A Granmas Carol: Ghosts of E-Commerce Past, Present and Future
On a cold winter’s eve, the Granifam was visited by the ghost of Internet Explorer, who told us we will be visited by three spirits and must share their insights or forever be cursed in a lifetime of irrelevant data.
And so, frightened yet curious, we awaited their arrival, unsure of what wisdoms would soon be revealed.
The Ghost of E-Commerce Past
Before long, the first spirit appeared and took us back to the 1990s – a time when e-commerce was just an emerging notion with hopes of becoming something extraordinary.
Uncertain of what to expect from e-comm yesteryear, we watched closely as the spirit showed us visions of the first store to launch online. It sold books of every genre, and was led by a rising entrepreneur named Jeff Bezos. Avid readers soon found limitless access to any book their hearts desired. To add more credibility, Bezos eventually added product reviews and rating scales.
The spirit revealed other online stores we recognized as big players in today’s market, including an online auction and shopping site, known as eBay. Soon after, a new payment system was shown that would provide e-commerce with a secure way for websites to accept payments.
We listened attentively to the spirit share stories of e-commerce’s beginning. A flicker of familiarity filled our eyes. “This is where it truly started,” we gasped.
We were right. An entire new world of shopping was created. And shoppers couldn’t get enough.
“But what about personalization and omnichannel experiences?” someone asked. “These are the visions of the things that have been,” the spirit replied. “What is to come, for now, remains unseen.”
Distraught over privacy concerns and the lack of being able to shop over various platforms, we begged the spirit to bring us back to present day, in hopes that a better online customer experience may be found
The Ghost of E-Commerce Present
Upon returning to the now, we were welcomed by a second spirit, the Ghost of E-Commerce Present. Relieved that we would be familiar with the current technology, we eagerly followed the spirit to a joyous online world, where millions of shoppers were searching for their next great find.
As we looked around us, we saw many familiar faces – BOPIS and BNPL were helping a mother pay for and pick up her holiday gifts in time for Christmas. Shoppable live streams inspired shoppers to buy the latest products from their favorite influencers. And omnichannel experiences allowed customers to seamlessly switch between their different devices and platforms while shopping—perfect for the 76% of consumers using their mobile phones to buy things online.
“Look over there,” we exclaimed. “It’s Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning!”
“You are correct,” the spirit replied. “Together, these two have enabled online retailers around the globe to create personalized shopping experiences, based on each customer’s shopping habits.”
“Like search history and previous purchases,” we responded with glee. “It’s everything you need to create personalized product recommendations and deliver the best customer experience possible!”
As the spirit guided us further, we continued to see many qualities our present-day e-commerce ecosystem offers – faster performance, easier checkout processes, better customer support, more payment options, tailored email campaigns, social media integration, and plenty more.
Everything seemed wonderful.
But soon, the spirit had brought us to the home of Bargain Betty, a determined shopper with a serious fondness for sales. Upon entering her home, we watched as Bargain Betty searched tirelessly for an online retailer who could meet her demands for dynamite deals.
“Has she no refuge or resource?” we cried. “Is there not enough personalization for everyone?”
The spirit gathered us around closely and with an earnest voice, told us that unless Bargain Betty is able to find perfectly tailored recommendations and deals that speak to her soul, a cycle of abandoned shopping carts will remain far into her future.
“This is not a problem of the past or even the future, my friends,” the spirit revealed. “It is a challenge of right now. Personalization technology has been amassed by the big retailers, leaving the average e-commerce stores unable to keep up with the demand for personalized experiences. But you have the power to change the outcome of this story—for Bargain Betty and millions of other shoppers around the world who want a better online shopping experience.”
“How can we make a difference,” we asked. “Impart goodwill to online shoppers, through accumulated intelligence, so they will continue to provide e-commerce businesses with better conversion rates for years to come,” he responded one last time.
As the spirit faded, we realized that through all the successes e-commerce has experienced, there were still many shoppers who seek more—more personalization; more recommendations; more payment options; more everything. And we knew that this personalization technology We just needed to believe in ourselves, and have the right machine learning technology to guide us to victory.
The Ghost of E-Commerce Yet to Come
Already uplifted by the stories shared, we awaited the final spirit to show us
what the future of e-commerce will look like. Fearful of a world unchanged from our present—the Bargain Bettys still frantically searching for perfect items that never come—we agreed that no matter what we see, we already know what needs to be done to enhance the online shopping experience.
The silent ghost arrived and took us to a scene of disruption. Millennials demanded real-time, real-life situations where products aren’t just featured as products, but rather, experiences—complete with complementary items and product reviews.
Online retailers engaged through their social platforms, closely monitoring their comments and responding to their customers’ wants, needs, and experiences.
Conversational commerce was taking online shopping to another level, with features like chatbots increasing engagement through personalized interactions and wizard-fast support.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) created interactive shopping experiences, allowing Fashion Frankie to see what they look like in those kicks they had their eye on, and Homebody Harper to see if that big blue couch would actually fit in their living room.
And sustainability was more important than ever, with consumers being more mindful about where they shop and the impact it will have on the environment. Online retailers followed suit, by providing more eco-friendly solutions, like biodegradable packaging and recyclable materials.
Everything was heading in the right direction—one where online retailers welcomed shoppers like old friends and were able to meet their buying needs. And where flexible, scalable solutions were able to meet the growing customer demands, resulting in long-term e-commerce success.
“Changes are on the horizon,” we said with a smile.
An E-Commerce Awakening
We all awakened the next morning with hearts full of hope and e-commerce requests to fulfill. With unanimous nods, we turned our heads forward to the monitors that faced us, and began our strategic thinking for the coming year, our commitment to personalization renewed.
From our Granifam to yours, happy holidays, and may your e-commerce order submissions never run low! Here’s to an exciting and successful year to come in the world of retail e-commerce sales and beyond.
A Granmas Miracle
Some may call it a miracle, but we prefer “specialized know-how.” Make sure you won't be visited by ghosts of e-commerce this time next year by implementing machine learning technology into your 2023 growth strategy!
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