November 20, 2019
There could have been a time to dismiss augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) as too futuristic to be usable — but that time is over. Technology has caught up with us, and we are now seeing its impact moving us further into the direction of seamless, fast, immersive, and personalized experiences.
The digital commerce trends we’ve identified for 2020 are primed to make a direct impact on your business – or, on the flip side, an impact on your competitors’ business if you choose not to adopt them. For those of you who are ready to incorporate these trends into your customer engagement strategies, or maybe you just want to prepare yourself for what is coming down the pipeline, let’s take a closer look.
1. Invest In Headless Commerce Platforms To Compete In Digital Commerce
Without getting too technical, headless commerce is when the front end and the back end of an eCommerce experience are “decoupled,” meaning they stand independently of one another. Traditional eCommerce is far more static and less reactive than headless commerce. However, companies looking to compete in today's market using traditional eCommerce solutions may have difficulties meeting current customer demands.
As website content becomes increasingly robust and dynamic, making it shoppable across an expanding array of channels becomes increasingly more difficult to do in traditionally monolithic architectures and all their associated interdependencies. According to Jason Woosley, VP of Commerce Platform & Product at Adobe, the way for these websites to compete in today's market is to invest in headless commerce. “If you’ve already made an investment in content, and now you need to make that content shoppable, the easiest way to do that is with a headless implementation,” Woosley said.
The switch to a headless commerce platform enables your business to access shoppable content in real time and have the capability to build out your website so that it is both flexible and can deliver personalized experiences at scale. “In 2020, the pressure’s on to make all of that content shoppable,” Woosley said. “Every experience you provide a customer should be transactable so that every aspect of your website and every time you're showing off this brand-new dress or this terrific new drone or new toys, you have got your shopper’s interest, and you are able to present an opportunity to purchase right then.”
A headless commerce platform is going to be the best way for businesses to improve their omnichannel experiences and also deliver promotions and content more quickly and easily than ever before. There is a wealth of opportunities for more sophisticated omnichannel experiences as well as mobile engagement and conversion with a headless system.
2. Personalize Your Content: It Needs To Be Shoppable Now
Personalizing products, services, and digital commerce content is a practice that many B2C and B2B eCommerce websites are currently implementing. “Personalization is compelling for customers because a company has taken a process that can be tedious and simplified it to fit customers’ needs,” said Vish Ganapathy, Managing Director and Global Retail Technology lead at Accenture. “Not only are customers satisfied with the results, but with each customer interaction, the brand gains insights into how to improve its product and targeted marketing techniques.”
For B2B eCommerce, personalization will help capture your customer's interest and also provide you with additional information about the customer journey. However, in 2020, crafting personalized experiences needs to be based on more than just demographics and behaviors. It needs to be relevant, personalized, and in context, too.
Making every “moment of truth” that a consumer has with a brand truly personalized at the individual level is all about creating a rewarding experience for the consumer. To do this, it’s necessary to determine who the visitor is and what the visitor needs. Relying on blanket offers and advertisements is not enough to drive customer engagement anymore. Over 74% of online consumers get frustrated with website content when offers, ads, or promotions have nothing to do with their interests. Any offers and ads presented to customers browsing your eCommerce website need to be tailored and unique to each person's interests.
However, securing the information to provide personalized content can get tricky. You need to be very mindful of how you serve up this content without making customers uncomfortable. “There’s a clear dividing line between smart, savvy, and cool, on the one hand,” Ganapathy said, “and intrusive and creepy on the other.”
“Customers are much more likely to transact when you're displaying relevant content,” Woosley said. “When it gets creepy is when you say, “Hey, I know you're in the Radisson Hotel, Suite 302, and I can have it delivered to you in 10 minutes,” he explained. “This is where it gets problematic, and you need to draw the line.”
The trick here is to provide customers with relevant, personalized shopping experiences that they find exciting and meaningful. This can absolutely be done with the right mix of fine-tuned data delivered to the customer at the right time.
3. Commerce & Content: Building Actionable Content For 2020
If there is anything you can be confident about in 2020, it is that the push toward personalized content is significant. “As people’s lives become more and more personalized through technology, creating a world with a multiverse of realities and moments, companies must reinvent their organizations to capture those opportunities as they come,” Ganapathy said. One of the ways to capture attention is through relevant, actionable content.
