We’re all living in bizarre times right now – the COVID-19 pandemic has had us locked down for months and none of us knows when things are going to return to normal. While most of the world has been at a standstill, people stuck at home and bored out of their minds have been turning to online shopping.
The UK retail sector is gradually opening up again this month, but a lot of people are still (understandably) apprehensive about going into shops.
In light of this, we’ll be looking at what the future of ecommerce could look like, both during the coming months and in the post-pandemic market.
Offline businesses go online
Online shopping is the easiest and safest option for consumers at the moment, meaning there is a huge potential for brands to explore the ecommerce side of their businesses in more depth. Brands who aren’t typically ecommerce-orientated have begun to creatively adapt their business models towards online buying.
For example, some pubs and bars have started to deliver alcohol direct to your door and gyms are offering online-only memberships at a reduced rate, giving members access to live classes with trainers. Food businesses who typically service events or supply wholesale have been thinking creatively about how they can advance their ecommerce activities and deliver directly to their customers instead.
We’re posting some examples of how our brilliant clients have been doing just this on our social channels so go ahead and check those out (hint – if you’ve been struggling to get your hands on the holy baking supply that is flour, we know someone who’s got you covered).
More local sourcing
Due to long delays when sourcing products and materials from abroad, or further afield in the UK, many ecommerce businesses are looking to source locally to cut down on these lead times and keep trade going.
This could mean faster delivery times on goods, as well as more investment in independent, local businesses, rather than just the big chains who can offer the lowest rates. These practices, if successful, could also continue once the pandemic is over and revitalise local business!
Selling direct to customers
With brands looking to improve the viability of their business in areas other than physical retail, we could see more manufacturers going DTC (direct to consumer). This way, manufacturers cut out the retail partner for more of the profit, while also building a direct relationship with their customers. This also means that they can gather data and begin to offer personalised product suggestions based on the preferences of customers.
Broader use of AR
Of course, the future of ecommerce isn’t tied completely to the pandemic – digital advancements are also making online transactions very interesting. One of these features is AR, or augmented reality, which is working to close the gap between physical retail and ecommerce by letting customers ‘try before they buy’.
The Dulux Visualizer app is a great example of this – just hold your phone camera up to the room you want to decorate and change the colour of the walls with a tap of your finger. IKEA has a similar app for their furniture, and fashion brands like ASOS are adopting the technology so that customers can try on outfits from the comfort of their own home. In the future, we can expect more businesses to implement this exciting tech into their own ecommerce offering.
Implementation of AI
The other major technology we can expect to see in the future of ecommerce is artificial intelligence. Ecommerce businesses have been looking at how they can automate their processes since well before the pandemic, but now we could see a renewed interest in adopting this technology.
Automated processes help to reduce human error and protect from fraud, but they also make operating an online store a much smoother process. For example, you can use them to preload storefronts for promotions, apply discounts for sales, provide inventory alerts when stocks are low, and even reorder products automatically.