by Sydney Stone
Thanks to technology, online shopping trends are changing as quickly and becoming as popular as fashion trends themselves.
With the popularity of Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and other retail sites, long-standing traditional retailers such as Macy’s and Neiman Marcus are having to find ways to keep up. These retailers are also having to appeal to a whole new generation of shoppers that are making purchases primarily from their mobile apps.
Here are five of the top online shopping trends and how technology is playing an ever-increasing role.
1. Virtual Reality
More and more retail stores are jumping on the virtual reality bandwagon in an effort to attract more customers.
In September of 2017, Swarovski, in conjunction with MasterCard, launched a virtual reality app for its Atelier Swarovski home décor line of products. With a virtual headset and a mobile phone, users can walk around a virtual show home and see products up close and in 3D. If they find something they like, they can purchase it within the virtual app experience using Mastercard’s Masterpass payment solution.
Smart retailers are also using VR to get customers into their brick-and-mortar stores. Last summer, British retailer Topshop made a “splash” in its London store by providing shoppers with a virtual reality experience like no other. The Oxford Street Topshop location installed a real slide inside the store and gave customers VR headsets, which transformed the slide ride into a pretty intense and realistic waterslide through the streets of London. The event was a huge success and attracted thousands of customers into the store.
In the future, expect most retail stores to offer a full virtual reality shopping experience online that puts customers right inside their stores without ever having to leave the comfort of their homes.
2. Smart Mirrors
Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff was one of the first retailers to make real use of the latest technology trends back in 2015. Minkoff transformed her Los Angeles flagship store to create a futuristic shopping experience for her customers.
“Smart walls” greeted people as they walked in, encouraging them to interact with the screens where they could order a free beverage while browsing the latest catalogue before deciding what to try on. As they make their selections, a nearby salesperson with an iPad is alerted so they can stock a dressing room with the customer’s choices. The shopper is then notified via text message that their fitting room is ready. Each dressing room also contains a smart mirror that allow the shopper to browse and request different sizes.
Smart mirror technology such as this is showing up in more retail stores, thanks to MemoMi Labs’ “Memory Mirror.” Neiman Marcus recently installed the smart mirrors that allow customers to see different colors of an item they’re trying on without having to change. It also allows them to save their “try-ons” and share them via email or social media.
3. Artificial Intelligence
AI in e-commerce is becoming a lot more common thanks to the prevalence of chatbots and customized shopping recommendations based on past purchases and browsing history. Artificial Intelligence is also being utilized in warehouses and shipping facilities as a way to increase overall efficiency.
Amazon is leading the way when it comes to making use of AI technology. The online giant currently has over 100,000 robots operating in their warehouse locations worldwide. Amazon is also expanding its drone delivery concept, taking AI in e-commerce to a whole new level.
Amazon Go is making in-store shopping seamless and painless with its “Walk Out Shopping” experience. By using the Amazon Go app, customers can walk into any Amazon Go market, shop, and walk out without ever having to go through a cashier line. The products are automatically scanned and payment is handled through the app.
Pretty soon, this type of shopping experience will be common in all types of stores, including clothing stores, big box stores, and grocery stores as well.
4. Luxury Startups
One of the great things about technology when it comes to e-commerce trends is that it is opening up the luxury market to a whole new audience, thanks to some of the “rent instead of buy” startups that are now so popular.
Bag, Borrow or Steal started this trend way back in 2004 when it began offering high-priced designer handbags for rent. It has expanded to other types of luxury items and enables customers to sell their designer pieces as well.
The massive success of Rent the Runway is another example of the rent vs. buy trend in luxury retail startups. Founded in 2009 as an e-commerce only model, the brand has expanded into brick-and-mortar store locations in New York, Chicago, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Eleven James is one of the most recent retailers to profit from the luxury rental trend. The company provides high-end watches for its clients on a “try it before you buy it” basis, allowing them to try a new watch every three months. Customers can either choose to keep the watch or try another for the next quarter.
Blockchain is the technology topic of the moment and it is currently disrupting every industry, retail being no exception.
Online security is a huge concern for anyone making purchases online. The evolution of blockchain technology is going to make shopping online (and even in brick-and-mortar stores) much safer. Customers will now be able to see exact data and details from every point in the supply chain. From where a garment was made to the materials sourced for the garment to real-time delivery info, the blockchain will herd more consumers into the online market.
With things like credit card tokenization to make payments safer to authentication processes that cut down on fakes and unlicensed reproductions, blockchain is going to play a massive role in the future of e-commerce.
In conclusion, these e-commerce trends are really just a continuation of what’s been happening in the retail industry for quite some time now. As evidenced by so many traditional stores filing for bankruptcy and closing down locations, retailers are forced to embrace technology and find new ways to connect with their customers or risk getting left behind.