRENDS FOR 2019

Business of Fashion - - Innovation Special - Shivam Gau­tom

The re­tail land­scape is chang­ing, new channels are emerg­ing, and new tech­nolo­gies are rou­tinely be­com­ing stan­dards – the on­line mar­ket­ing space is in con­stant shift. IM­AGES Busi­ness of Fash­ion put to­gether the tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments that are ex­pected to trig­ger e-com­merce trends in 2019…

The on­line fash­ion shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence is evolv­ing faster than ever be­fore. The uber modern, dig­i­tally em­pow­ered modern con­sumers ex­pect seam­less ex­pe­ri­ences across all touch points, com­pelling re­tail­ers to be on the cut­ting edge of tech­nol­ogy. While tech­nol­ogy has be­come an in­dis­pens­able part of the re­tail tem­plate in en­tirety, its in­flu­ence is more pro­found in the e-com­merce do­main.

Tech­nol­ogy is the back­bone of e-com­merce.

Every pass­ing year wit­nesses the ad­vent of newer tech­nolo­gies that just keep push­ing the en­ve­lope fur­ther. As of 2018, the on­line fash­ion re­tail sphere is re­plete with tech­ni­cal buzz­words like Aug­mented Re­al­ity (AR), Vir­tual Re­al­ity (VR), Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) and Ma­chine Learn­ing to name just a few.

As 2018 draws to a close, the fash­ion re­tail in­dus­try is an­tic­i­pat­ing new trends that tech­nol­ogy will her­ald in the year to come. Pre­dic­tion is a dif­fi­cult art form, es­pe­cially if it’s about the fu­ture, but af­ter ar­du­ous re­search, IM­AGES Busi­ness of Fash­ion has put to­gether ma­jor trends that e-com­merce gu­rus around the world as­sert will shape the e-com­merce in­dus­try in 2019.

One-on-One Re­la­tion­ships

Thanks to AI and ma­chine learn­ing, per­son­al­iza­tion has be­come a re­tail re­al­ity. Al­though it’s still is at an ado­les­cent stage, es­pe­cially in In­dia, more up­take of this in­no­va­tion is ex­pected in the year to come, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the mas­sive ef­fect it has on in­tel­li­gent cus­tomer ser­vice. It costs five times as

much to at­tract a new cus­tomer than to keep an ex­ist­ing one, so forg­ing long-term per­sonal re­la­tion­ships with cus­tomers is crit­i­cal to any e-com­merce re­tailer’s bot­tom line and fu­ture com­pany health.

Chat­bots

Chat­bots are rapidly ame­lio­rat­ing the e-com­merce ex­pe­ri­ence and if ex­perts are to be be­lieved, chat­bots will be an es­sen­tial part of any fash­ion e-com­merce set up in the years to come. A be­spoke chat­bot can ef­fi­ciently drive en­gage­ment, sales, and bet­ter cus­tomer sup­port and are touted as be­ing ef­fi­cient in ‘conversational com­merce’.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Hub­spot, 48 per­cent of con­sumers would rather con­nect with a com­pany via live chat than any other mean of con­tact. About 35 per­cent of con­sumers want to see more com­pa­nies us­ing chat­bots ac­cord­ing to Ubisend. Brands like Tommy Hil­figer, Sephora, Nord­strom, Ever­lane, Burberry and Amer­i­can Ea­gle are al­ready ex­per­i­ment­ing with chat­bots.

Smart Home As­sis­tants & Voice Recog­ni­tion Sys­tems

A 2017 sur­vey found that 41 per­cent of peo­ple who own de­vices like Ama­zon Echo and Google Home plan to pur­chase some­thing with voice tech­nol­ogy in the fu­ture. The English man­age­ment con­sult­ing com­pany OC&C Strat­egy Con­sul­tants es­ti­mates that by 2020, voice com­merce will to­tal $40 bil­lion sales in the US alone.

While the trend of smart home as­sis­tants and voice recog­ni­tion sys­tems is still at a teething stage in In­dia, the phe­nom­e­non of au­to­matic speech recog­ni­tion has caught on and the pop­u­lar­ity and usage is ex­pected to bol­ster by the next year. Ex­perts be­lieve that Ama­zon’s Echo, Google’s Home, and Ap­ple’s Homepod will pro­pel the in­dus­try for­ward, leav­ing e-com­merce brands with the task of mov­ing into those new channels with voice-savvy cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ences.

