Customer expectations are rapidly changing and more than ever before. Source: Shutterstock

How can e-commerce owners use the latest trends to their benefit?

WITH the e-commerce market continuing to grow rapidly, fierce competition is brewing between brands as customers become harder to win, easier to lose and more demanding when it comes to price and user experience.

In order to keep up with the big names in e-commerce, brands will need to familiarize themselves with the latest trends in the market. Customer expectations are changing more rapidly than ever before, with consumers looking for shopping experiences targeted directly at them.

“The megatrend is about hyper-personalization and the ability to buy ‘anywhere, anytime’ by applying modern technologies,” said Erik Bullen, CEO at MageMail, to Entrepreneur.

Here are some of the latest trends and best practices in the e-commerce market that your business should be aware of.

A Tailored Shopping Experience

Traditionally, the customer experience journey was a one-dimensional encounter, with businesses providing the same shopping experience to all customers. But now, customers are increasingly demanding a much more personalized service.

An important step in tailoring each customers experience is taking the time to understand their shopping journey. Through the use of data analytics, you can find out information such as how the customer found you, as well as factors affecting their purchase decisions. Answers to these questions will enable insights that will aid in the crafting of programs that will heighten each customers individual experience.

An example of personalization is the recommendation of relevant products, using the customers purchase history to suggest similar items.

China’s Alibaba is one of the best examples of this strategy in action. The e-commerce giant uses the data collected from billions of transactions off its multiple e-commerce platforms to create a wide variety of personalized experiences for their customers.

Smart Search

A good smart search can be compared to being met by an extremely helpful store assistant upon entering a bricks and mortar store. Source: Shutterstock

One of the main contributors to the increasing popularity of e-commerce is the convenience of shopping from a wide range of products and platforms from the comfort of the home. However, having a large variety of products available is no good unless your consumers can find what they’re looking for in a straightforward manner.

Businesses who provide an effective smart search can be likened to a helpful store assistant in a brick-and-mortar store. The relevance and accuracy of a search result is crucial to building a lasting impression on the visitor, and in converting them into a paying customer.

This provides benefits for both the consumer and brand. The customer is able to have a smooth shopping experience by being able to find exactly what they want, thus also increasing the likelihood that they’ll complete the transaction.

The implementation of an “auto-suggest” feature is also a strategic tool for e-commerce brands. This feature allows visitors to better articulate what they’re looking for, while giving you the ability to lead the consumer to the desired landing page.

Embracing Technology

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality are emerging technologies that are rewriting the retail playbook at a fast pace. Chatbots, virtual stores and virtual mirrors are just some examples of how companies are leveraging these innovative technologies to their full advantage.

For shoppers, these tools add critical elements to the e-commerce equation, integrating physical and emotional feelings into the shopping experience. They enable consumers to engage and interact with the brand in a way that replicates the brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

Last year on Singles’ Day, e-commerce giant Alibaba worked with US retailer Macy’s to introduce virtual reality into the shopping experience. Using VRs, users were able to virtually stroll through and shop Macy’s famed New York flagship.

Mike Evans, Alibaba’s president and the person in charge of the company’s international expansion, believes using technology to create these experiences can help retailers establish a stronger relationship with shoppers.

“It is a new tool to move the relationship with their consumers beyond a highly transactional one where speed and efficiency count most, and allow the brand to create stronger bond,” said Evans.