You now have a great website with a strong social media presence that your customers love. Your business is building a reputation and the sales are ticking over nicely. All is well. For now at least…

Like anything else in this world, change is inevitable. Updates, upgrades, and upswings are a given in e-commerce. If you’re quick on the uptake of these developments, they can provide a powerful uplift to your business, so the worst thing you could do is be uptight about them.

It can be difficult to follow the latest updates as there is something new almost every day now. That is where it can be an advantage to speak to a specialist in e-commerce to maintain your relevance as an online business.

We have previewed some of the more interesting developments that could be on their way in the not-too-distant future:

1. Personalisation

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There is already some degree of a personalised customer experience when you have an account on an e-commerce site. You have suggested products based on what you have already bought for example. There is also targeted advertising on social media and Google for interests and keywords relevant to search terms. Further personalisation will be expected by your customers.

Providing a unique, tailored online shopping experience for each customer will really boost your customer retention and encourage them to buy more from you. The most effective way to develop your e-commerce site to provide this is to retain a database of keywords and tags relevant to each individual customer with a registered account on your website. You can display products related to what your customer is buying and searching for on your website.

It is worth looking to integrate social network logins to your website. For example, a customer would be able to login to your site and see suggestions based on what their Facebook friends have bought from you. Aiming for a user experienced on your e-commerce site could be personalised as such that when your customer logs in, they are presented with their own landing page dashboard of products, blog articles, videos, and loyalty based offers exclusive to them.

2. E-commersation

This is so important we’ve even made up a new word for it. It is e-commerce mid-conversation basically.

Asia have been leading the way with this idea for a number of years now with WeChat. It is a Chinese messaging app that allows users to order a coffee, buy new trainers, get the groceries and book a hotel all from the same app. ‘Buy’ call-to-action buttons have been tried on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, though there hasn’t been the same uptake locally with them as WeChat’s in-app purchasing in China. However, this is where ‘e-commersation’ comes in. Facebook have been developing their Messenger app further for businesses to allow more one-to-one conversations with

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customers. With rumours of a Facebook Wallet similar to Google Wallet coming soon, you can expect to see in-app buying without leaving Messenger a possibility. Promoting your Messenger code will encourage people to talk to your business and even send out sponsored messages.

Integrating with social like this for e-commersation is important, though you could easily do the same on your own website with the customer service chat options that are becoming increasingly common. Customers may use this as a consultancy based chat to get direct advice on what type of product they should buy from you. You can then recommend a specific product and they could complete a transaction from within your chat window in one-click.

3. Better roads

“What has that got to do with my e-commerce site?” No, people won’t be ordering petrol online through their dashboard. Proposed improvements to infrastructure across the island of Ireland will see improvements in delivery times from supplier to customer. This will also result in reduced fuel costs whether you have your own delivery vehicle or use a courier, so it’s a great opportunity to make products more affordable for your customer as well as reduce overheads for your business.

Why are we talking about better roads? A plan from the Joint Business Council (JBC) of Ibec and CBI Northern Ireland was recently released for infrastructural improvement across Northern Ireland and the Republic by 2050. Delivering from Derry/Londonderry to Omagh or Monaghan to Coalisland would be much faster with this network in place.

4. Mobile

Smartphones and tablets have established themselves as an essential part of everyday life. Whether for business or personal use, they are a vital component for people now, and they will continue to be in future. GPS technology in smartphones allows for delivery of products from the warehouse to wherever the customer is located, even if they’re on the move.

As customers seek more convenience in the future, this will be something to consider. Voice search will also drive a lot of traffic to your products. We recommend including variations of long-tail keywords in your web content as well as using the likes of Google Product Listing Ads. For example, someone may search for “party shoes” on Google Shopping, see the results and then decide they want to see a certain colour of shoes too. Instead of typing that out, they can just voice search for “party shoes in red”. Voice search will influence how you target your customers through SEO and arrange your product page content, so it is certainly one to watch.

It may also be possible to use NFC technology in products. NFC (Near Field Communication) is a microchip in many mobile devices that can interact with other phones and NFC devices by physically tapping the chips together. This could come in handy if a customer’s friend likes the new dress they bought from you. They could use their smartphone to tap an NFC tag (possibly inside a label) in the dress which would open up a link to the product page on their phone.

5. Augmented Reality

AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) have been around for a few years now. However, they are only starting to become popular in recent times. It’s hard to avoid talk of Pokémon Go lately. It is an extremely popular game and it has successfully brought AR into the mainstream. Public landmarks and businesses have seen increases in trade due to players visiting these locations to catch Pokémon.

This hype around this particular game will pass, but the potential of AR technology can’t be ignored. With devices such as Google Glass and Microsoft Hololens coming out soon, AR could provide huge potential for e-commerce. Projecting digital images onto real life environments could allow people to view and order your products hovering in front of them while they sit in a café. You could even let your customers try on your clothing products without trying on your clothing products

6. Drones

Drones are being developed as a courier service from Amazon. You could replicate this for your e-commerce deliveries too by either investing in getting a licensed drone operator trained in your business or outsourcing it to a local company or even Amazon Fulfilment. However, with so many restrictions such as only being able to deliver to locations within 30 minutes of your business, this may not take off as quick as Amazon would like. Worth seeing how it goes but it remains to be seen how effective it will be in the short term.

Thanks for reading ‘The promise of e-commerce’ series! If you missed part 1, you can catch up here and part 2 here as well.

If you want expert advice on how to prepare for the future of e-commerce, talk to us in Dungannon 028 3754 9025 or Belfast 028 9002 5050 or shoot us an email.