An industry as big as online retail doesn’t stand still for too long. With sales projected to top $2.7 trillion in 2018, and the digital landscape being in the constant state of change as it is, it is expected that online retail will, in 2018, look different.
How different? It’s hard to tell. Even though changes seem to happen rapidly in the digital sphere, they are far from being instantaneous, so there are limited chances that we’ll be surprised by paradigm-shifting changes. But we can have at least a glimpse at the possibilities because the trends, technologies, and other things driving the change are already here.
E-commerce, just like many other industries today, is utilizing modern data-capturing capabilities to the fullest. In the digital environment, where everything customers do can be tracked and analyzed, the amount of data businesses can accumulate is staggering. But the thing with Big Data is that it’s more important to use it well than to simply have access to it.
Some major retailers are already stretching the limits of what can be done with Big Data, like the Weather Channel using their data about people’s emotional reactions to the weather to help retailers contact customers at the best possible time. The drive to find innovative ways to extract value from Big Data will be one of the things that will shape retail in 2018.
New and Improved Tools
What are some of the biggest challenges online retail is facing? Inventory management, supply chain transparency, managing customers data, and finding novel and more effective ways to nurture leads, to name a few. For every type of challenge online retail has to deal with, there’s a software solution out there that can help.
And these solutions are likely to get better in 2018. This year, for example, Infor, under the leadership of CEO Charles Phillips, teamed up with Marketo to take advantage of their lead maturation solution. This will bring increased value to businesses that use Infor’s micro-vertical solutions, but it also implies a trend of bringing better solutions into full suites, making it easier for online retailers to have all the tools they need in one place.
Mobile Getting Stronger
We’ve already seen how powerful driver mobile adoption is. Online retailers cannot afford to have a website that’s not mobile-friendly. The retailers who use both online and physical stores are also getting much smarter about local search and its ability to deliver qualified leads.
Because of the rise of mobile Internet usage, we can expect online retailers to increase their efforts to reach their customers on mobile devices. We know that one of the major reason to access the Internet on mobile devices is to check social media, so a further integration of retail with social networks might be in store for 2018.
The Internet of Things
Retail is more than ready to accept the Internet of Things, with 70% of decision-makers in retail saying that’s something they are interested in. The Internet of Things has several possible applications in retail, with supply chain visibility and inventory management being the most obvious.
But IoT also has several issues that have, so far, slowed down its implementation. There are the security issues which have become apparent, and much publicized, over the past few years. There’s also the fact that industrial users have had more experience with IoT than small and medium businesses, which are yet to jump on the bandwagon.
2018 might be the year everything changes for IoT. We already saw some interesting developments in IoT security this year, and the application of blockchain for IoT security purposes is a promising step towards a safer Internet of Things. If blockchain manages to take care of the biggest barrier to widespread IoT implementation, we can expect 2018 to be the year IoT started revolutionizing small and medium retailers.
With increased competition, online retailers must increase their efforts to win over new customers and retain the existing ones. To do that, retailers will increasingly try to understand their customers’ needs and serve products and services that will provide meaningful need fulfillment to their customers.
The customer-centric approach in online retail isn’t new, but with increased customer sophistication, especially in the developing markets, it’s starting to take over retail. This approach will also, at least to some degree, drive the implementation and development of the technologies we mentioned before, which only goes to say that, in 2018, pretty much everything can end up revolving around customers.