by Jacob Firuta @ May 29, 2012

Back to the future of E‑commerce

Back to the future of e-commerce

Online buying and selling has become a normality in our daily life. Purchasing an item online is now as normal as getting one in an actual shop. What changes related to this phenomenon are we to expect in the nearing future?

As kids, we often wondered how the future will look like. Imaginations running wild produced a whole bunch of concepts, one more amazing than the other. We fully expected spaceships parked in our backyards, conveyor belts that would rid us of the need for walking and a personal robot butlers that would be at our every demand.

Hoverboards as soon as 2015? Hell yeah!

Leaving flying cars and hoverboards aside, have you ever wondered how will the future of E-commerce look like? Will we have an equivalent of a personal spaceship in terms of online selling or advertising? By closely observing current state of affairs and recurring trends we could take a small peek into the future and see what it has in store for us.

The rise of m-commerce

If I were to make an educated guess and put my money on a particular branch of E-commerce it would be the mobile sector. Nowadays, it is hard to find somebody without a mobile device of some sort. Most of us can’t imagine a day without taking a look at through those little windows connecting us with all of our friends, family and coworkers. That big of a market simply couldn’t stay untapped for long.

Entities like Apple’s App Store paved a way for mobile retailers who can now easily sell their product to a wide group of recipients. Mobile versions of popular services like eBay or Amazon continue to broaden their reach through mobile platforms.

According to a report conducted by eBay, the future of m-commerce is very bright. The report informs that by the year 2023 “more sales will be made via mobile than via desktop”. This stems from the wide spread practice of replacing PC with now equally powerful mobile devices.

Mobile leave PC in the past

'PC is a thing of the past' - Mobile

The report also notes that by 2021, “mobile will play a role in 25% of all retail sales.” This is due to the increasing popularity of online researching and price validation before a purchase. Even though not all of those sales will take place in the mobile domain, it continues to rise its sales process involvement in general.

When it comes to price checking, traditional shop owners will have to compete with prices found online, since checking the market value of a product can be done within seconds. This however, will lead to a considerable drop in overall prices. Even though “spend via mobile will grow by 1,239% over the next ten years”, as the report informs, the increased use of mobile devices can reduce the traditional shop revenue by as much as 878 million USD.

With such impressive estimates, it is hard to imagine the future without someone making huge amounts of money on m-commerce. It is reported that even now, flash sales services like Rue La La note impressive numbers in mobile sales. Appeal of the limited time offers sways a lot of consumers into buying a product on a whim, hence the term flash sale.

Rue La La powers flash sales

Rue La La

A flash shopping platform that facilitates limited offerings on discounted products. By creating an easy and deeply engaging way to reach potential buyers, Rue La La has convinced a lot of retailers to tap into the power of flash sales.

Welcome to the gadgetocracy

The technological advancement plays a large part in the future of E-commerce. New technologies, developed to make our life easier and enjoyable are a real goldmine when it comes to gaining attention of potential buyers.

One of the recent examples of such technology is Google’s Project Glass. This futuristic gizmo looks a bit as if it were taken out of a sci-fi movie, like Star Trek. At first glance, they seem like a pair of weird designer glasses, however, behind that hides a powerful tool allowing for a myriad of different actions and tasks.

Technology fused with every-day life via Project Glass.

Pretty amazing huh? Imagine how easily it can turn into a sales tool. Simply by walking into a store you could literally purchase products with your eyes, be it online or offline. A completely new type of advertisements would be available, one that would require the glasses to bee seen. So many possibilities at clever and profitable marketing are available here that I just can’t wait to see what retailers of the future will come up with.

Visor a la Geordi Laforge not that different from Project Glass

Geordi Laforge's visor not that far from Project Glass?

While we are at the subject of buying things with our eyes, there is already a way to to do it in a very convenient way. Frictionless payments is what I have in mind here. Technology that has been introduced to the E-commerce world a while ago, however, still young continues to develop and grow. From proximity cards, that made the payment process way shorter to virtual wallets, like the Google Wallet initiative, frictionless payments open up a lot of possibilities for quick and easy payments, which ultimately means more payments overall.

Frictionless payments and NFC (near field communication: the way smart devices work and communicate with each other at close proximity) will turn us into “impulse buyers” by getting rid of the possibility of us walking away from a sale. It will simply happen so fast that we won’t have the time to second-guess ourselves!

Another interesting novelty the future has in store for us is the popularization of offline stores. Virtual stores, stocked with QR (quick response) codes, will appear right beside the traditional brick and mortar shops. You will be able to enter such store, scan a QR code of a virtual product and complete the purchase online. You won’t be leaving the store with a product. It will arrive at your doorstep within a few business days.

There are also initiatives like the MonmouthpediA, which empowers the tourism industry with tools of E-commerce. The project utilizes the QR code technology to assist tourists who are able to sightsee without the need for an expensive guide, since all the landmarks and monuments have a QR code that reveals all the relevant information with a single scan.

Geo-commerce – sales driven by location

Those who travel a lot or like to bring a bit of innovation into their life each day will be pleased to learn about the marvels of geo-commerce. The idea behind it is simple – based on your location, geo-commerce platform will suggest a number of places you can eat at, entertain yourself or see something interesting. You don’t have to find an interesting place to spend your evening – you can have applications like Foursquare do it for you. While you’re at it, you can even net a discount or special offering, available only for the geo-commerce platform users.

Geo-commerce sells by location

When: Now!

Apart from the ‘what’ question that I tried to answer, this is the one you might want answered. However, as much as it ails me, I don’t own a sweet DeLorean that could transport me to the future when hitting 88 miles per hour. We can’t be sure as to what the future will look like, even more so for the future of E-commerce. There are, however, a few initiatives already taking place and bringing a bit of the future into our live.

Tesco, the retailer giant, opened a portal to the future in Korea. The network of grocery and general merchandise shops wanted to appeal to the Korean audience and become the number one supplier there. They knew they had to innovate to succeed and they certainly did.

Homeplus appeals with innovation and simplicity.

Tesco rebranded their Korean branch to Homeplus and completely changed the way their product are sold. They introduced the QR code technology to subway stations, allowing thousands of commuters to shop groceries with their smart devices. The shoppings would later be delivered to the desired address. This turned out to be a huge success and won Tesco a leading position in Korea.

Foursquare makes a good effort to bring some of the technology from the future to present times. Foursquare is a services that allows you to explore and share interesting places with your friends. What’s interesting about that is the way retailers can offer discounts and promotions on Foursquare to a wide audience. Based on the location of a Foursquare user, he or she can be entitled to a number of special offerings, available only through this platform.

As we can see, the future might not be that far away. Technology that was deemed futuristic appears more and more real each day. Who knows, maybe one day we will realize that the vision of the future we had has become a reality? Or perhaps it already did?

What are your ideas for the future of E-commerce?