The Future of eCommerce

Industry Leaders share their perspectives on how eCommerce will unfold.

At this point, there’s no question that COVID-19 is changing the behavior of consumers for both the long and short terms. But as an ecommerce business, what can we do?

In the short term, companies must organize crisis management and response teams and provide them with the needed authority to draft and implement innovative solutions. Many businesses have been able to respond quickly to the crisis and put in place new policies and adjust their internal operations to respond to the threat of the virus and government-mandated restrictions. However, many were unprepared to deal with supply chain interruptions, fulfillment challenges, and increased demand on their ecommerce operations.

There is now a need for business models that can adjust capacity on demand. SaaS models brought flexibility to IT; now is the time for bringing SaaS-like models to business operations. The ability to scale up or down quickly is an evolutionary trait that will assure dominance in the new post-COVID-19 commerce ecosystem. Retailers who understand this—and implement functional systems such as commerce, order management, fulfillment, and business operations that reflect that understanding—will thrive.

Looking to the future, to succeed businesses must also harness the new technologies and marketing techniques that will allow the easy and safe navigation of the post-pandemic landscape. Digital tools that were once auxiliary in marketing efforts have become indispensable drivers of trade. Foremost among these is video etailing.

Igor Gorin, CEO, Astound Commerce

Today, the digital savvy customer seeks a seamless experience from brick-and-mortar retail to digital commerce. Now more than ever, it is crucial to begin revising channel-mix investments by allocating a greater share to online mediums. Approaching eCommerce with the proper strategy and platform for scalability and personalization will only help to bridge the quality gap between offline and online experiences.

The path to purchase is filled with dynamic touchpoints that influence consumers through multiple channels. There are core elements to consider when integrating an eCommerce platform into your omni-channel ecosystem, including rich shopping experiences, loyalty and retention programs, scalability, and CRM data and intelligence. We recently shared a guide looking deeper into the future of omni-channel eCommerce and explored some emerging technologies for brands to consider today.

Michael Delorenzi, President, Northern Commerce

In the short term, the pandemic has accelerated a number of trends that had already begun. For companies that relied on in-store retail experiences, it has accelerated the need to create an eCommerce experience to supplement or replace what revenue has been lost in store. Augmented reality and other experience-based digital technologies will be adapted much quicker than anticipated. It’s also creating a much greater demand for content and customer education because consumers no longer have the benefit of a sales associate or in-store experience to guide the journey. Overall, we are seeing growth of eCommerce across all categories.

Long term this means that certain categories, such as automotive and automotive supplies, which traditionally relied on in-store sales are going to be dreaming up entirely new consumer journeys and business models to adapt. Dealerships will reimagine what it means to purchase a car, from the online purchase to the remote delivery. Entire industries will be transformed.

Mike Parker, Global President, iCrossing

As e-Commerce has become more pervasive in global markets, different cultural norms are reflected in local consumers’ expectations of online shopping. The definition of the customer’s online storefront is being expanded. As trends like voice, AI and AR take hold, creating right customer experiences becomes significant. Voice assistant skills and APIs are creating new opportunities for clients to transact with their customers.

Libby Morgan, President, MRM Commerce

We see businesses moving their stores online and have for a long time. Watching the trends and tech grow, we see that selling online will evolve small businesses into becoming marketing experts that have control over their product data first and then control over their supply chain. Being an expert in online real estate is a must if you sell online, and as we proceed forward, data is becoming a more significant challenge for the average business. In the many years to come, we think we'll head in a direction where data is a more significant focus for online sellers as it becomes a more prominent requirement by the large marketplaces.

Daniel Eichar, Director, Pelican Commerce

As eCommerce specialists, we've seen of lot of clients take steps toward integrating or combining platforms to power all the client touchpoints: omnichannel, in-store, mobile, voice etc., but they are still struggling because the platforms they are connecting are not built to support this effort.

We've been working diligently with many clients to overcome these complex challenges either through migrations or planning effective strategies in their current landscape.

Over the years we've seen technology improvements and more options in that field as omnichannel and seamless customer experiences are becoming more essential. We're hopeful that in 5-10 years, there will be more mainstream platforms available for this use, requiring less integrations of multiple systems, even for small to medium size companies which would allow them to manage their eCommerce and customer experience as well as some of the biggest online merchants currently do.

Nils Cayrol, CEO, Yaksa

I think the very clear choice here, and especially given the pandemic and how business as we know it has changed, is that over the next 5 to 10 years you’re going to see EVERY company in the world selling online. Traditionally companies who are in industries like discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing, perhaps food and beverage, hardware, things of the like - these companies have been resistant to selling online mainly because a lot of these are B2B focused organizations with a very complex sales structure to them.

But, with travel becoming more limited and the ability to meet in person as well as the cost and risks associated with going out to tradeshows, everyone is looking to find ways to streamline their operational efficiency and minimize cost and everyone is investing in eCommerce especially B2B companies.