SaaS E-Com­merce Plat­forms

No on-premise sys­tem could ever guar­an­tee the speed and sta­bil­ity that Soft­ware-as-a-Ser­vice (SaaS) e-com­merce plat­forms are syn­ony­mous with. As a re­sult, an in­creas­ing num­ber of busi­nesses are turn­ing to SaaS apps and sys­tems to run their op­er­a­tions. The big­gest ben­e­fit of SaaS plat­forms is that the en­tire e-com­merce sys­tem op­er­ates on the servers hosted by SaaS providers. E-com­merce plat­forms on SaaS plat­forms do not have to in­stall the soft­ware on-premise or main­tain it — the third party provider shoul­ders the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the se­cu­rity, per­for­mance and main­te­nance of the ap­pli­ca­tion on their servers. Ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­can re­search, ad­vi­sory and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy firm Gart­ner, SaaS will reach the “plateau of pro­duc­tiv­ity” in the next year or two.

ML and AI-As­sisted E-Com­merce

Ma­chine Learn­ing (ML) and Ar­ti­fi­cial In­tel­li­gence (AI) are be­com­ing in­te­gral parts of many in­dus­tries, and e-com­merce is no dif­fer­ent. AI based e-com­merce is pick­ing up in In­dia, al­though slowly. It is ex­pected that plat­forms pow­ered by AI will as­sist in more tar­geted, per­son­al­ized ex­pe­ri­ences and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns which will drive sales on­line. These tech­nolo­gies al­low busi­nesses to pro­vide a tar­geted shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence while re­duc­ing neg­a­tive feed­back. Ex­perts as­sert that there will be a def­i­nite in­crease in uti­liza­tion and im­prove­ment of AI and ML al­go­rithms through­out 2019 and be­yond.

An­a­lyt­ics Plat­forms

An­a­lyt­i­cal plat­forms are an ab­so­lute must be­cause met­rics are ev­ery­thing when it comes to run­ning an ef­fec­tive e-com­merce busi­ness. Modern an­a­lyt­i­cal plat­forms sup­port a slew of func­tions in the e-com­merce in­dus­try rang­ing from Sup­ply Chain Man­age­ment, Mer­chant/Cus­tomer Fraud De­tec­tion, Mer­chant An­a­lyt­ics, Rec­om­mender Sys­tems, Prod­uct Spe­cific An­a­lyt­ics, On­line Mar­ket­ing An­a­lyt­ics, User Ex­pe­ri­ence An­a­lyt­ics, etc. Ex­perts be­lieve that An­a­lyt­ics plat­forms will un­dergo mas­sive evo­lu­tion in the years to come into a po­ten­tial tool that can even help with im­prov­ing prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, pric­ing, etc.

Mo­bile Pay­ments

Ac­cord­ing to the statis­tic por­tal, Statista, the world­wide mo­bile pay­ment rev­enue in 2015 was 450 bil­lion U.S. dol­lars and is ex­pected to sur­pass USD$ 1 tril­lion in 2019. E-com­merce has seen a paradigm shift from desk­top to mo­bile and an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple are shop­ping on the go. It is clear that a mo­bile-first strat­egy is the call of the hour for every e-com­merce brand. Very soon, pay­ment com­pa­nies are ex­pected to stan­dard­ize the ap­proach to pay­ments by mak­ing the buy­ing process sim­pler quicker and more se­cure. E-pay­ments are the en­gine that drives e-com­merce, so it’s es­sen­tial that e-tail­ers have it tuned to per­fec­tion. Re­search have doc­u­mented that fast pay­ment meth­ods can in­crease con­ver­sion by at least 20 per­cent.

Blockchain-En­abled E-Com­merce

The sole con­cept of blockchain is truly rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and it will al­most cer­tainly im­pact the e-com­merce world in the years to come. The blockchain tech­nol­ogy an­swers an ex­cit­ing busi­ness op­por­tu­nity in e-com­merce with re­spect to trans­parency, re­li­a­bil­ity and cost re­duc­tions. It es­pe­cially proves to be a good so­lu­tion for those ven­dors who want to in­clude trans­parency in their busi­ness trans­ac­tions and to man­age the con­sumer data re­li­ably. It also helps to de­crease the de­pen­dency on pa­per-based le­gacy sys­tems and con­tains the crypto-trans­ac­tions. So, if busi­nesses want to stay sig­nif­i­cant for fu­ture cus­tomers, then they should start to ex­plore the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of blockchain tech­nol­ogy and e-com­merce now only.

