Taking it personally – the future of eCommerce

The past four years have seen some of the most dynamic changes in eCommerce since the birth of teleshopping 45 years ago. eCommerce is now mainstream, but it’s no longer limited to selling online. This is forcing ecommerce platforms to evolve.

eCommerce isn’t confined to Online

Customers today might begin their buying journey on a website, do product research in a physical store, and complete their purchase via a smart speaker.

M-commerce is accelerating the adoption of AR, because mobiles have in-built cameras and microphones. AR is a great fit for ecommerce. Being able to see products in a live environment, trying out different colours, sizes, and other variants, is a great way to enhance the try-before-you-buy process in a digital setting.

These fluid customer journeys are driving merchants’ adoption of headless technology, which decouples back-end databases from public interfaces.

Headless technology provides merchants with the flexibility to engage with customers on their preferred channel, or device, while providing consistent content and a seamless customer experience across all of those channels.

Making the journey comfortable

Our digital agency partners are seeing increasing traffic coming from physical stores, which indicates that customers are mixing the in-store experience with the digital experience, to carry out price comparisons for example, or check product availability.

A great example of this is the HSL Chairs website, developed by digital agency, McCann Manchester, which undertook extensive research into user experience (UX) and accessibility, allowing the team to successfully carry the in-store feeling of personal service over to the digital experience. The integration of product information management (PIM) software with Umbraco allows content editors to continually update the site with new product information and enables a faster workflow.

Blending physical and digital commerce

Another good example of blending in-store experiences with ecommerce is the virtual assistant that digital agency, Enjoy Digital, built for paint company, Valspar.

Enjoy Digital, built the virtual assistant using Umbraco’s Heartcore headless CMS and custom-built microservices integrated with Elasticsearch. This allows customers to upload a picture of their home and visualise interior design projects in-store, or on-screen at home, selecting from 2,000 paint colours. The Umbraco Commerce integration also allows customers to order their paint through B&Q.

Personalisation depends on machine learning

In the digital realm, machine learning is the secret sauce that makes personalisation possible, because it enables better product recommendations. In this way, customers gain the in-store experience of talking to an expert, who listens to them and understands their needs and uses this information to recommend the right products and accessories.

Recommendation engines process vast amounts of data, and apply item-to-item collaborative filtering, so that each customer is offered a personalised selection of products that are most likely to meet their requirements, based on their previous purchasing and browsing history.

Especially in the fashion industry, return-rates are extremely high, because customers buy multiple sizes to try out and return the items that don’t fit. This is hugely wasteful, massively increases the carbon footprint for each purchase, and is not sustainable for businesses or for the planet. The ecommerce industry needs to find better ways to handle this issue. Personalisation is one solution.

Respecting ePrivacy

The flipside of making web experiences more personalised is that recommendation engines rely upon data collected by cookies spread across multiple websites. The major e-commerce challenge is how businesses can map the customer journey to enable product recommendations and personalised customer experiences, while still complying with the EU ePrivacy Directive, otherwise known as the ‘Cookie Law’, and without adding friction to the buying process by requiring user logins, or other pain points.

The opportunities for ecommerce businesses include creating user-friendly cookie consent tools, which provide a much smoother user experience, while still complying with the law. The sites that provide the best experience are likely to gain repeat custom and a competitive edge.

Composable Commerce

To cater to evolving buyer behaviour, organisations are adopting composable commerce platforms that allow them to integrate software components that meet their customers’ current requirements, with the flexibility to swap them out for new components in the future.

Taking this composable commerce approach allows organisations to more quickly and economically incorporate fresh DXP elements, such as PIM, DAM, automation, AI and personalisation software, without having to go to the time and expense of re-platforming.

Digital agency, true, selected a composable architecture when developing an ecommerce site for international window shutters manufacturer, TCMM Shutters, because it provided the flexibility to integrate Workbooks, CrazyEgg, Struct, Umbraco Commerce, Taxjar, Algolia, uMarketing Suite, Azure: where every element does exactly what it is required to do.

Conclusion:

Consumer behaviour drives technology development. The rapid advances in ecommerce over the past four years have only happened because more people were making online purchases.

With more than a quarter of sales now taking place online, organisations have to meet customers where they are, whether that’s online, in-store, on a headset, or on a smart speaker.

API-based integration, composable architectures and headless technologies provide organisations with the flexibility to respond to these rapid changes, so that individual customer needs are met and business opportunities are not lost.

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Filip Bech-Larsen is CTO at Umbraco, the world's largest open-source .Net web content management system provider. He has been working with cutting edge web technologies for over a decade and is passionate about the web's endless potential when skilled professionals work together to solve problems and meet customers' needs.

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