The COVID-19 outbreak has acted as the long-awaited catalyst towards bringing e-commerce into the mainstream of the consumer shopping experience. Long quarantine periods have led to an unprecedented rise in traffic to e-commerce sites in terms of both new and existing users.
Businesses putting off the digital transition of their shopping experience have found few excuses to upgrade their infrastructure as the world shifts to a new paradigm of digital commerce, perhaps irrevocably, after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“On the Web, we could make business interactive, we could create an auction, we could create a real marketplace. And that’s really what triggered my imagination, if you will, and that’s what I did.” – Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay
Perhaps more than any other industry, e-commerce, and retail platforms expect a radical transformation in the wake of the pandemic. In this article, we look at the major trends expected to emerge amidst the current COVID-19 scene.
Even before the pandemic, the e-commerce industry saw a staggering 21% growth in sales figures in 2019 alone. The rapid spread of COVID-19 is sure to pump these numbers further up for the e-commerce industry as a tsunami of hitherto brick-and-mortar shoppers flock to online stores.
Self-quarantine amidst the pandemic has forced e-commerce businesses to rethink the way they manage everyday operations like shelving, tracking, last-mile delivery, and shelf inventory. As e-commerce businesses battle through with fewer employees, many look to automation as the solution.
Soon we can see aerial drones fulfilling last-mile deliveries, robots handling packaging and shelving in warehouses, and constantly updated shelf inventories through the IoT technology.
Voice Commerce: The smart home market is gaining traction as personal assistants like Google Home and Amazon Alexa seek to revamp the way we buy products online. As AI gets smarter, we can expect it to usher in an era of voice commerce, where consumers can place orders through their voice-activated home assistants.
Smart Things: E-commerce giants like Amazon or the recently Walmart-acquired Flipkart are already investing in technology that makes ordinary things in your home smart. For example, an IoT-enabled fridge will automatically detect grocery in it and order for tomorrow’s milk and eggs if your stocks run low.
Augmented Reality: Many businesses will use AR technology to let shoppers try out and interact with products before buying them. Users will be able to ‘wear’ shirts in augmented reality, try out new shoes, or see how new furniture looks like in their homes; the possibilities are endless.
Instead of annoying and irrelevant advertisements, e-commerce businesses will leverage machine learning and data science to customize the shopping experience for consumers. Shoppers will interact with advertisements based on their shopping styles, making for a more immersive e-commerce experience.
In fact, this is a reality in the world of fashion shopping with Alibaba’s Fashion AI: a smart system that provides real-time fashion recommendations to customers as they move around a store.
The bottom line remains that the e-commerce industry perhaps more so than many others will receive a major technological revamp as more businesses look to digitize their operations amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many technologies like interactive chatbots, AI systems that create a customized experience, augmented reality that lets you try out products, digitization of brick-and-mortar stores, drone delivery, are the world of now.