The last decade was the biggest in the history of the e-commerce industry. Not only did we see heightened consumer interest and participation — the industry also recorded enormous sales figures. According to eMarketer, China pulled in almost $900 billion from e-commerce storefronts in 2016, with the U.S. earning more than $423 billion in sales revenue. Overall, the e-commerce world received approximately $1.915 trillion in 2016. Technology is propagating this massive tide of good fortunes. Far from the days when it was just the foundation of e-commerce, technology today is turning the industry into what might be the pinnacle of modern-day retailing. But how exactly is technology impacting the e-commerce scene?
Redefining The Consumer Shopping Experience
One front — where the e-commerce industry has fallen short of traditional brick and mortar retail outlets — is in the actual shopping experience. Nothing beats walking into a retail store and interacting with the product or service — at least until now. The advent of virtual and augmented reality technologies has provisioned e-commerce vendors with an avenue to display their wares in immersive detail, comparable to the real-life experience. I believe the prospects for the industry could be potentially staggering. 2016 saw Shopify and eBay (in partnership with Myer) debut virtual reality (VR) options. The former released its personalized virtual reality app and the latter created a full-featured VR store. Beyond marketing, the integration of VR and augmented reality (AR) can allow users to visualize themselves using products immediately and provides a unique way to engage the customer.
Making Selling As Easy As Buying
The traditional emphasis in the e-commerce industry has always been on the shopping experience from the viewpoint of the buyer. In addition to promoting seamless buying, technology is also working to the advantage of the seller. Easy access to instantaneous communication, information transfer, logistics processing and online networking have allowed for remote orchestration of sustainable e-commerce platforms. Sellers no longer have to micromanage every aspect of the e-commerce business or possess the huge start-up capital associated with the sector in the past. Micromanagement can be alleviated by putting fluid workflow pipelines in place and expanding communication avenues, which makes it easier than ever to properly communicate with potential buyers. This is why e-commerce models like drop shipping have garnered such a large following and been so successful recently.
For the industry heavyweights, it’s a case of robots and droids coming to the rescue. Amazon deployed its army of Kiva robots to selected warehousing plants in 2014 and, according to the Deutsche Bank, that single move by the retailing giant created potential savings of roughly $22 million. Deutsche Bank predicts that that figure will increase to $800 million if the company integrates more Kiva robots in its other warehouses, which are currently without the technology.
Seamless Payment Processing
If there’s one other thing that has been the bane of the e-commerce industry, it’s the issue of processing payments made by buyers. It’s proven to be either too hard or too expensive to incorporate a payment gateway capable of processing orders from all world markets. The last few years, however, have heralded the creation and widespread adoption of alternative payment methods such as e-wallets and gift cards. With other revolutionary payment solutions like Bitcoin gathering momentum, technology might once and for all eliminate the industry’s payment limitations. The ability to pay through blockchain removes the intermediate middlemen, allowing both businesses and customers to have more control over how they conduct business. Businesses can use this technology to bill customers directly, making the payment process more efficient and expediting the time it takes to receive funds.
E-commerce has come a long way since it began in the 1970s. It started out as an almost nonexistent business model and is now one of the most frequent business practices being exercised in the modern era. With new technologies emerging such as VR, AR, biometrics, AI and more, e-commerce will only continue to grow and thrive. Technology is functioning as the rudder that propels the e-commerce industry. It’s only a matter of time before it expands in entirely new directions.