Year after year, new technology favors ecommerce over brick-and-mortar retail. Ecommerce has a lot stacked against it from the onset, but it’s one reliable advantage is the constant advancement of all things digital.
And 2018 is no different — in fact, as we explained in our article about the 5 top ecommerce trends of 2018, this year is actually a more drastic shift into the future. New technologies like virtual assistants and augmented reality are changing the shape of ecommerce, making 2018 a year of transition.
But what are we transitioning into? Take a look at these 5 exciting new technologies for online retail.
1. Augmented Reality
Maybe one of the new ecommerce technologies of 2025 will be virtual reality, but for 2018, we’ve got augmented reality. Also known as AR, this tech is already being used in apps by IKEA, Houzz, and Amazon.
To break it down, augmented reality uses a real-life image through your phone’s camera, and then superimposes a virtual image over it, such as a piece of furniture. It’s a fascinating new tech that lets you “try on” items otherwise too cumbersome to move around or experiment with.
The implications are nearly limitless. You could test out different wall paints, plan out an entire room, or even visualize entire buildings or house additions. Aside from interior design, it can also help test makeup on your face, something Sephora discovered early.
And no one benefits more than online stores, where customers can purchase items moments after exploring them in AR. Aside from the novelty of having a new cutting shopping tool, AR enhances the actual shopping experience; shoppers can buy with more confidence, even if its their first visit to your store.
2. AI Chatbots
While fans of the Terminator franchise might be skeptical, most of the population is welcoming AI-powered chatbots for easier online shopping. Brands like eBay, Burberry, Pizza Hut, and (again) Sephora have already adopted chatbots with positive receptions.
Chatbots fulfill the online shopper’s desire for assistance, an itch ecommerce has been trying to scratch for years. While not as empathetic or comforting as a human representative, chatbots are cheaper and, more importantly, always there. Making customers wait on a response could lose you a sale, so it’s nice security to have a tireless chatbot assisting the odd-hours shoppers.
And the best part is, it’s available now. Hearing talk about artificial intelligence makes it seem like a long-off technology, but the basic version that powers chatbots has been around for a couple years. That means it’s already been refined and adapted for ecommerce. If you’d like to look into third-party solutions, Chatbots Magazine lists the top 10 chatbot platforms for business.
The Bitcoin bubble may have burst, but only after leaving an important legacy: it’s time we start taking cryptocurrency seriously. Bitcoin proved a decentralized, digital currency is possible, albeit unstable at the moment. And no matter the ultimate fate of Bitcoin, hundreds of other cryptocurrencies are now under development, and they’re learning from their predecessor’s missteps.
With their digital natures, cryptocurrency and ecommerce should go hand-in-hand. So, in the wake of Bitcoin, many online retailers are asking themselves whether or not to accept cryptocurrency.
To sum it up, accepting cryptocurrency has a lot of small benefits against one giant drawback. For online retailers, cryptocurrency can be a big help with:
- Lower risk of fraud. Credit cards require a lot of personal data floating about, whereas cryptocurrencies involve one simple transaction, and can even be anonymous.
- Global Access. There’s no need to set up different banking accounts for whatever currency you’re doing business in; cryptocurrencies are inherently global.
- New Customer Group. Because cryptocurrencies are still new, there aren’t many places that accept them. That’s a lot less competition for those that do, not to mention better customer loyalty from grateful current holders.
- No Chargebacks. Using a digital currency in a digital marketplace is one single and final transaction, which means no back-and-forth with card companies.
Still, those benefits are offset by the elephant in the room: today’s cryptocurrencies are just unstable. Chances are this will get sorted out in a few years, but for now ecommerce companies who choose to accept cryptocurrencies should be prepared for that volatility.
4. Virtual Assistants (Voice Searches)
Who’s doing the actual site searching: your customer or Siri? Virtual assistants are gaining popularity so quickly they’re verging on a tech disruptor. With a few strategic tweaks ecommerce companies can adapt without consequence.
The major impact for online stores is voice searches. SEO and site navigation in the past were built around typed text, but now forward-thinking ecommerce companies are incorporating voice search strategies. In specific terms, this means more natural language and an emphasis on long-tail keywords, such as complete-sentence questions.
If you’d like to know about more fool proofing your online store for voice searches, we wrote an in-depth article about preparing your retail website for voice search.
5. Drone Delivery (Honorable Mention)
We couldn’t in good conscience write an article about ecommerce technology without mentioning drone delivery. However, it comes with an “honorable mention” caveat because, well, it’s not quite ready yet.
It’s not the technology, per se, that’s holding it back. It’s more about government regulations and consumer acceptance. Unlike the other technologies on this list, drones are controversial with their potential for interrupting privacy. Many consumers are still wary of the technology, which is just as well since lawmakers all over the world are still scratching their heads about how to regulate it.
So, we’ll give a gray answer for now and say, yes, drone delivery will have a huge impact on ecommerce, but, no, probably not in 2018. We’ll keep you posted next year!
What Tech Are You Looking Forward To?
This is an exciting time for technology, with a lot of new techs just now crossing the horizon. Which one are you looking forward to most? Do you have any questions? We want to hear your thoughts, so share your opinions below in the comments section now.