2018 Predictions: A Year to Watch for Customer Experience and Digital Disruption

February 12, 2018

By: Peter Sheldon,
Author Title: 
Head of Strategy
, Magento Commerce

Originally posted on martechadvisor.com.

2017 was a big year for eCommerce: B2B eCommerce skyrocketed, the buzz around AI reached a peak and mobile traffic began to outpace desktop traffic. 2018 is positioned to be another exciting year in commerce. Here are 4 predictions we expect to see in the next 12 months, writes, Peter Sheldon, VP Strategy, Magento.

The mobile web strikes back

Mobile has been top-of-mind for merchants for years, as shoppers become increasingly tech-savvy and demand seamless experiences across all channels. With mobile shopping rates growing at breakneck speeds—Cyber Monday 2017 was the first $2 billion mobile shopping day in the U.S.—it’s as important as ever that the process is frictionless. Yet mobile conversion has yet to catch up with mobile browsing rates.

In the year ahead, innovation will focus on improving the mobile web experience. In particular, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) will be the tool to watch. PWAs are mobile apps that run in a web browser, bringing the convenience of native apps into the browser itself (from push notifications to quick loading). It’s still a relatively new technology, with only a handful of noteworthy examples on the market. There’s room for exciting growth, and brands will jump at the mobile web opportunity in 2018.

Price is out. Experience is in

Price has slowly become a secondary factor. We now live in a world where price matching is table stakes, so it largely doesn’t matter where you make a purchase because whatever you’ve found is likely the best price out there. As a result, the onus is now on merchants to provide stellar experiences that attract and retain customers. To do so, they must respond to shoppers’ demands for consistency and ease. That’s why Amazon’s marketplace has been so successful—from reliable two-day shipping to an inherent trust that you’re buying from a reliable brand, the experience is solid. Anyone looking to compete must focus on the unique brand promise that will make them stand out across every touch point, from convenience to delivery, content quality, and browsing. Merchants that go out of their way to give customers all of the information and care they could possibly want will ensure that they don’t look elsewhere.

It’s finally time for disruption in delivery

Delivery is poised for tremendous disruption in 2018. We’re already seeing improvements with tools like IoT connected devices that offer better tracking and monitoring deliveries in real-time, and Amazon recently announced plans for in-home delivery. The transition to granting remote access to our homes marks an enormous psychological and social shift, and there are still many hurdles before we reach a world where this is standard procedure. Not only do these new delivery options demand an unprecedented degree of customer trust, but they require significant regulatory shifts as well, such as background checks of delivery people. Despite the challenges, the opportunities for disrupting the delivery experience are plentiful, from delivery timeframes, to return logistics. In 2018, merchants will continue making great strides in transforming this traditional sticking point in the eCommerce experience, making it so seamless that it’s practically forgotten.

Digital is coming to the unexpected

marked a big year for digital innovation across surprising industries. In particular, Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods illustrated the promise of digitized commerce in the grocery industry, and competitors will continue to jump on board in the year ahead to compete. Rooted in consumer convenience—from easy delivery to streamlined shopping—the digitalization of groceries will be replicated across other industries, as well. For example, the pharmaceutical industry is ripe for digital disruption as consumers increasingly find comfort and convenience in ordering over-the-counter drugs online or having prescriptions delivered to their door. Similarly, technology like virtual reality are changing the eCommerce game for goods that consumers could previously only imagine purchasing in-store. From mattresses to furniture to cars, 2018 will bring digital to traditionally in-store goods with greater adoption and sales.