For eCommerce retailers and business process managers, 2021 introduces ten technology trends to impact the next generation of top IT and business leaders. We’ve collated trends and findings from all the top business reports, including Adobe, Gartner, McKinsey and Deloitte, and bring you the cream of the crop.
From live stream shopping events to cloud computing services, here are the newest technologies transforming business operations and eCommerce in 2021:
7 Ecommerce Technology Trends
3 Business Operations Technology Trends
It should come as no surprise to anyone in the eCommerce field that shopping on mobile phones is set to continue increasing in 2021. As smartphones have become more and more widespread over the last 10 years, so has their use for online shopping. Mobile commerce, or M-commerce, is set to increase 15% in 2021, and mobile sales will make up 73% of all eCommerce sales, according to FinancesOnline.
As Mobile Shopping becomes more mainstream, customers will expect a smoother, better shopping experience. To deliver this enhanced Customer Experience, eCommerce merchants will use more mobile-first technologies like PWAs in 2021 to improve the backend coding of websites, making the User Interface more like an app.
As well as shopping on eCommerce websites, consumers will increasingly be browsing and buying on social media in 2021. Industry leaders are innovating technology for social media shopping, with everything from marketing techniques like User Generated Content (UGC) to advanced sales tech like Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
See 7 Social Commerce Trends for 2021
Competing in eCommerce in the next 5 years will mean marketers and merchants need to have a strong grasp on using social networks for business, because each different social media platform has its own sales tricks. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are also integrating their services more with social media, but brands should also be aware of the disadvantages of social eCommerce.
Main article: Why Live Stream Commerce Is the Future Social Trend for Ecommerce
One important and growing aspect of social shopping in 2021 is the rise of live stream videos forming the heart of live shopping events. A combination of more people having smartphones and more free time mean they will use social media more often. Ecommerce retailers tap into this opportunity with live stream videos, where influencers can talk about a product and viewers can purchase on the social media platform directly for a special discount price.
Live stream shopping videos on social media are like TV shopping channels for Generation Z. Live streaming has already been popular for years on Chinese social media platforms like WeChat and Taobao, where Kim Kardashian sold 15,000 perfume bottles in just a few minutes when she live streamed to an audience of over 13 million people. As ever when it comes to eCommerce trends, the rest of the world is now playing catch up to China.
Voice commerce is ordering goods online by speaking into the microphone of a smartphone or smart speaker assistant. The growing capabilities of Natural Language Processing (NLP) makes shopping by voice easier and more attractive as time goes on. 2021 will by no means be the pinnacle of voice commerce, and voice commerce is unlikely to become the most popular means of shopping online this year, but the technology will definitely continue to grow.
A survey on voice search from PwC notes that to further the uptake of voice commerce voice assistants need to overcome problems such as accuracy of understanding and people trusting them enough to giving their card details by spoken input.
See 10 Ways to Optimise Ecommerce for Voice Searches
2020 was the year of lockdowns, social distancing, work and school from home, and increased use of digital tools in all parts of life. McKinsey found that companies are now three times more likely to interact digitally with their customers at least 80% of the time, compared to pre-COVID . As a result, it’s left people longing for real interactions. A personal touch. Some human warmth. That doesn’t mean a return to the days of analogue, offline commerce though. Rather, the future for retail starting in 2021 is the seamless blending of online and offline interactions.
One example of this digital/physical mix of multiple retail channels is the tendency towards local shopping, powered by online searches. The tech trend of geo-targeted “near me” searches will continue to grow so customers can find their nearest local store to buy in person, but to make this function more powerful and useful to consumers eCommerce players will also need to harness deep data for real-time information on what products are in store, discounts for local residents and more. Gartner gives the example of the telecommunications company that tracked users’ location data to send them instructions when they get close to the store for their appointment, and sends them a message when it’s safe for them to enter the store and still comply with social distancing rules.
Another example of Omnichannel retail is Click & Collect…
Giving shoppers the choice to Buy Online and Pick Up in Store (BOPIS) provides a sense of autonomy and freedom in the shopping experience that people crave to make it their own. Part response to COVID safety measures, part desire for a flexible, customer-centric shopping journey, Click & Collect is on the rise, as are the various new technologies that help make it more accessible and effective.
Customer Service Representatives and other staff will need to be trained to adapt store layout techniques for maximum effectiveness when customers pick up their purchases, while the use of tablets and other handheld devices will become more prevalent to pull up customer data in real time so that shop assistants can offer the best personalised service to shoppers in the physical part of their customer journey.
Following on from the intertwining of online and offline experiences consumers will expect in 2021, of which Click & Collect is just one example, shoppers will also want these shopping experiences to be personalised to their tastes and for their conveniences.
Goods that come in customised packaging, bespoke discounts, and app notifications tailored to the individual’s wants and needs will all become par for the course. This acute level of personalisation is possible only with a Customer Data Platform (CDP), which gives a holistic, 360-degree view of the customer across all touchpoints on their shopping journey.
See more trends: 5 Fintech Trends to Watch in 2021
In the realm of business efficiency optimisation, technology in 2021 will be focusing mainly on perfecting the operational aspects of WFH. According to an in-depth report by Deloitte, companies will be focusing on mitigating the drawbacks of remote work by harnessing “data generated by workers’ tools and platforms”.
Download the Business Manager’s Playbook to Remote Team Working to maximise your team’s WFH productivity
It’s not just about making business output less bad during the time that employees are forced to work from home, though; business operations efficiency for WFH will focus on employee welfare and skills. A recent survey by Adobe found that 40% of executives are investing more in employee wellbeing initiatives and 29% are spending more on training and e-learning for upskilling.
Perhaps the most revolutionary new tech trend that will have an enormous influence on business processes over the next 10 years is MLOps. MLOps means applying Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) tools of Development and Operations to the implementation of machine learning (ML) models, and businesses need it to scale up their ML for industrial production, fulfillment and organizational performance.
DevOps for machine learning is also called Machine Learning Ops, ML DevOps, ML CI/CD, and ModelOps, and it helps corporations to bring automation and rigorous standardisation to its use of ML, instead of unsystematic, unilateral programming without any larger game plan. Definitely one to watch for the future.
See also: What is DevOps, when can it help, and when does it fail?
Cloud-based data storage is also set to become more powerful and prevalent in 2021, as is sharing and working on programmes that exist solely in the cloud. More importantly, cloud migration services will become more affordable as they are taken over by specialist cloud service providers. Embracing cloud servers is part of a digital transformation shift towards the replacement or updating of legacy IT systems.
One upshot of increased cloud storage capabilities is that the data captured and stored there will be more amenable to advanced analytics by machine learning. ML-powered data analysis is already at work in the more advanced CDPs, but with the rise of more powerful data storage architecture structures in the cloud, this technology will become more widespread and potent.
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