Ad­vanced Prod­uct Fil­ter­ing

Ad­vance Prod­uct Fil­ter­ing is the next stan­dard in e-com­merce as it al­lows con­sumers to find ex­actly what they need faster and with more op­tions. Fil­ter at­tributes such as size, colour, ma­te­rial, price, etc., help con­sumers nar­row their search. With end­less op­tions across the web, it’s im­por­tant to pro­vide your cus­tomers with ways to fil­ter prod­ucts, so they don’t look else­where. There have been great ad­vances in e-com­merce search with com­pa­nies such as Al­goia, Cele­bros and In­staSearch+ us­ing nat­u­ral lan­guage pro­cess­ing and ma­chine learn­ing to show highly rel­e­vant search re­sults.

Au­to­ma­tion

While au­to­ma­tion is slowly be­com­ing a sta­ple in most in­dus­tries around the world, the e-com­merce shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence has pos­si­bly the most to gain from au­to­ma­tion. Au­to­ma­tion in­volves a very broad range of tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing ro­bot­ics and ex­pert sys­tems, teleme­try and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, elec­troop­tics, Cy­ber­se­cu­rity, process mea­sure­ment and con­trol, sen­sors, wire­less ap­pli­ca­tions, sys­tems in­te­gra­tion, test mea­sure­ment, and many more. The pro­nounced fea­tures of au­to­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy stream­lines a num­ber of pro­cesses, such as sales, mar­ket­ing, in­ven­tory man­age­ment, pro­duc­tion and de­liv­ery ser­vices, thereby push­ing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion to the next level. There are plenty of plat­form ag­nos­tic e-com­merce au­to­ma­tion so­lu­tions out there such as Shopify Plus, Drip and Klaviyo, etc.

“The pro­nounced fea­tures of au­to­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy stream­lines a num­ber of pro­cesses, such as sales, mar­ket­ing, in­ven­tory man­age­ment, pro­duc­tion and de­liv­ery ser­vices, thereby push­ing cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion to the next level.”

Multi-Chan­nel At­tri­bu­tion

Multi-chan­nel at­tri­bu­tion has emerged as an in­dis­pens­able need as the lines blur be­tween the dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal world. This refers to un­der­stand­ing a brand’s cus­tomer touch points and which mar­ket­ing channels and cam­paigns are con­tribut­ing the most to­wards driv­ing vis­i­tors, and ul­ti­mately sales. For a be­gin­ner’s look into on­line at­tri­bu­tion, Google An­a­lyt­ics of­fers at­tri­bu­tion mod­el­ling to de­ter­mine the rel­a­tive value of dif­fer­ent dig­i­tal channels for con­ver­sions and ROI. For a more ad­vanced look at at­tri­bu­tion, you could use soft­ware like Biz­ible, or Looker. Dis­cover which channels are caus­ing block­ers or driv­ing con­ver­sions.

Aug­mented Re­al­ity

Aug­mented re­al­ity has al­ready kicked in in the In­dian fash­ion e-re­tail space and ex­perts be­lieve that its in­flu­ence will only grow in the years to come. AR cre­ates a sense of pres­ence for ob­jects that aren’t re­ally there. As a re­sult, prod­ucts com­bined with Aug­mented Re­al­ity can in­flu­ence the po­ten­tial cus­tomers a lot more than pic­tures or videos. As com­pared to a nor­mal e-com­merce ex­pe­ri­ence, AR in­te­grated e-com­merce ex­pe­ri­ence of­fers en­hanced cus­tomer en­gage­ment and the abil­ity to mod­ify and cus­tom­ize your se­lec­tion.

Prod­uct In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment

A Prod­uct In­for­ma­tion Man­age­ment (PIM) sys­tem’s most im­por­tant task is to help a com­pany man­age large amounts of com­plex prod­uct in­for­ma­tion and dis­trib­ute all of this in­for­ma­tion ef­fi­ciently on the rel­e­vant channels. A PIM sys­tem makes it easy to cre­ate and main­tain all of the types of prod­uct in­for­ma­tion, so that you can pro­vide the pur­chaser with a full de­scrip­tion of the prod­uct — its pre­cise spec­i­fi­ca­tions, all of the nec­es­sary im­ages and videos, rel­e­vant datasheet, etc.

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