Every piece of content that is created needs to connect with digital commerce and a buying experience. “Content is what shoppers consume, right?” Woosley said. “Before they ever consume your products, they consume your experiences. They consume what you're providing them in terms of shoppable content.”
Providing your customers with opportunities to consume content during every step of the buying process is part of long-term customer engagement. “Today, more than ever, consumers expect to be able to not only see but also act upon any piece of content they come across,” Woosley said. “Every piece of content needs to be interactive and shoppable at the moment.”
With today’s access to data and the ability to understand buyers’ preferences and expectations, fine-tuning your content marketing approach needs to be addressed in your 2020 marketing plan.
4. Augmented Reality Isn’t The Future — It Is Now
AR isn’t the new kid on the block — the technology has been around for years. In fact, you may be using it every day and not even realizing it. If you have a backup camera with a parking assistance program, you are using AR. If you send pictures with a filter over your face, you are using AR. While some uses of this technology are often overlooked, companies are already changing the commerce landscape with AR, and many (think: Warby Parker and Wayfair) have successfully implemented it into their web commerce applications.
“We see extended reality [XR] — the combination of augmented reality and virtual reality [VR] — provide unique opportunities to reach consumers,” Ganapathy explained. “In XR, overall, we will see a big push in the retail space around products and augmented reality, especially with the use of mobile AR.”
A growing number of companies are already using AR to enrich customer experiences. Neiman Marcus uses MemoMi, a multilayer, high-fashion AR and artificial intelligence engine that provides a personalized augmented reality experience. Houzz has also found a lot of success with its “View in My Room” mobile app.
“Visualization entails activation that has proven to drive commerce,” Ganapathy said. “More than 2 million shoppers have used Houzz’s ‘View in My Room’ mobile app feature, and Houzz has found that the people who use it are 11 times more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t.”
While the initial uses of AR have seen success, the advancement of augmented reality does come with a unique set of moving parts. Machine learning and voice-command features need to seamlessly work together to create a multisensory approach for a successful AR experience. We are going to see both AR and AI working together more seamlessly in 2020 as more and more companies begin to integrate this technology into their digital commerce platforms.
5. Progressive Web Apps: Connect With Customers On Or Offline
In 2019 we’ve seen accelerated adoption of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and this trend will only gather steam in 2020. In fact, Gartner predicts that by next year, PWAs will replace 50% of general-purpose, consumer-facing mobile apps.
But what makes PWAs so different from the traditional apps? According to Woosley, PWAs are just the evolution of the web and the next place technology is taking us. “We have gone from static web pages to desktop web pages, and then to responsive mobile web pages,” he said. “A PWA is the next evolution of this. It’s basically saying: there is no reason for you to even have a mobile application. You can do it all on the web.”
PWAs have already been successfully adopted within companies including Twitter and Starbucks. These companies are now able to use their PWAs to quickly offer their customers instant access to their services and push notifications even if their customers are offline. “If you go to Starbucks.com, you can actually put their PWA on your home screen as an icon and use it exactly the same way you would the Starbuck’s app. You probably wouldn’t know the difference, and, in my opinion, it’s faster,” Woosley said.
And while we know that speed is a crucial part of the customer experience, a successful PWA offers opportunities for companies to get their information out to areas with poor or lacking internet coverage. “It works well in emerging economies like Africa and India where the mobile coverage may be 3G or worse,” Woosley said. “With full websites or traditional apps, you have to essentially scrunch down all of the information into your phone to send it along. With PWAs, you actually only deliver the assets that you need. This makes PWAs way better in terms of being a good citizen for low-bandwidth countries.”
While having a fast, responsive, and mobile optimized site is important, building them correctly can often be time-consuming. You need to make sure that customers are able to view your information — no matter what platform they are using. With PWAs, this is a non-issue. “You don’t have to code for iOS. You don’t have to code for Android. You just build it once and deploy it everywhere,” Adobe’s Woosley explained. “Every new project in 2020 should be a PWA. There’s no reason to build old-school web pages anymore. It'll take a little while for that to trickle all the way down, but what we're seeing, at least on the commerce side of the house, is all new projects are PWA projects.”
It’s a good business practice to keep your finger on the pulse and know what trends to watch in your industry. Even if you just have a small B2B eCommerce website and can’t implement the latest cutting-edge technology in your daily operations, you need to take note of them. From personalization to PWAs, the trends to watch in 2020 are going to make a direct impact on how your digitally buy and sell your products online.
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