Tuesday 7 January 2014

10 Predictions about the Future of Ecommerce

Personalized shopping is changing the way we find, buy and recommend products to our friends already.
But from a business point of view, what's going to capture shoppers' attention next?
10 founders share what they think the future of personalized shopping holds (eCommerce entrepreneurs listen up!). Here's what they had to say:


1. Custom Everything

Clothes, shoes, glasses and just about everything we thought would never move fully online will all be online. The reason is simple: why leave the comfort of your own home when you can get something custom made to your exact size for less? this is the future.


2. Customized Outfit Planning

With websites such as DailyLook that mass-produce trendy outfits, it's only a matter of time before a company can produce individualized outfits. Combining user-submitted and digitally collected data with current trends would provide a service that could put together outfits to fit the consumer's style while being trendy and even suggest sizes. The programming could be extended to hair care, skin care and cosmetics. All the consumer would have to do is click a button and a whole look that's entirely her style would show up on her doorstep at a discount.


3. Virtual Sizing

The hassle of trying on various sizes will decrease as video quality improves and we're able to measure and size clothes from the comfort of home. Because brands vary widely in size charts, it will be even more important for profit margins to avoid returns and exchanges for color, style, design, and fit. As a bonus, this same technology will be a boost to the fitness industry as consumers can see their bodies change (for better or worse) from one fitting to the next.


4. Custom Designs

More and more companies these days are allowing customers to represent themselves through custom designs. NikeiD lets customers design their own shoes. And customers can buy an interchangeable face and strap at Modify Watches. This trend of custom designs and interchangeability lets customers truly express themselves through their clothing. It's very powerful.


5. Personalized Brands

There's so much data available about customers, and the e-commerce companies that care enough about their clients to personalize their communication will win the day. That means every element of the messaging will be personalized, from the on-site experience to social targeting and especially email. In five years, the communication you receive around shopping mall will be rooted in your behavior, demographic and psychographic data. It will feel like every store has a personal shopper just for you, and it will communicate to you that way. Those who don't and stick to the "batch-and-blast" style of broadcast communication will lose out to the brands that truly embrace personalization.


6. 3D Printing for Clothing

Anyone can eventually be able to print their own clothes. You will be seeing 3D printing start to take off, and they are in the very early stages of this revolution. Who would have imagined the factories that have today 100 years ago? Today, we can't even begin to comprehend the ways they'll produce products years from now. 3D printing technology will get to the point where you will be able to print clothes according to your sizes. How cool would it be to go to Banana Republic, pick out the fabric of your choosing and have the machine print out some shirts for you? It will happen.


7. Human Online Shopping Concierges

Many consumers appreciate the assistance of a real person when it comes to certain types of shopping. Technology will enable companies to provide a concierge-style service that will use underlying personalization algorithms to allow a real person to make recommendations to you. The added personalization of human reps will be justified by far more meaningful and long-lasting relationships with the consumer. Trust will be built, and consumers will grow accustomed to outsourcing much of the online shopping experience to a personal assistant.


8. Shopping Experience Convergence

As Internet shopping became prominent in the '90s, there was a distinct line drawn between brick-and-mortar and Internet retailers. As brick-and-mortar stores started seeing sales slip, they plunged headfirst into the Internet, thus creating click-and-mortar operations. This blurred the lines between physical and virtual retailers. Now the line is drawn between mobile and computer. Until a few years ago, mobile shopping was nearly unheard of. We read about mobile this and mobile that, still creating that delineation between mobile and computer. As this line blurs, the shopping experience will converge around the person. People are expecting to look, touch and research across multiple devices, in person and virtually. The medium or device ultimately becomes irrelevant.


9. Algorithmic Recommendations

Amazon's product suggestions are great because they have so much aggregate data. But they don't have enough data about consumer from other services and products that they own. If they did, we could get an amazing aggregate view of what's relevant to us based on a more complete profile.


10. 360-Degree Customer Engagement

It takes six to ten "touches" before consumers buy from a brand. Today's customers are experiencing your product or service across platforms — from mobile, Web, physical, media and referral sources. We can expect to engage consumers where they are and carry that experience across platforms for each of those first half-dozen touches. A customer may first experience your brand from a personal referral, but then may explore on mobile or a tablet before doing a deep dive on the Web. After those experiences, they may review on a third-party site before going in-store to purchase. That cross-platform, pre-purchase experience requires a 360-degree view of the customer to ultimately complete the sale. Think holistically about how a consumer experiences across platforms.

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