I really think B2B is the future of eCommerce. B2C has already happened. We’re already there. But you're going to start seeing companies that traditionally wouldn't sell online venturing into the online space and then I think the other thing that's important as that revolution takes place is that these companies are looking to go-to-market with quick and fast standardized solutions.

People want to limit the amount of complexity; they want to try to use pre-built products and subscription-based services that can help facilitate their long-term growth without taking on tremendous upfront costs. That also allows them as an organization to develop and grow but leveraging less complex and more robust natively featured platforms is really going to help these B2B companies evolve in the next 5 to 10 years as eCommerce becomes their primary sales approach.

Adam Goldschmiedt, Pixafy

Amazon is only going to keep growing. More and more consumers have started taking advantage of eCommerce over the last several months leading to further growth for Amazon. It is not an option to not have an Amazon strategy. Businesses have to develop their own brand and presence on Amazon or someone else will. More than ever, it is vital to be a Brand Registered business on Amazon and actively monitor and market your products in a way that is consistent with your brand across other channels.

Monica Grove, CEO, Marketplacesellers

Looking at the next 5 years it will probably look quite similar to right now, with only a few differences. As an example, take the speed and design of our phones, they are still rectangular slabs of glass and metal. However, if we start to think about the next 10 years then we might be able to make a more accurate analysis. Currently voice technology is still in its early phase and probably will be for the next couple of years, however in the next 10 years voice tech will work hand in hand with our mobile technology and desktops to allow customers to be able to interact instantly with brands at almost any moment. We’ll begin to see devices that customers can wear in their ear allowing them to interact with voice assistants whenever they want, and voice assistants will be able to do more than they can currently, becoming powerful enough to respond much more accurately. At the end of this decade, it’s more than likely you’ll have your own personal digital assistant that knows you and helps you throughout the day.

James Westoby, Managing Director, Wunderman Thompson Commerce.

What we have seen happen in the past 10 years has been a transition from making software to knowing how to use all the software and tools that are being released and updated daily. This will continue to bring the biggest value to clients as the online marketing and retail space changes to use integrated channels for marketing. All the platforms are becoming more advanced with specialized technical needs to properly run & keep up with them – this is where the online agency of the future will prosper; implementation!

Matthew Palis, President & CEO, Infront Webworks

No one knows what pandemics or social changes lie in wait, but it seems sure that consumers will want more and more convenient ways to shop. Whether from home or out and about, etailers need to find ways to sell through multiple portals and devices, not just through web browsers. Savvy sellers will make products available on fridge screens, smart speakers, watches, car dashboards, kiosks and public transport vehicles. The key will be to find ways to build brand loyalty and tell company and product stories across all these disparate channels. Amazon is king now but consumers are already fomenting a backlash and looking for companies that stand for something and produce unique products that make a difference in their daily lives.

Matthew Coles, co-founder & Partner, Modelic

My answer may have been different before COVID, but we’re now watching traditional retailers—who relied more heavily on brick and mortar—scramble to create an online presence. With the sustained high volume of ecommerce sales, shipping and fulfillment infrastructure will continue to grow and evolve. I think for the next few months, the battle will be fought around availability and delivery time. Amazon wrote off $9.6B in shipping costs in 2019, which is wild. But all of this is—hopefully—short-term, and the industry will move on from this over time.

Keith Karlick, Principal, Mercutio

In the current pandemic, whether a company is growing, remaining stable, or shrinking as a consequence of COVID-19, there has been a very strong trend towards automation across the spectrum of businesses. In this environment, companies need to make the most of every lead (with the fewest resources), as it is critical to fulfill every order seamlessly, immediately, with complete visibility (for you and the customer) and at every step in the process. Finding opportunities to minimize the risk of error with automation provides a high-quality customer experience that drives more sales while streamlining business operations.

Many of the companies that are doing this well today are adopting integration platforms (iPaaS) to automate how data moves across applications and different parts of the order-to-fulfillment process. From the storefront or marketplace, to the ERP, 3PL, trading partners, to support and returns, customers can tell when everybody has the right information in the right place at the right time. Automation via integration is a key component for happy customers.

Jan Arendtsz, Founder and CEO of Celigo

Voice search is going to take ecommerce to the next level. Soon, it will be one of the key drivers of ecommerce innovation. We can't talk about retail search without talking about advents of voice search, specifically with new mobile technologies, nomade internet consommation (consumers on the go). Also, it can be the next stage for customer loyalty and provides new selling opportunities. With voice search's feature, you can order your groceries, call for a doctor or play music.

Not as a gadget, 72% who own voice assistants (such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, Google Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana) use it during their daily routine. Smart speaker market size is set to exceed USD 30 billion by 2024. In specific territories (mainly USA), by the end of this year, half of the internet searches will happen with the help of voice search.

Arnaud Collado, Director, DISKO