Ecommerce has really come into its own. In the past decade, online shopping has moved from a supporting role to the star of the show in the digital-first era. Bland ecommerce websites are being replaced by a vibrant mix of engaging, omnichannel experiences that work together to delight customers and build brand loyalty.
With the launch of each new customer experience, retailers are pushing the bar higher and higher, challenging their competitors to master emerging technologies just to keep up. Depending on your point of view (and your company’s digital capabilities) this can be an exciting time to be in retail or a stressful game of catch-up.
1. Traditional retailers are shifting to mobile-first strategies
Mobile usage surpassed desktop internet usage worldwide in 2016, according to StatCounter. Since then, mobile has
become our front door to the world. It’s often the first point of contact customers have with your brand. Mobile sites that are simplified versions of the website experience will no longer cut it. As they say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Consider these stats from Contentful’s ecommerce insights survey:
80% of respondents say they shop online with a mobile device.
79% of respondents say they browse in-store but make actual purchases online sometimes or often
34% have purchased an item on a store’s app or website while standing in the physical store
The mobile shopping experience goes beyond simply clicking “buy now.” Customers are using mobile devices to discover new products, compare prices, communicate with brands, make purchases, and get help with products. Brands are responding with digital-first strategies that put mobile-devices first.
Coming to the rescue of consumers who are too busy to get to the store and don’t want to be bothered with taking out their laptop, Moonpig makes personalized gifts easy to buy on its mobile app. The top-ranking app for Android and iOS lets customers choose from a growing range of personalized cards, thoughtful gifts, and bright, beautiful bouquets when they’re on the go. On the backend, Moonpig uses Contentful to deliver a consistent shopping experience across its mobile app and website.
2. Virtual reality brings the in-store experience home
While the convenience of mobile makes it a critical part of any digital-first ecommerce strategy, it can lack some of the excitement of an in-store experience. Digital-first brands are using AR/VR strategies to bridge the gap between the mobile phone and the showroom floor. With AR/VR, customers can try things on, see how furniture looks in their home, and even customize a luxury vehicle in their driveway.
Demand for AR in ecommerce is growing. According to a survey conducted by Google, 66% of customers would like to use AR to make purchases in the near future. Meeting that demand could pay big dividends. Retailers using AR saw a 19% spike in customer engagement, and a 90% increase in conversion rates for customers engaging with AR versus those that don't, according to Facebook AR partner Vertebrae.
Retailers getting started with AR/VR strategies, don’t have to go it alone. Motor vehicle manufacturer BRP worked with Contentful solution partner Nascent, to launch a 3D augmented reality shopping experience for its three-wheeled Can-Am motorcycles. With over 70K combinations available, the application for iOS and Android lets users customize their ride and share images on social media. The experience is built on top of the Contentful platform, which enabled BRP to use content localization and personalization to further customize the experience to users' language and locale.
3. SEO takes on more urgency with the rise of voice search
The rise of voice-controlled devices takes the convenience of digital to a new level. Shoppers can find and order the things they want without lifting a finger. According to a recent survey by PwC, 72% of respondents use voice technology regularly and 50% have made a purchase using their voice assistant.
Voice search presents a new challenge for retailers. As the co-founder of NP Digital and NYT bestselling author Neil Patel explains, a regular search will turn up a whole page of results, but a voice search only turns up one. Neil recommends that companies optimize for voice search and enable customers to make a purchase with voice commands only.
Voice search and voice-controlled devices require a different approach to content. Brief statements are more effective than long sentences and content models must meet the standards of the voice provider. Kärcher, a leading manufacturer of cleaning equipment and technologies, trusts Contentful to meet voice technology content requirements while giving them editorial control. Our structured approach to content, ability to deliver to any digital channel, and editorial tools helped Kärcher launch two Alexa Skills with content that can be reused in other voice applications.
4. Chatbots get an intelligence boost with AI
Chatbots offer customers a middle ground between self-service and live customer support, but the experience can be hit or miss. With advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, AI-enhanced chatbots can better predict customer intent to provide relevant answers in a conversational tone that aligns with your brand.
Of course, chatbots can still fall flat if they are siloed from other customer support channels like knowledge bases, technical documentation, or live customer support. Building a single source of truth that connects these information sources provides accuracy and consistency across support channels. See how to build a connected content layer for your chatbot with Contentful.
Being accurate and consistent is important anywhere, but perhaps no more so than when creating a chatbot for legal advice. People’s Law School, a non-profit society in British Columbia, partnered with Tangowork to create chat with Beagle, an automated chatbot that provides free legal advice. The personable pup sniffs out answers from over three thousand responses painstakingly crafted by the team’s lawyers.
Not wanting to limit the reach of so much quality content, the team decided to reuse it on the People’s Law School website. Unifying the content with Contentful made it easy to manage content in one place, ensuring a consistent customer experience across channels.
5. A consistent brand experience is always in fashion
As retailers experiment with emerging technology and changing trends, it's more important than ever to deliver a consistent brand experience across channels and devices. In our ecommerce insights survey, 80% of respondents said a consistent look, feel, and brand experience across all touchpoints, digital and in-person, is important.
In store, on an app, or via voice search customers want to hear your unique brand voice. And, of course, they expect prices, promotions and product information to be consistent in every corner of your operation. A unified content hub that can deliver across your digital portfolio is the key to empowering teams to experiment with new trends and technologies while keeping your brand voice strong and the information accurate.
Finally, it's important to fully understand customer and market trends. Before you start experimenting, download this white paper on Agile ecommerce and the future of retail to learn more about what’s shaping the industry.