Unsurprisingly, eCommerce growth shows no signs of slowing down: according to Forrester Research, eCommerce sales will reach $385 billions in 2017 (nearly +10% compared to 2016). Below are some wild predictions on what could become hot topics in 2017.

Going screenless

As Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Allo continue to evolve, consumers will inevitably start projecting their daily interaction habits at shopping experience, anticipating an option of ordering items they need without going to a website or opening a mobile app (using Amazon Echo, Google Home, or even wireless headphones, like AirPods). More importantly, implementation of audio interfaces solves a good deal of accessibility issues that most websites currently face. Besides, I personally can’t wait to impulsively order a box of sweets to the hotel reception, while boarding a flight without even looking at my phone (yep, my expectations are low). This is something that Amazon Echo is already capable of, and other VPA’s will have no choice, but to follow.
For retailers that probably means a much bigger challenge than switching to a mobile-friendly mode a few years ago, at least with the current state of technology. This could also mean an increasing dependance on the dominant providers of VPA/AI technologies. Good news is – it opens up a whole new area of SEO tailored to voice requests, something that can be used to the advantage of early adopters.

Further rise of conversational commerce

While being a buzzword of 2016, conversational commerce remains in its infant stage even now. It is still typically mentioned in the sole connection with messenger bots, but there’s a bit more to the term than just that. Think of a platform that connects consumers and experts representing certain brands, in real-time, through any social media channel. This is probably as close as eCommerce could get to the top perks of real-life shopping experience at this point: consumers receiving suggestions, answers to product-related questions, as well as post-sale details like changes in shipping status, all through a messenger application one uses on a daily basis.
Bots would do perfectly well at initial engagements, payments and shipping handling, even general Q&A, but it is fair to imply that humans are much likely to stay indispensable for lower-level communications in the foreseeable future.

Augmented reality becomes the new shopping reality

With Pokemon Go being one of the biggest news in 2016 there’re very few doubts that AR will take a massive step into the commerce world sooner rather than later. In fact, it’s already here, and has been for quite a while. Brands like Converse, IKEA, and many others, did it way before it became cool. What changed is that over time AR technologies became much better and cheaper. MSQRD (acquired by Facebook in 2016) could be a fun tool to play with, however commercial applications of the technology of this level are endless. Imagine trying on a new kind of makeup, checking out how a new TV fits into your living room, seeing what scarf goes best with your favorite blazer, all without standing up from your couch.
AR in commerce doesn’t stop there, it easily extends to the brick&mortar shopping experience as well. Cross-sell recommendations, price comparisons, reviews and Q&A, popping up on the screen of your mobile phone as soon as you point it at an item that drew your attention. It really turns mundane mall shopping routine into a much easier, smoother and more entertaining process.

Internet of Things continues reanimating brick&mortar

Connected devices have been steadily making their way into retail and eCommerce for quite a while already, playing a significant part in delivering omnichannel experience by merging digital and physical instances even further. IoT in commerce is no longer merely a hype, as it firmly secures its place in modern retail standards. Moreover, it helps reinvent offline shopping process, and make it somewhat unique and novel, at least in certain verticals.
Following the success of innovative smart mirrors at Rebecca Minkoff stores, emerged Oak Mirror by Oak Labs (funded by Rebecca Minkoff as well). According to the public data, as of now it is used by Ralph Lauren, and we’re sure to see more fashion retailers adopting similar technologies in order to keep up with the way their competitors transform offline shopping experience.
In other news, robots have recently begun to play a notable part in the frontend of the retail industry, taking up the role of shop assistants. In addition to costing less than their human counterparts, robotic “employees” certainly make a brand stand out (they’d probably know your preferences better than you do). And while it is too early to expect a wide adoption of the technology throughout the next year, it’s inevitable in a more or less near future, whether we like it or not.

2017 is about customer experience, just like any other year in the past couple of decades

Customer expectations grow inline with overall technological advancements and get more and more complex year by year. We are lucky to witness the time, when disruption can no longer be classified as a series of separate events, it has clearly become a continuous, interconnected process. That virtually means, that in 2017 merchants would have to, yet again, think faster, act faster, and deliver faster, than the year before, which has most likely become a habit of yours anyways.

Happy New Year!

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