“Change is the only constant in life.”
Originally observed by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, this truth is nowhere more evident than in the explosive, constant advance of technology. Although experts tell us that Moore’s Law, which posits a doubling of computer processing power every two years, is officially dead, new and innovative technologies will continue to appear as long as human intelligence and a drive to create exist.
The good news for ecommerce companies is that emerging technologies will make communication, marketing, and customer care more efficient than ever. Brands that want to stay in the game need to invest in the new technologies that will shape the future of ecommerce. Let’s take a look at a few of the most essential ones.
Biometrics: Enhancing Security for your Customers
Ever since people started buying and selling online, security has been a serious concern for consumers. Despite advances in encryption technology, identity theft and credit card fraud remain all-too-common threats. A recent study found that 60% of consumers think that online sellers are not doing enough to protect their personal information, and 34% hesitate to make online purchases due to security concerns.
On the other hand, consumers want convenience. Remembering usernames and complicated passwords can be a hassle, and a forgotten password may deter a user from returning to a site. Balancing the need for security and the desire for convenience is something online sellers have to consider.
One solution available to ecommerce companies is biometrics. Biometrics is the process of electronically capturing a user’s physical or behavioral traits and using them to confirm the user’s identity. Biometric systems might use fingerprint, voice, iris, or facial recognition. Many smartphones now come equipped with fingerprint scanners, making fingerprint identification an ideal method of security verification for ecommerce brands.
Credit card companies have been researching ways to incorporate biometrics into their security process for quite some time. In fact, Mastercard is currently testing cards equipped with an embedded fingerprint reader. While making in-store purchases, a customer places their thumb over the fingerprint reader while inserting their card into the credit card terminal. This ensures that the card actually belongs to the purchaser, while adding convenience by removing the need to enter a PIN.
In addition to added security, the customer experience is enhanced by reducing friction during transactions. Simply scanning a fingerprint is more convenient than having to remember usernames and complex passwords. And things can get even simpler with behavioral biometric authentication.
In behavioral biometrics, data on a user’s behavior is collected: how they hold their mobile device, scan a page, or respond to a site’s interface. These behaviors and hundreds more are used by companies like BioCatch to identify and authenticate users. This is as frictionless as it gets, providing security for ecommerce sites without putting up obstacles that hurt the customer experience and cause potential customers to abandon their orders.
Mobile Wallets: Keeping Payments Simple and Secure
Sticking to the dual themes of convenience and security, let’s take a look at mobile money transfer, or the mobile wallet. A mobile wallet is an app, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet, or Venmo, that allows a shopper to encode their credit or debit card information on their smartphone or other mobile devices. In physical stores that accept mobile payments, a customer simply uses their phone instead of an actual card. For online shopping, purchases can be made with the touch of a button since credit card information is stored within the app. This means no more typing in long credit card numbers, verification codes, and expiration dates for every purchase.
It’s easy to see how mobile wallets enhance customer experience due to their convenience. But they are are also more secure than traditional credit card payments. That’s because the actual credit card number is stored as digital information, and is never displayed to a cashier or typed in online. This makes it much more difficult for information to be stolen and used for fraudulent purchases.
Because of their advantages and the proliferation of smartphones, expect to see mobile wallets become a more widely-used form of payment in the near future. In the U.S., mobile wallets are expected to surpass the use of both credit and debit cards by 2020. In other countries, the mobile wallet is already in widespread use. By making this technology part of your platform, you’ll ensure that millennials and others who rely on their mobile devices will have a quick and convenient way to make payments in your online store.
Social Commerce: Selling on Social Media
For better or for worse, social media has become a major part of our lives, influencing the way we interact with each other. Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, now has over 2 billion monthly users. That’s a massive number of people using the social network to keep in touch with friends, share information, and connect to the things they care about—including brands that interest them. In fact, 74% of consumers turn to social networks to guide their purchases. Ecommerce brands can use this to their advantage, and now that social commerce has become more prevalent, it’s easier than ever to do so.
