For a successful existence in eCommerce, it has long since become insufficient to merely run a webshop. Online retail is now developing into a central sales platform for companies across the widest variety of industries. At the same time, however, it is subject to constant change and characterised by ever-newer innovations. Consumer expectations, it should be added, also happen to be rising. Online retailers and manufacturers are under increasing pressure to try out new features and/or channels ever faster and also have to react to changes in customer behaviour. So what did Charles Darwin teach us from his “Survival of the Fittest“? That if you don’t adapt to your environment quickly enough, you will not survive for very long.
After reaching the halfway point of the 2018 eCommerce year, we today take stock and offer you a few tips for the coming months. Have the predicted trends finally come true? What measures should you, the online retailer or manufacturer, implement or at least take into account when planning for this year?
Artificial Intelligence: Know what your customers want even before they know themselves
Last year, we defined Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the Top Trend of 2018. Since then, interest in AI technologies has continued to grow rapidly. What if you could provide your customers with the right content at exactly the right time? Or what if every consumer could see an individualised landing page? And what if personalised advertising was to reach consumers across all channels? These are exactly the advantages that marketing sees in AI. Artificial Intelligence can quickly turn a flood of data into useful insights. It is also an effective tool in targeting, email marketing and programmatic advertising.
In the meantime, AI now seems to have arrived at German companies – as was concluded by a new study from IDC market researchers. In April this year, 350 German companies from various industries provided information on whether and how Artificial Intelligence influences their own actions. One key finding was that 52 percent of respondents said that they worked with and on AI projects. Within the next twelve months, as many as 69 percent of those surveyed also plan to implement a new project. In the current use of AI, companies are focusing in particular on the acquisition of knowledge from data (37 percent). For 32 and 23 percent respectively, the agenda includes advancing projects in the fields of speech and image recognition. AI is also being used for the introduction of supervised learning (25 percent) and for content aggregation (23 percent).
Visual search and ‘photo shopping’: Pictures say more than a thousand words
In eCommerce especially, where customers have no opportunity to handle the actual products, accurate and meaningful images can play a decisive role. And also in the search for items, retailers and manufacturers should increasingly engage on the topic of “photo shopping” during 2018. One of the pioneers in visual search is Zalando. This online retailer began a test phase for image recognition in their German app as early as 2014. By now, customers can quickly and easily search for similar products, colours or samples in the Zalando shop via a photo search. In recent months, numerous other companies have since followed suit. During 2017, for example, eBay integrated into its app the “Find it on eBay” function, which also enables product searches via images. At the same time, Pinterest released other options and features for its search, such as Pinterest Lens, Related Ideas on Demand and Shop the Look. Since the beginning of this year, companies with a business profile have also had a special feature available from Instagram. With the new shopping function, they can directly link up to five products inside their organic contributions to their online shop. This then makes detours, such as a link from their profile, superfluous.
Augmented Reality: From “what would it look like?” to “how does it actually appear”?
Augmented Reality (AR) can solve the major problem in eCommerce of consumers preferring to try on or try out products beforehand. Particularly in the Fashion and Accessories sector, as well as in Home and Living, virtual ‘try-outs’ permit a major simplification and also reduce the number of returns. Online retailers and manufacturers are now already offering their own AR apps. For several months now, iOS and Android users have been able to place products within their own four walls using virtual images from the free IKEA Place App. Amazon has also recently started using Augmented Reality in its app, where customers select their desired article and then place it freely inside their own home via its camera function.
Mobile optimisation: Long since standard, but still a challenge
There has long been talk of the triumphant advance of mobile devices in eCommerce. Smartphones and tablets have now finally replaced the desktop computer as the most popular technology in online retailing. Data from the Ayden payment platform show that in 2017, more than half (52 percent) of global eCommerce was for the first time performed via smartphones and tablets. At 41.5 percent, Germany lags slightly behind its European neighbours, including the Netherlands (52 percent), France (49.7 percent) and Great Britain (57.1 percent), then also the USA (58 percent). And yet Adyen has also identified a clear turnaround on the German market, since two years ago that figure stood at just under 27 percent. This means for you, the online retailer or manufacturer, that mobile optimisation should be at the top of your agenda for 2018. And even if you have already overcome this hurdle, you should once again carefully check whether there is still some room for improvement. The more consumers who turn to mobile devices, after all, the more online retailers and manufacturers will have to adapt their own checkout processes.
Voice search: What is the best way to sell online if the consumer never visits the website?
The voice-controlled assistants from Amazon, Apple and Google are currently conquering households. Even companies like Samsung, Facebook and Deutsche Telekom are also planning speech assistants. According to ComScore, over 50 percent of all mobile search queries will be made via voice function by 2020. Unfortunately, there is currently no magic formula for the optimal use of voice search. What is certain, however, is that the formulation of requests will be changing enormously, as will their keywords. Users are now searching much more colloquially and their keywords are also becoming longer. When searching through text, the tendency is to enter only single words. Voice search, however, is much more detailed – with even full question sentences being used in some cases.
Example of text search:
“Protective case iPhone 8”
Example of voice search:
“Alexa… Where can I find a protective case for my iPhone 8”?
Especially for shop operators, this increased in searches via voice function could bring a decisive advantage. They will be receiving additional data, which will allow a better optimisation of their individual items, also on the voice-controlled search queries. Internet World Business has recently summarised six tips for retailers who hope to secure their presence in the “voice search market” using appropriate SEO measures.
Active price management: Reacting dynamically to the market to remain competitive
Ecommerce is, and will remain, highly dynamic. The market is changing rapidly – and so are its prices. An active price management is essential for this and can only be achieved through a clear market and price transparency. These complex analyses can be carried out quickly and cost-effectively with intelligent and self-learning solutions. The blackbee market analysis module enables you to adjust your selling prices precisely and over the longer term to the pricing range of your competitors. blackbee will support you in the implementation and establishment of professional price management – through 2018 and even well beyond.
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