As technology evolves, e-commerce will change with it to continue to meet consumer needs and to enhance experiences. From where e-commerce has been to where it is going, experts David Nagy, Larry Leung, and Liza Amlani discuss in depth about the future of ecommerce.
Pulling Back of Ecommerce Stores
Currently, David Nagy, the Founder eCommerce Canada, said the amount of e-commerce stores available right now, would be like walking into a mall that is 15 stories and consumers are being overwhelmed by their options and it needs to be pulled back.
“The consumer is overwhelmed with so much being accessible to them all the time, it is like walking into the mall and its 15 levels high and there is indistinguishable brand after brand. None of us would make money except for the first one that you walk into because the rest of them are so overwhelming and I can’t possibly think I would spend my time shopping at a giant store like this,” says Nagy.
As today there is no barrier to entry to create an e-commerce store, anyone can do it. Platforms such as Shopify make it easier for people to create an online store as the platforms even provide dropshipping. Something Nagy said was not so easy in the past. Even ten years ago, Nagy said it was very cost restrictive, you needed a lot of training, and experience to bring a brand online, but now because of platforms like Shopify – there are just too many and people are opening up stores without researching. This is causing too many of the same stores and Nagy is hoping in the future, it will calm down.
“We lose reason when we think about online businesses. We just think about how it’s easy, low cost, and the mentality of I can get into the game so therefore, I will. But the vast majority are not successful. The future of e-commerce is consolidation. Through the pandemic, there was a mad race to be online with any little thing and it drove us to do things that made no financial sense, and so there is a bit of a reckoning right now as some of this has to be pulled back. We have built online stores in such a short amount of time and a lot of them are not going to make it.”
As consolidation in the near future for e-commerce, Nagy says this will be a good thing as the industry itself will be better on the other side as it will lead to better talent and successful businesses will be able to become stronger over the next few years. “This is what I am excited about,” says Nagy.
Ecommerce Enters Metaverse
As the Metaverse continues to evolve, will e-commerce stores evolve with it? The short answer is yes, consumers should see a shift towards shopping in the Metaverse – although if this is a good thing is debatable.
“We just can’t ignore the fact that the gaming community is a larger and wealthier industry than the entertainment industry. It is often overlooked and these things are gigantic. So how quick do brands need to be preparing themselves for that and how effective do we need to be with our virtual storefronts and virtual products? Is that tomorrow? I expect some level of it, but I don’t know what it looks like as it moves fast,” says Nagy.
Nike has already held a virtual storefront event in Central Park where there were no products there but people used the VR headsets to see and pick up products. Nagy suggests the virtual world could be the new way of getting user feedback of products and also for testing your new store concept before wasting money.
“Are we heading there – I can’t see why we wouldn’t. That technology seems to be the first mover, not so much in the gaming space but more in the experiential space as there is real commercial value to having an entirely digital ecosystem set up. Test your new store concepts in VR, before you spend money test them all in VR see how it works, test the traffic, see what the user feedback is. Of course, this makes all the sense in the world,” says Nagy.
Larry Leung, Customer Experience Leader, also predicts e-commerce will dive into the Metaverse world and will possibly create a worldwide digital currency from a gaming company or from Apple. However, as he agrees with Nagy about the positives of retail joining the Metaverse world, Leung also sees how it could become dangerous.
“There are pros and cons of people just staying in one physical space. It is not healthy mentally or physically. And the technology has not proven effective enough where you are physically ill after 30 minutes. So right now with virtual reality, most people can only be on it for around 30 minutes after that they get dizzy and there are some people that get dizzy immediately. And I think the question is, do you want to live a life only inside the Metaverse or do you want to live life outside,” says Leung.
Metaverse e-commerce stores could also open up more bullying and crimes as it is already so easy for people to pretend to be someone else that the Metaverse would make it easier.
“It could open up potential crime because a lot of people are already pretending to be other people. So, that likely would not change if it is in the metaverse, if anything it could be worse because your voice, persona, and how you act would all be very different than who you really are as a person. I worry about that but I think the opportunities outweigh the potential positives but I just believe they have to be regulated to ensure safety – especially with younger people,” says Leung.
So, in the future, customers could find themselves shopping within the Metaverse world, but what this will look like really depends on how advanced the technology gets. Will they make it into a store that customers would walk into a store and shop like they would in the real world? Possibly, but we will have to wait to find out.
Integrating All Channels into One
As retail stores usually have multiple channels such as social media, physical store, and e-commerce platforms – to enhance the consumers experience, stores need to start thinking about making it all one experience instead of division and how they can make the consumers’ experience more personalized.
As online customers are feeling unknown when they shop in physical stores, Leung sees stores integrating more and to do that they need to keep track of their e-commerce stores and physical stores to combine the experience into one. That way, if you buy an item online and walk into the store the salesperson should know you when you identify yourself and therefore, recommend options based on your online shopping.
Leung said he sees more integration in the future because a lot of consumers are feeling unknown from retailers even if they shop online and therefore, do not have a sense of loyalty. By making the customer known online and in store, it will drive the customer to come back again and will create a sense of loyalty to the brand.
Liza Amlani, the go to expert in Retail Merchandising, also sees an increase in integration of channels as that is the way to become closer with consumers and find out what exactly they are looking for.
“The biggest change is that there will be a seamless integration across all channels due to e-commerce being a drive for retail,” says Amlani. “So what I mean by that is real time inventory, a seamless customer experience and engagement across all channels. The future of e-commerce will become more seamless.”
“I think what we will see is a better understanding of how the consumer views a brand and what they see is the brand – they don’t see a channel.
It needs to be a seamless journey, not e-commerce vs. physical store. It shouldn’t be about that, it should be about the consumer and placing the consumer in the middle. So investing in one or the other is not the right move, investing in the entire experience is what the brand and retailer should be doing,” says Amlani.
Amlani says getting closer to the consumer is what should drive all strategies, no matter what channel it should all come down to the consumer and how the brand can delight them. So whatever is next for e-commerce, whether that is diving into the metaverse or combining channels – the customer experience should only be getting better.