The top 10 trends in
Each year, e-commerce grows and changes at such a rapid rate that it can be difficult to keep up. Organizations that sell their products online not only need to make the purchasing experience as fluid and easy as possible, but also must stay ahead of new technologies and features that improve customer experience.
Predicting the future of e-commerce isn’t easy, but we spoke with a few of our in-house e-commerce experts to outline our top 10 trends in e-commerce software design and development right now.
1. AI chatbots
Investopedia defines a chatbot as a computer program that simulates human conversation through voice commands, text chats, or both. A chatbot, short for chatterbot, is an artificial intelligence (AI) feature that can be embedded and used through most major messaging applications.
Many online stores, marketplaces, and brand websites use this technology as a way to better communicate with their customers. Chatbots can answer questions and requests 24 hours a day—bots don’t need to eat or sleep, after all—and free up customer support staff from answering frequently asked questions.
Chatbots are the number one development trend on our list because, as the sophistication of chatbot technology grows, so does demand. More than 80 percent of enterprises will utilize chatbots by 2020, according to Business Insider.
Over the last five years, as chatbots have become smarter, their usefulness has expanded to sales, marketing, and customer service features. Expect this trend to continue.
“Thanks to natural language processing (NLP), we get more interactive and human experienced chatbots, they are becoming more human-like with the advancement of artificial intelligence,” Olena Kysliuk, QA specialist at Forte Group, said. “AI chatbots are increasingly used in financial services, especially as personal financial assistants.”
2. Voice commerce (voice search optimization)
The use of voice-enabled devices has become mainstream. An estimated 33.8 percent of people in the U.S. used voice assistants in 2019, which means e-commerce companies should take notice if they haven’t already.
What’s behind the meteoric rise of voice commerce? Voice makes things easy. If you’re selling something online, the easier you make your customers’ purchasing “journey,” the more likely you are to make a sale. Voice commerce eliminates traditional barriers to purchasing, which is part of the reason why voice commerce is expected to be worth $40 billion by 2022.
“Voice commerce and voice search optimization are the future of e-commerce,” Vira Khomych, QA specialist at Forte Group, said. “Users enjoy voice search and voice shopping, because they are hands-free and enable multitasking, feel natural, and offer quick results. Voice is convenient to its users and the results are getting more refined and accurate.”
Here are the most popular voice search devices:
- Apple Siri – Google
- Microsoft Cortana – Bing
- Google Assistant – Google
- Amazon Alexa – Bing
3. Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR)
What’s the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality? Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines both:
- Augmented reality (AR): An enhanced version of reality that’s created using technology. AR is most commonly use through smartphone cameras, where a digital overlay combines with the reality presented in an image or real-time video.
- Virtual reality (VR): An artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli (such as sights and sounds) created by a computer. In VR environments, one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.
Statista reports that e-commerce sales are expected to grow by up to $4.88 trillion by the end of 2021. AR and VR technologies will play a fundamental role in this growth. How? Customers using VR technology will be able to explore virtual showrooms, select items for purchase, and compare features and prices. Customers will also be able to use AR “smart mirrors.”
For example, if you’re shopping for clothes, you’ll be able to “try on” different items to see how they look on the screen or mirror. Using AR, shoppers will be able to select from colors and sizes of clothing without physically trying on items.
“The usage of mobile devices versus desktop is constantly growing, so the amount of sales transactions made with smartphones will only increase,” Vira said. “AR and VR play a key role in mobile application e-commerce. Through mobile applications and cameras, consumers can see how items fit their interior, so it will increase the number of purchases and make the user return to the store for more.”
4. Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been a hot topic for several years but remains a trend in e-commerce because it’s always expanding and changing. In short, IoT is a series of connected devices that communicate with each other over a network without the need for human interaction.
As IoT hardware becomes less expensive to produce, more and more of our household devices—such as microwaves, home security systems, thermostats, and many others—will share data, often controlled through a central hub like a voice-enabled Amazon Echo device.
As the adoption of IoT continues to increase, the potential for IoT in e-commerce almost limitless. In addition to smart homes, farms, and cars, IoT innovation is changing just about every industry.
Edge computing, where devices like stoplights or autonomous trucks communicate with each other directly “at the edge” represents the next iteration of IoT. Edge devices process and exchange data without the need for a central, cloud-based hub. The result is that data transfer speeds increase exponentially, and latency issues become greatly minimized.
Still, IoT isn’t perfect. With more devices obtaining and sharing our data, security is a significant concern. When developing IoT and edge products, e-commerce companies must carefully ensure that the appropriate security measures are in place to protect their customers’ data.
“The most challenging part of IoT software development is cybersecurity,” Olena said. “The system can be more vulnerable to hacking due to the interconnection between devices. The common risks can be divided into three levels: device security, data security, and privacy. Other important issues are system compatibility, standards, and legal considerations.”
5. Single-step checkout processes
As we mentioned with voice commerce, the most effortless possible purchasing process is most likely to result in a sale. Many large online retailers like Amazon have adopted single-step checkout features, which allow customers to seamlessly purchase an item with just one click, no matter which personal device they’re using.
A simple checkout process is illustrative of Design Thinking, where a product designer seeks to better understand the user of the product they’re designing. If you’re running an online store or app, why make things difficult for your customers? Instead, consider any barriers to a purchase your customer may encounter, then and try to eliminate those barriers. The result is a more enjoyable shopping experience, which leads to happy, loyal customers who will come back for more. Everyone wins.
“One-touch checkout (OTC) is a new progressive feature in mobile applications,” Vira said. “The main purpose of this functionality is to speed up the checkout process for the customer.
OTC can be integrated into any checkout flow using a plugin and OTC applications or by building a custom integration.”
