To most people in the developed world, the time before online shopping existed was tantamount to the Dark Ages. Yet it’s only been a little more than two decades since Amazon sold its first book and eBay made history with the world’s first online auction sale of a broken laser pointer purchased for $14.83. Since that time, of course, e-commerce has exploded, and while knowing the exact path and trajectory of that explosion would require a powerful crystal ball, what’s on the next horizon seems pretty clear. As e-commerce — like everything in the Digital Age — evolves at a breathtaking pace, here is what the near-future is going to look like.
1. Meeting Security Challenges
Finding the best e-commerce solutions for everything from an improved customer experience to security is part and parcel of being an online retailer, but more and more, security is taking center stage. Hacking is growing increasingly nefarious and complex, and “I’m sorry,” just won’t cut it if the worst happens to you and your customers. So, not only must you provide a shopping experience that’s streamlined and easy-to-use for your customers, but you must also do so in an incredibly secure environment. Your customers must feel safe, and they must be safe. From card data security to simple privacy regarding purchases, to succeed beyond the next horizon, your security must be uber-tight.
2. The Addition of Brick and Mortar
Brick and mortar is making something of a comeback as companies like Amazon open up stores. Is online shopping about to go the way of the dodo? Hardly. Online behemoths like Amazon recognize that brick-and-mortar stores provide something that even the most sophisticated websites with the most sophisticated photos, descriptions, reviews, and video cannot: a real experience of a product. While many people still shop in physical retail spaces, brick-and-mortar stores will actually become, and in many ways are already being treated as, little more than showrooms for people trying to do research regarding a purchase they’re actually going to make online.
3. Content Will Get King-ier
Content — as far as search engines are concerned — has been king for a while, but that trend is about to get kicked up to an even trendier and more frenzied status. Yes, content will still be an essential part of any solid marketing strategy, because SEO will demand it, but customers are going to start expecting high-quality, unique, and custom content, too. People are spending their lives online, and they’re looking for brands, blogs, sites, and other online experiences that are engaging, interesting, meaningful, educational, and entertaining. If your e-commerce site isn’t offering a fresh batch of content on an almost daily basis that fits that bill, your sales will suffer. So, invest in content now. From great writing and testimonials to interactive quizzes and killer video, content is a king that’s on the march.
4. The Micro-Moment
The idea that your entire demographic would respond to the same ad is already passé; increased personalization has been the name of the game for a while now. Users are increasingly being targeted as the individuals that they are, but the near future of e-commerce is honing in even further on the “micro-moments” those individuals experience. What is a micro-moment? According to Think With Google, a micro-moment is the immediate time and space a person on the Web is in when trying to find something, buy something, or do something. For e-commerce retailers to succeed on the next horizon, they have to meet their potential customers in their micro-moments. From optimizing marketing campaigns to capitalize on the small but significant Right Now to providing content that satisfies questions and curiosities a potential customer might have Right Now, micro-moments are the new Prime Time, and the bulk of them happen on mobile, which brings us to:
5. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile, Mobile…Mobile!
It is hard to overstate just how important mobile devices are about to become to the world of online sales, which is why e-commerce retailers need to pull out all the stops and invest in mobile optimization across every channel, now. From reworking your site so that it’s adaptive or responsive to reworking your marketing campaigns so they work best for a small screen environment, the next horizon of e-commerce will take place inside tablets and smartphones.
E-commerce exists in a complicated world that, thanks to technology’s near-constant evolution, is always changing. If you’re an online retailer, at least be wise about what’s on the next horizon, whether you’re optimizing for mobile to grabbing the micro-moment.