5 Trends Pointing Towards the Future of Ecommerce

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Each week, we publish a mishmash of ecommerce-related, insight-infused articles for your to smash through. Just as we collect business information across all of a merchant’s channels in a single place, we’re doing the same for ecommerce-related content from a variety of top tier content creators.

As with any growing space, ecommerce is a landscape that’s changing for the better. With more merchants and consumers interested now more than ever in buying and selling online, the increased attention is fueling innovation and change. In this week’s mishmash, we’ll cover five trends to watch as ecommerce continues its successes, including new channels and ways of purchasing online, highly-tantalizing regions to consider selling in, and the expanding appeal of outsourced fulfillment providers.

Transactions Through the Tube

At this point, every screen is an opportunity to sell online, and TVs are no exception. Although their focus this year was mostly on the iPhone 7 and enhancements to iOS and the app store, Apple has made a point of pushing Apple TV, suggesting that there are serious opportunities for ecommerce via smart TVs.

It isn’t hard to image why — smart TVs are capable of browsing the Internet, and many, including the Apple TV, practically operate as app stores. But what makes them particularly interesting for merchants is their ability to function as a mobile wallet. If a consumer is browsing your site, the credit card information already stored on the TV makes purchasing an effortless process. Plus, given all of the content possible on a smart TV — from livestreams to games — the potential for advertising is out there.

The Proliferation of Buy Buttons

With all of its possibilities, selling through a smart TV may sound neat, but the reality is that it’s an emerging channel; the audience just isn’t there quite yet. On the flip side, we have social channels with established and oftentimes large audiences. That right there is an opportunity for selling, and much has been done over the past couple of years to turn social channels into sales channels, mostly through “buy buttons.”

That said, of the many buttons out there on platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, buy button performance has been relatively low; consumers aren’t into them just yet. This is largely blamed on multiple factors — social isn’t synonymous with sales, social platforms don’t illicit the trust needed for a purchase that sales channels provide, and social content that’s most successful in terms of engagement has little to do with selling. Still, buy buttons aren’t out of the picture yet.

The 3D Experience

There is one major pitfall to ecommerce: the customer can’t experience your products in-person. They must trust you product images, social reviews, and overall business before dropping in their credit card digits. But what if you took that in-person experience and turned it 3D? That’s gist of Alibaba’s latest venture in online selling — the massive marketplace is looking to turn the online purchase process into a virtual one that combines the ease of online shopping with the in-person experience.

Virtual reality (VR) has been lauded as the future for quite a while, and the opportunities it brings to ecommerce are interesting. Website visitors could fiddle with the product virtually, rather than relying on static, two-dimensional images. It also opens the door for more interaction and engagement; video within the virtual realm is a possibility, site visitors might be able to interact with one another through virtual characters, and gamification is definitely a possibility considering VR’s gaming appeal. Needless to say, it’s something to keep your eyes on.

APAC’s Impact

The fastest growing region of the world is none other than the Asia-Pacific (APAC). As ecommerce continues dominating at home, it’s ramping up even more so abroad. Last year, the region experienced a 32% growth in online sales — faster than the rate in North American and Europe — driven in part by a rapidly expanding population and an increase in technological sophistication and access to quick Internet. eMarketer predicts no slowdown in the region’s willingness to purchase online:

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Other than the significant investment (*cough* international shipping costs), one of the largest hurdles to selling in the region is its diversity. Countries vary in size and scale; some are open to trade, others aren’t; some populations have access to Internet, others don’t. Nevertheless, China remains the largest and most attractive market on the table with its insane demand for foreign goods, and e-retailers are taking notice.

More Outsourcing of Fulfillment

As consumers’ willingness to buy online rises, so do the order volumes of merchants. Increasingly — especially around the holiday season — merchants large and small are turning to third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to store and fulfill their overwhelming order count.

The benefits to outsourcing fulfillment are pretty clear-cut: less time spent on the day-to-day grind. And with the rising demand for services of 3PLs like Fulfillment by Amazon, Shipwire, and Rakuten Super Logistics, warehouses are sprouting up throughout the country, particularly in areas near large populations.

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