6. 3D product renderings
3D isn’t new but has slowly become more popular over time. It’s prevalent in cinematography, education, medicine, and now e-commerce. For e-сommerce, this technology is useful because it allows shoppers to inspect the product they’re considering as if they were in a physical store.
For example, let’s say you’re shopping for a new coffee mug. With 360-degree, 3D product imagery, you can inspect your mug from all angles, see its actual size, and get a better feel for what you’re buying.
3D product imagery is yet another way e-commerce companies are making their shopping experience more like that of a physical store. Only now you don’t need to leave home to visit the shop. 3D product images improve upon the standard product photo by giving shoppers a more positive experience, which makes them feel more comfortable making a purchase and returning for more.
“Embedding 3D objects has also become popular for e-commerce in the construction industry,’ Olena said. “A 360 view helps buyers visualize what they’re buying and feel more comfortable doing so, whether that’s a construction project, landscaping, or interior design.”
7. Mobile-first e-commerce UX/UI
According to the latest information from Statista, there are 3.3 billion smartphone users all over the world. That number of users is still rapidly growing. Mobile applications are an integral part of a customer’s life. Every day, we chat with friends on social media, scroll the latest news, and purchase things from online shops.
In the mobile-first era, it’s crucial to have a website or mobile application with a good UI/UX design that’s easy to use on any device. With improved mobile-first UX/UI trends over the last few years, it’s now as easy to make a purchase on your phone as it is on a desktop.
Many retailers continue to close their brick-and-mortar stores as customers make more of their purchases online. Now, as people trend toward more mobile shopping, retailers need to make sure their mobile experience is user-friendly, runs smoothly, and doesn’t have bugs.
“The usability and accessibility of applications are cornerstones for building successful mobile e-commerce platforms,” Vira said. “The application should be intuitive, match with user expectations, and meet the standards of the latest UI/UX patterns and components. Innovations in UI/UX design are always a risk for the businesses that don’t keep up to speed.”
8. Direct to Consumer (D2C)
In many ways, the global e-commerce economy has pushed out the need for “middlemen” to sell products to customers. Now, successful brands can reach their customers directly, whether that’s in a store or online.
Now that brands have more ways of connecting with their customers, the future of retail business growth has become dependent on brands creating a direct relationship with their customers. Savvy brands do this through branding and custom-tailored communications that seem personal, friendly, and entertaining. Speak to your customers as if they’re one person, not a crowd of people.
Now, rather than going to a physical store, customers are more likely to make purchasing decisions online. This gives brands an excellent opportunity to find out more about what their customers like, then connect with them through email, push notifications, and social media.
Shrewd brands create experiences that feel exclusive, inviting, and even fun. With every aspect of your brand and communications, you should make your customers feel like they’re a part of a members-only club—they’re the smart, savvy shopper that everyone wants to be.
“One of the benefits of D2C is that companies can tell their brand’s story when selling directly to the consumer,” Olena said. “With a customer’s email or physical address, the brand can provide a more unified marketing experience. Omnichannel retail solutions are often used to combine online and in-store shopping.”
9. Progressive web apps
A progressive web application (PWA) is a web-based app that has all the capabilities of mobile applications, without having to download anything from the app store. Since 2018, applications of this class are supported by all major browsers. PWAs have been around for a long time, yet despite their obvious advantages, PWA adoption is still relatively low.
PWA applications are an ideal solution for e-commerce companies. PWAs are easy to download and don’t take up a lot of space on your phone.
With PWAs, it doesn’t matter if customers use Android, iOS, or Microsoft mobile devices. There’s also no need for developers to upload the application to any marketplace.
Why are PWAs so important? People don’t like to download new apps. According to a 2019 survey, only 32 percent of respondents stated that they had downloaded a new app in the last three months. In the same poll, 67 percent of respondents said they had downloaded zero new apps over the previous three months.
Mobile users are still using apps, but they’re picky about how many apps they use and run on their devices. As such, PWAs are a great solution for e-commerce companies who want to make it easier to shop and buy on their mobile devices.
“Progressive web apps or mobile web applications are a new view on mobile apps in general,” Vira said. “It takes less time, money, and effort to achieve success with a ready-to-go web application versus a native or hybrid app. A lot of e-commerce native applications were reconstructed from mobile web applications after clients realized the importance of mobile apps for their business, so progressive web apps or mobile web applications are a great start when building a mobile app of your business.”
10. The personalization of everything
Personalization for e-commerce websites is crucial for any e-commerce website or app. With personalization, brands can show speak to individual customers and let them know they’re valued.
Most retailer websites try to get to know their customers better by tracking their browsing habits when browsing the website or app. For example, after browsing a website, on the next you visit, a website can adapt based on a customer’s behavior. Cookies allow for sites to personalize those subsequent visits by showing their customers products related to their previous browsing habits, geographical location, and other variables.
As tracking and segmentation methods become more sophisticated, the personalization of e-commerce sites will only increase.
“Personalization is an area where AI will really improve e-commerce,” Olena said. “With AI-powered personalization, brands are able to deliver the right content, to the right person, at the right time, and on the right channel.”
About the experts:
QA Lead on the mobile applications testing projects
When Vira was a student, she began attending QA courses held by Forte Group. It was an interesting experience, but at the end of the course, she wasn’t sure that it was for her. However, she gave QA another try, taking an internship with Forte. Now, almost four years later, she is glad to have an opportunity to work in the field with a team that she describes as “great people” at Forte.
QA Lead on e-commerce web testing projects
Olena is a manual QA engineer with four years of experience and has been leading a project’s QA team for the past eight months. Her career started with attending the “Fundamentals of Manual Testing” courses held by Forte Knowledge. Now, she is also one of the lecturers there.