There are many facets to the concept of social commerce, but one that should be of special interest to brands is the ability to sell their products directly within the social media experience. For example, let’s say you have a Facebook page for your brand (you do, right?). In the past, you would have to direct potential customers to your website in order to make a purchase. Now, Facebook provides several ways to allow consumers to purchase your products. There is, of course, the trusty “Shop Now” button, but Facebook also provides a way to set up a store with a limited selection of your products. Customers can browse your products, click on the product they are interested in, and purchase it right then and there. For a great example of how this works, check out MVMT Watches’ store on Facebook.
Although Facebook currently has the largest impact on social commerce, other platforms hold important positions in the marketplace as well. Pinterest, with its buyable pins, allows users to purchase products without ever leaving the site. On Twitter, products you tweet about can include a “Buy” button, and Instagram now includes several call-to-action buttons, including “Shop Now,” “Install,” and “Learn More.”
Using these platforms to showcase your products allows customers to make purchases without leaving their preferred social network. Brands who prioritize social channels in this way will be able to engage a captive audience of customers and convert browsing into sales.
Website Analytic Tools: Helping to Build a Better Website
Although maintaining a presence on social media is growing ever more important, that doesn’t reduce the necessity of having a strong website for your brand. Your website is the primary point of contact between you and your online customers. It’s your digital storefront. You want to be sure it provides the best possible user experience to maximize conversion.
But determining how well your website is performing—and finding ways to improve it—can be a real challenge. If your site is getting traffic but visitors aren’t converting to customers, you’ve got a problem. You need tools to discover the site’s weak points, and analytics to help you learn what you need to change.
The weapons in your analytic arsenal should include things like heat maps, which shows where users click and how far down the page they tend to scroll; recordings, which actually record a customer’s entire visit as a video so you can see exactly how they interact with the site; and funnel tracking, which follows a customer’s journey through the sales funnel to see where they are most likely to drop out. Soliciting direct feedback through customer surveys or by recruiting test users provides valuable insights as well.
These tools have been available through separate companies for a while now. But now organizations like Hotjar combine these features and more into a single suite of tools at a more affordable price. Using their heatmaps and recordings, you can see which areas of your site are most engaging. Then you can decide what to do with less-visited sections: improve them, eliminate them, or move them to a different section of the site where they might better capture the customer’s attention. Using funnel tracking, you can find and repair the holes in your funnel where potential customers might fall through. Hotjar also allows you to create surveys and polls, and recruit test users.
Another company that provides valuable analytic services is Kissmetrics. Their tools can provide you with insights into how effective your marketing channels are, how long it takes customers to convert, and how changes you make to your site affect user engagement.
Investing in these tools, and using them side-by-side with Google Analytics, can provide a full picture of how users engage with your website. Effective use of the data they provide will increase conversion rate, and ultimately your bottom line.
Scalable Logistics Platform: Getting Those Orders Shipped
As great as your security, payment systems, and marketing might be, your business ultimately means nothing if you can’t effectively deliver your products into the hands of your customers. This is where logistics comes in, which ties in closely to how you warehouse your products and fulfill orders.
If you’re a startup, you might fulfill orders out of your garage. If your company is a little larger, you may have a warehouse or outsource to a 3PL. Whatever the case, you need the right software platform to keep track of orders, manage your store, handle inventory, and process returns. What’s more, the platform you use has to be scalable so that when you grow, it can still provide the functionality you need.
For examples of the types of software that may suit your needs, you can check out this list compiled by Capterra. You’ll find products that can handle shipping, returns, order management, warehouse management, and more. Some of these services also offer warehousing and fulfillment options.
For many ecommerce brands, an ideal solution would be a single platform that integrates all these features. Simple Global is currently developing an improved version of their ONE platform, a scalable solution with which brands can manage all their logistics needs. This all-in-one platform will reduce the complexities of running an ecommerce business, giving clients the power to focus on building their brands.
Technology is constantly evolving. The way brands reach their customers and sell their products must evolve with it. By investing in the latest technologies, brands will be able to keep their customers’ information safe, while at the same time making it easier than ever for consumers to browse products and make purchases. This, combined with analytics and proper logistics management, can keep a brand on top of its game so that it can stay competitive in the ever-changing world of commerce.