Trends That Will Change Ecommerce Forever in 2018

If you were to place your money on any industry blowing up in 2018, ecommerce would be one of the safest bets you could make. The real debate is not around if online retail is the future of shopping, but rather what that future will look like and how we’re going to get there.

From content strategies and conversion rate optimisation to multi-channel selling and mobile payments, 2017 was somewhat of a melting pot of ecommerce trends. And 2018 will see many of those be combined, refined, and spit out into a select few meta-trends that will completely redefine the landscape for many years to come.

Here we’ve rounded up five of those emerging meta-trends that are already having a huge influence on the way we buy and sell online. If you haven’t done so yet, make them a part of your strategy today and prepare yourself because the future of ecommerce is well and truly here.

1. The new-era of in-store shopping

Partly due to a craving for more personalised experiences and partly due to impatience with the digital world, in 2018, the in-store retail will see a resurgence in life. Who know’s if it’s enough to keep it from dying, but one thing’s for sure: brands are already investing heavily in delivering richer, tech-enhanced in-store experiences.

Perhaps the boldest demonstration of this is in how many online brands are setting up shop in the offline world. Menswear brand Frank And Oak, for example, now have over a dozen physical stores in the US, offering an in-store experience that includes premium coffee and barbershop services. Another pioneer in the new age of in-store retail is Nordstrum. The famous luxury retailer opened a huge store in which they offer no products but focus on services such as tailoring, try-ons, styling and more.

2. Say hello to voice shopping

Over the past few years, due to usability hurdles and user habits, voice technology has struggled to gain momentum. But now everyone and their dog is never a few feet away from an Amazon Echo or Google Home device at any given time, voice is ready to become the next big marketing and selling channel for online retailers.

In 2018, users will become comfortable with using personal assistants to do everything from check their bank balance to order their shopping. This will open up a huge opportunity for those with experiences and strategies optimised for voice search to get ahead. But more than that, it sets the stage for a completely new way of interface-less purchasing that will have a defining impact on the future retail landscape.

3. Augmented reality is now a reality

While voice shopping becomes more popular, what people are able to see and interact with via their screens will continue to matter — in fact, it will become more important than ever before.

From virtual dressing rooms to in-room product visualisations, the practical capabilities of augmented reality for businesses are starting to become too significant to ignore. It has proved its worth with some of the world’s biggest brands — from Ikea to Adobe to MTV. And as it becomes more accessible in 2018, we will see more businesses investing in AR technology and enhancing their digital experiences in everything from marketing and product demos to upselling and relationship building.

4. A truly mobile shopping experience

From the start to the end of 2018, using your phone to pay for a product in-store or place an order online will go from an occasional and clunky act to something so ubiquitous and normal you won’t know what you ever did without it.

The development of more simplified payment technology will be the main driver that finally pushes the trend into the mainstream. Google, Apple, and Samsung are all working on updating their payment technology, and an increasing number of online merchants are recognising it as the preferred method of payment for purchases. If consumers latch on to mobile payments like they have in China, then the bold forecast that 70 percent of all ecommerce traffic will be on mobile by the end of 2018 may not be so bold after all.

5. The machines are learning

AI and machine learning will impact how we shop online more than any other trend. For marketers and online retailers, it has never been a question of if, but rather when.

2018 may be the answer to that question. From remembering when and how often a consumer purchases a product to personalising shopping carts for each particular user, machine learning will bring unlimited automation and optimisation to the online retail experience. And what’s greatest at all, it will make it available to everyone — from the largest to the smallest of ecommerce retailers.

A few examples of how machine learning is already being applied include tailored recommendations, shopping cart abandonment, and dynamic retargeting. But it’s fair to say, given enough time, machine learning will leave no part of the online shopping process untouched.

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Alistair Hague

Alistair Hague

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