The Trends and Disruptors E-Commerce Needs to Address

The pandemic accelerated e-commerce growth and there’s no going back. Gartner reported that 86 percent of marketing leaders believe digital commerce will be the most important sales channel within the next two years.

E-commerce leaders need a clear maturity road map to stay ahead of the competition, add differentiating value for customers, and improve commerce key performance indicators. Disruptive trends, supply chain issues, and the challenge to create connections wherever your customer is will make 2022 an exciting year for commerce.

Transparency and Privacy

Transparency and traceability are important consumer trends for 2022. From a merchant’s perspective this translates to adopting and presenting more visibility across the supply chain and fulfillment. As sustainability factors are becoming more influential in consumers’ purchase decisions, transparency around how the product is being sourced and the underlying materials are incredibly important. Incorporate these data points into the customer’s experience through the use of filters and by influencing results and recommendations to satisfy these trends.

The past several years have been marked with an increased focus on consumer privacy and data ownership. One of the core tenants of Web 3.0 is ownership and control of how personal data is used. While applications such as cryptocurrency have the more apparent implications to commerce, we expect impacts on how consumers desire to engage with retailers as well. This would go layers deeper than the tracking consent that is commonplace today, but where consumers can also further specify what about them can be tracked and used. This will put even further emphasis on predictive-based technologies that can simply use patterns and context to drive interactions vs. those technologies that are dependent on individual user data to drive results.

Intelligent Triggering

Another place where conversational chatbots have a huge opportunity is in addressing kinks in the supply chain. E-commerce can mitigate supply chain issues and customer frustration through proactive customer service, which requires that all facets of the business are connected. Customer service teams shouldn’t be surprised when a customer calls to ask about their item’s location.

As supply chain issues aren’t expected to dramatically abate anytime soon, intelligent push-based notifications will continue to serve as a powerful tool to minimize customer frustration. These would generally be in the form of proactive (eg, low in stock), reactive (eg, back in stock), or even passive notifications such as those communicating the status of an order.

Conversational Selling

E-commerce experiences are moving from a predominantly one-way dialogue to a bi-directional, interactive conversation. The same technology that allows chatbots to guide customers through support conversations can be used to help guide them to the most relevant products and content. By learning how customers shop, these systems can shorten and ease purchasing by anticipating and prompting through chatbots guided selling scenarios such as dynamic and personalized product finders, faceting, navigation, journeys, and results. Guided selling apps could also point customers to items they didn’t know they needed. In fact, a third of US shoppers say every visit results in them buying recommended items that they didn’t initially plan on purchasing.

Using machine learning, conversational apps learn and improve over time to guide users through a personalized conversation. For example, shoppers that have recently purchased something could be revisiting a site to look for shipping information or find directions on how to use a product. The chatbot can anticipate this by using signals based on the customer’s behavior and proactively prompt shoppers with information on recently purchased products or additional accessories that are commonly purchased with the item the shopper recently bought. More relevant recommendations via conversational selling apps translate to higher average order values. Plus, conversational selling offers a different experience than traditional browse-and-search that appeals to many consumers.

Graphic from Lucidworks Consumer Survey, Summer 2021

Retailer beware: Adding a generic chatbox to the right bottom corner of your website isn’t the fix. Smart applications that use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) mark the difference between a less-than-flattering feature for customers and a truly effective tool that enhances and accelerates their path to purchase. A recent survey found that 43 percent of UK shoppers said they feel that chatbots understand them rarely or never and, unsurprisingly, the majority of UK consumers (60 percent) use them rarely or never when shopping online. Step back and evaluate if your application is really up to snuff before you ask it to sell for you.

Upgrade Your Customer (and Employee) Experience

2022 is all about creating connections at the moment. Many retailers are doubling down on their technology investment and adding core business strategy to technology-related roles and departments. Invest in technology that connects the dots between every part of the experience.

Consider the entire ecosystem of your customers, employees, support agents and the touchpoints they interact with. These touchpoints can provide a wealth of signals and intelligence that can benefit your customer-facing channels. They generally know far more about your brand and products than consumers do, so why not harness that? Consider platforms that connect these experiences rather than taking a siloed approach.

Delighting Your 2022 Customers Everywhere They Are

Thanks to supply chain and staff shortages, customers have been experiencing greater disappointment as a result of lack of availability of items they want, pricing of items they want, and service of items they have. Technologies such as semantic vector search paired with knowledge graphs can help alleviate some of this disappointment and ensure customers meet their goals.

Traditional search matches search terms to words that are in the index. That’s a really restrictive way to think about how we use search as there frequently is a disparity between the way a product is expressed by the seller and the way it ‘described by the user. This either drives customers to irrelevant results or to the dreaded “No Results” page. Pairing this with knowledge graphs aligned to the domains or categories you sell in can also eliminate the ignorance that search traditionally has. Smarter search that “listens to and gets me” is the experience that shoppers expect today and, thanks to technology, retailers can make it happen.

Sanjay Mehta is the head of industry, commerce at Lucidworks, a connected experience cloud solution that connects experiences throughout the entire user journey to meet customer and employee intent in the moment.

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