Ecommerce isn't what it used to be. Not too long ago, eBay and Amazon were the only reputable online stores. Now, every large retailer has a vast online presence, and thousands of independent online retailers have opened shop to sell everything under the sun.
Easy access to suppliers and high quality websites play a big part in the surge in the independent ecommerce world, but there's a larger big-picture explanation for why ecommerce is changing.
Technology. New tech is being introduced to the industry at a mind-boggling rate, especially in just the past few years.
Not only has new technology changed the way we do business, but it will continue to shape the future of ecommerce. The following points are a few of the ways that new tech is already changing the world of online retail, and what new technologies you should consider adopting for your store.
Customer insight is at an all-time high
In 2016, more tools exist than ever before to track the behavior of customers. From full-fledged CMS platforms like HubSpot to analytics-only solutions like Domo and Google Analytics, you can discover a startling amount of information about your customers.Related content: Why audience insight is key to social media success.
Ecommerce storeowners have already seen the benefits from increased customer insight by being able to craft personalized messages, target segmented audiences, and reach the right people with the right message.
What is really changing in the world of customer insight is the automation tools available for gathering the data.
Products like InsightPool are a good example of how far we've come in terms of automating information gathering. InsightPool is one of many services that help offer worry-free insight gathering in one platform, so all you have to do is look at the data and decide how you're going to use it. With customers like Coca-Cola and NBC, it's a safe bet that InsightPool knows what they're doing.
You don't have to go with a company as large, or as expensive, as InsightPool, to have access to audience insight automation software. There are plenty of other resources for SMB owners, and you can look at a few of them here.
The power of automation gives owners and marketers more time to come up with the most effective messaging possible for marketing and content campaigns. With the way technology is changing ecommerce, marketers can spend less time compiling reports and more time analyzing results, creating campaigns, and connecting with customers.
As 2016 progresses and we see even more technological advances, the ability to connect on a deeper level with customers is only going to increase, so says an article from SmartInsights.
With nearly everyone on social media, and social media being an inherently personal platform, it's only natural that customers will expect a deeper, more personal connection to the brands they do business with.
By having the proper insight information, you'll be able to deliver that experience to customers and drive more sales to your online store.
3D printing is real
I actually didn't know this until I was researching this post - 3D printing was invented in the mid-80s, according to Practical Commerce. It's taken that long for this new technology to become viable for consumer use, but now that it has, 3D printing has game-changing potential for the ecommerce landscape.
According to the above linked Practical Commerce post,
"Earlier this year (2014), Amazon established a 3D product store with a partner, 3DLT, which now offers 73 products on Amazon — mostly jewelry and accessories for electronic goods. Amazon also sells 3D printers and supplies. While 3D printers used to cost several thousand dollars, several models now sell for under $600, making it feasible for people to buy them for home use."
Since 2014, 3D printing has even become more of a reality - and it presents a bevy of problems and opportunities for online storeowners.
On the one hand, if you as an online storeowner invest in a 3D printer, you can offer customers the ability to create and order their own custom product - direct from your shop.
Your first thought is that this process is likely far too expensive for a SMB to take on - but don't rule it out quite yet.
3dprintingindustry.com did a story on Iconery, a marketplace that sells 3D printed jewelry. The following excerpt from that article was particularly enlightening:
"Iconery is far from a cheap, 3D printed jewelry replica marketplace either, curating some extremely popular designers – such as Daryl K and Melissa Coker, of Wren – and only 3D printing with precious metals generally used in the traditional manufacturing process. Prices for these various jewelry collections range from $95 to $4,000, a wide ranging price that makes Iconery accessible to consumers from all types of fashion backgrounds and economic standings."
From this article we learn that it is possible to present customers with the opportunity to literally create their own products on per-order basis and not go into the red by doing so.
Exactly how 3D printing is going to disrupt ecommerce still remains to be seen, as it's a technology still undergoing massive development, but we know this much - it's time to pay attention to the 3D printing industry and start creating ideas to leverage its unique abilities for your own online store.
Shipping is changing
Thanks to Amazon, the reality of shipping via drones is coming to not just ecommerce, but the entire retail industry.
In a post I wrote about Amazon's Prime Air service, I pointed out just how disruptive Prime Air can be if Amazon implements it effectively:
"Amazon is reportedly going to be able to offer their Prime Air service for $1 for delivery within a half-hour of purchasing. By comparison, same-day delivery via traditional means from Amazon costs $8.99, Google Shopping charges $4.99, and FedEx, UPS, and USPS all charge higher rates for guaranteed next-day shipping. Also, note that these rates are based on "small packages" (5lbs or less) delivered within 10 miles of the purchase site."
But drone delivery isn't the only thing that's changing shipping in the ecommerce world.
UberRUSH is a service that retailers can sign up for, and it's brilliantly simple. Using UberRUSH allows you to deliver products directly to consumers within your city - and it's relatively affordable.
What's even more interesting is that, due to services like Amazon Prime and UberRUSH, customers are willing to pay more for shipping if that means they'll see their product as soon as possible.
Narayan Janakiraman, an assistant marketing professor at the University of Texas at Arlington, said in a Washington Post article that,
"Even if you've waited six months to decide on a smartphone to buy, when you buy it, you still might want next-day shipping and pay $35 extra. Once you know you've made the decision, that changes the game. You start liking the product more, you start wanting the product more. ... Not having it seems like a loss."
The above linked Washington Post article is informative on how shipping is changing, and it's worth a read for every online retailer. As technology improves with drones, curbside delivery (something we're seeing with grocery stores) and other forms of shipping, retailers are going to be forced to adjust to the changes or be left in the dust.
New tech is going to have a major impact on the ecommerce world - especially with the advances we're seeing in augmented reality, 3D printing, and shipping. The above points aren't the only ways technology is changing the online retail space, but they're the three most pertinent ones for small-to-mid-sized online sellers to look out for in the next year or two.