One of the best beauties of the internet is instant access. The world wide web has changed the way we work, the way we socialize, and the explosion of eCommerce has changed the way we shop (forever).
Over the past decade, the evolution of both tech hardware and the internet has had a direct correlation with eCommerce. Just as the internet has grown into the desired medium for marketing, advertising, and purchasing of products, goods, and services; eCommerce has grown to rival traditional shopping in many ways.
Preceded by tech giants like Amazon, who joined the space in 1995, and later Google and Paypal who launched their eCommerce initiatives in 1998. The overall journey of online shopping is far from finished but it has undoubtedly accelerated in the last decade.
The most impactful changes that have taken place in the eCommerce realm in the last 10 years, however, include:
- The rise of online marketplaces.
- The seamless shift to using mobile devices for online shopping.
- The tremendous growth of online and digital marketing and advertising.
- The practice using of digital modifications or enhancements to reality in sales and mainstream consumer shopping.
In the past ten years, online marketplaces have become a very popular place for product vendors to sell, marketers to advertise, and consumers to shop.
While many popular retail stores and brands have online shopping available, the growth of online marketplaces such as Amazon have changed how people consume with added layers of convenience and confidence.
Amazon led the way by launching their mobile commerce site as early as 2001 and they continue to lead innovation in the eCommerce market now with drone delivery among other initiatives.
By accessing an online marketplace, consumers can find a range of product offerings that fit their search. They can compare prices, brands, read customer reviews, and often purchase products for prices below retail. At the same time, Google released Google Checkout in 2006 to help ease the payment process for eCommerce shoppers as they begin to shop online through multiple retailers.
Another major player, Magento, is an eCommerce content management system that first started development in 2007 and was later acquired by eBay in 2011. According to the top 1 million Alexa rankings Magento still stands tall as the most popular eCommerce platform with a 26.1% market representation.
Perhaps one of the most important evolutions of eCommerce in recent years is the ability to browse, compare, and shop from beautiful, responsive mobile sites or apps via a smartphone or tablet. Mobile commerce or M-commerce represents a vast majority of people that now would rather experience the full spectrum of the buyer’s journey through smaller screens. People can make purchasing decisions and buy products without ever entering a brick and mortar retail location, all from their mobile device.
Even though mobile commerce is still yet to be adopted by the masses of smartphone device users, there were still large advancements on the earlier end of this decade. The number of people who used a phone to pay their products and services had jumped to 9 million US mobile subscribers in 2008.
As the app marketplaces developed on Android and iOS, app-based mobile commerce had the opportunity to create much more interactivity and engagement through these platforms. Push notifications are an advantage that mobile shopping apps have in re-engaging their customers and promoting sales. Desktop eCommerce platforms don’t have this luxury outside of email newsletters.
Online and Digital Marketing – Social shopping
The mobile optimization of eCommerce also vastly impacts how companies connect to consumers and market their products. Most individuals, particularly the younger demographic, keep their mobile devices close and handy, so they are much more accessible to marketers and advertisers. Online and digital marketing campaigns have now completely replaced previous methods of marketing to consumers, and are hinged directly to the places where people spend their time online, such as:
- Social Media
- Online games
As eCommerce has evolved, online marketing has become seemingly limitless in its potential to reach and persuade consumers throughout their online behavior.
Although selling through social is becoming a standard across several of the bigger social networks.
Twitter’s “Buy Now” buttons is described to brands as a way for customers to discover and purchase your products in real time. Instagram has just recently enabled actionable advertisements and their social selling initiatives are only expected to expand under Facebook’s direction.
According to an Accenture millennial shopping study: “89 percent said having access to real-time product availability information would influence their shopping choices in terms of which stores they would frequent.”
As advertisers attempt to capitalize on millennial shopping, more companies that sell to retailers and consumers are shaping their online store to accommodate this audience.
The Future of eCommerce
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
As mixed reality – virtual reality and augmented reality – find their way into mainstream understanding, they are destined to dominate the future of eCommerce.
In a partnership with Australian retailer Myer, eBay launched the first virtual reality (VR) department store. Shoppers can now look through thousands of Myer products through their VR headset.
When you enter the virtual store, several categories of retail items are shown: women’s clothing, electronics and others. Users select areas of interest, and move through virtual “aisles” selecting or rejecting items. The top 100 products are viewable in 3D, the remaining 12,500 are available in 2D.
Instead of having hand controllers, users select items using only sight. The company has coined the term as “eBay Sight Search,” which allows items to be chosen by holding your gaze on a product for a few seconds.
This is one of the earliest iterations of shopping through VR and augmented reality (AR) proves to have an even more practical use case for online shoppers.
Augmented reality makes it possible to layer digital enhancements over the top of an existing reality to make it even more meaningful and interactive. The integration of AR into eCommerce portals is quickly changing how consumers shop by offering them a much more immersive and personal experience.
For example, if a customer is shopping online for furniture, they’re merely guessing how a new bed or a new desk would look in their home. Many probably would not even progress past the browsing phase due to the uncertainty of the online purchase. However, with AR-powered apps, a customer can select furniture pieces they would like to consider, and then see how those items will look in their very own home. The AR app uses the mobile camera to capture any room, to scale, and then enables a customer to see their potential purchase in front of them before making the decision to buy.
AR has limitless potential in the eCommerce space, and top brands are finding innovative ways to use this technology for a new eCommerce experience and a much faster sales process (the wow factor). Forward thinking brands are capitalizing on the pain points identified throughout the evolution of eCommerce. The future of online shopping will become much more of an experience and augmented reality mobile solutions like Augment are enabling this at the moment.
The past 10 years of eCommerce have shown a sprout in growth and as technology advances, as does the way we buy products.