When e-commerce first emerged a few decades ago, it was seen as secondary to traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ shopping experiences.
However, as internet bandwidth increased, online experiences and social media changed the way people shopped, e-commerce has now become the driver of the retail revolution, particularly beyond the pandemic.
Since the mid-90s, e-commerce has grown, mainly thanks to the innovation of platforms, such as Shopify Plus, which have thinned the divide between online and offline shopping experiences. Here are six ways e-commerce platforms are revolutionising retail for the better:
- Exceptional customer experiences
When the concept of online shopping first emerged, there was doubt over whether it would offer the same interactive customer engagement as traditional offline stores, especially because face-to-face interaction and the associated ‘customer service’ was seen as irreplaceable.
However, it could be argued the opposite has happened – customer experience has been improved significantly by the e-commerce environment. Data capture on platforms means customer preferences can be recorded and harnessed to serve up the best personalisation and recommendations, in real-time, while the customer is browsing online. At the same time, shipping, deliveries and returns have all become swift and seamless, often more convenient for today’s time-poor and busy shopper.
For example, Koala, a famous Australian homewares brand, uniquely differentiated its website and customer experience with Shopify Plus. Using a progressive web app (PWA), the customer-facing portion of its web presence, allows for new web pages, products, and content to be deployed much faster, providing Koala the flexibility to offer the right experience, at the right time, to different customer segments across any device. The result is an exceptional, interactive, ‘surprise and delight’ experience for the customer, which far out-runs the traditional in-store mattress-buying experience.
- Artificial intelligence and 24/7 customer service
Artificial intelligence-powered e-commerce platforms have revolutionised the way brands deliver their products and how consumers shop. Now, thanks to AI-enabled chatbots and customer service options, a brand’s customer service department can be operating 24/7 on a leaner budget. Simultaneously, AI-enabled visual search and smart speakers brings brands to where customers are, whether it is in their homes or on social media, serving up personalised recommendations and streamlining checkout.
- Mobile shopping anytime, anywhere
E-commerce has propelled mobile shopping forward, to the point where it is becoming the preferred way for consumers to shop. Around 80 per cent of us have used our phones to buy online, and far from reducing this, Covid-19D is likely to have skewed those numbers even higher. The total time spent on mobile devices is rising, doubling to 48 per cent between 2014 and 2019. Likewise, the share of mobile e-commerce sales in total e-commerce sales has increased 28.2 per cent from 2016 to 67.2 per cent in 2019.
As an example, lingerie connoisseur, Honey Birdette, leveraged Shopify Plus partner The Working Party to completely customise its site for mobile, improving site speed, checkout, search, and search filtering. As a result of the company’s mobile optimisation, 80 per cent of Honey Birdette’s customers now visit the brand’s site on mobile.
- An interactive social experience
Social shopping is also now mainstream and Instagram has emerged as a powerful platform for online selling, in fact, recent data reveals 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every single month.
As an example, Australian-born cosmetic tooth-whitening mega brand HiSmile, scaled its online tribe by leveraging social selling integrated with Shopify Plus, which linked social media information directly tied to its sales funnel, which helped ensure its information was ready to be transferred and communicated across all apps in its e-commerce ecosystem.
To date, HiSmile can claim more than 3 million social media followers, 5.5 billion social media impressions, and more than 1.5 billion total views of its social videos.
- Flexible payment options.
E-commerce has taken the traditional ‘layby purchase’ and made it even better. A number of platforms have sprung up over the last few years which allow for interest-free staggered payments at checkout, while the consumer gets to take the goods immediately.
These payment options not only result in happier customers who are no longer putting payments on credit cards, but they also reduce the number of ‘abandoned’ carts. This is particularly relevant in 2020, as challenging economic times means brands need to reduce the barrier to purchase.
- Smarter data-driven decisions
We all hear the word ‘big data’ being talked about, but what does this actually mean? For brands operating in an e-commerce environment, it means platforms allowing them to capture more information about their customers (with permission) than ever before. Suddenly, consumer history, demographics, purchase, delivery and payment preferences are all available at a brands fingertips, making retargeting and marketing even more informed and cost-effective.
About the Author: Shopify Plus simplifies the complex with commerce technology that’s both powerful and easy to use. We make the tools you need to grow, scale, and thrive. Get online 50-per-cent faster than traditional e-commerce platforms. Launch your direct to consumer store today with Shopify Plus.