There was a time when buying products online required a pioneering spirit. Now we hardly give it a thought. We touch a button on our phones—which, by the way, fit in our pockets and have more computing power than NASA needed to send astronauts to the moon and back—and something arrives on our doorsteps two days later. Often what’s inside is a surprise, like a gift from our past selves, because we’ve already forgotten what we ordered—or maybe we’ve just placed more recent orders since then.
Progress is pretty cool, even if the future involves more cardboard than I ever expected.
Rare Bird has helped clients build, develop, and refine their e-commerce efforts for the last 25 years. Annie’s and Premiere 1 Supplies were two of our early e-commerce clients, and for Harvard Health Publishing, we developed an e-commerce system as reliable as the world-class health information for which they’re famous.
We often begin by analyzing the client’s concerns, goals, and audience so we can design tailored solutions. In the early days of e-commerce, we often built these elements from scratch, but now it’s not uncommon for clients to come to us having already chosen a platform with customization capabilities. In that case, we usually work to ensure responsiveness across devices, improve server-side functionality, integrate payment gateways, manage inventory, and so on.
Sometimes we design the website, and sometimes we are hired only to handle back-end matters that, while essential to the business, are not especially compelling to the customer. We always work to make the client’s (and customer’s) experience as easy as possible, and to provide a clear path for visitors to reach the checkout cart.
What was once an uncertain experience—buying something online—is now an integral and convenient part of our daily lives. But the horizon for e-commerce isn’t a flat line we’ve already crossed. In fact, when you consider some of the trends explored below, it feels like that pioneering spirit has returned.
Personalizing the Customer Experience
In an era of information overload and all-out efforts by e-commerce giants—how bold to call it “Prime Day” and then make it two days, Amazon—consumers now expect personalized recommendations and offers that cater to their specific interests and preferences. Algorithms and advanced analytics enable businesses to process immense amounts of customer data and shape personalized experiences that drive customer loyalty through the roof and enhance the overall customer journey. If managing your relationship with customers is like the human body, personalization might be the life-blood.
There’s gold in them thar social media platforms. Social media has evolved quickly; no longer is it merely an online collection of cat videos and photos of last night’s enchiladas. While we were stuck at home and glued to our devices during the pandemic, social media channels morphed into powerful e-commerce platforms, enabling businesses to directly engage their prime audience. With features such as live shopping, influencer collaborations, and shoppable posts, businesses now seamlessly blend social interactions with e-commerce.
Nobody calls it v-commerce, apparently, but maybe we should. The rise of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and other voice-activated devices has made it possible for consumers to search for products, place orders, and make payments using only voice commands. Beyond providing an obvious boost in accessibility to some customers, voice recognition technology seems poised to integrate more fully with everyday devices, which means v-commerce—I can’t stop, won’t stop trying to make that a thing—must be recognized as a major e-commerce trend, as it should continue to reshape the way consumers make purchases and interact with brands. (Meanwhile, my new iPhone still thinks I’m voice-texting about the ducks I no longer have to give about certain subjects.)
I’m downright giddy to use yet another letter in front of -commerce. That’s the real trend, isn’t it? The widespread adoption of mobile devices has fueled the rise of mobile commerce. Potential customers now expect a seamless shopping experience on their phones. E-commerce businesses invest in responsive web design, mobile apps, and secure and trusted payment solutions to cater to this growing segment of shoppers. From browsing products to making purchases, mobile commerce offers convenience and accessibility that cannot be ignored.
Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR & VR)
Often labeled the most revolutionary development for the future of e-commerce, AR and VR technologies have made significant strides in recent years and offer consumers the ability to visualize products in real-world settings, virtually try on clothing or experience a virtual store, and more. By synthesizing online and offline shopping experiences, AR and VR should enhance customer engagement, reduce returns, and increase customer satisfaction.
What Does This All Mean?
E-commerce has come a long way and shows no signs of slowing down. As technology continues to evolve, businesses must adapt and stay ahead of these (and future) trends to remain competitive. If your business is trying to find success in this ever-expanding digital marketplace, we can help. As one of our designers said recently, “Rare Bird was built on e-commerce.”