A majority of consumers—73 percent—consider the customer experience an important factor in the decision to purchase a product or service. Nearly 80 percent of Americans consider speed, convenience, and knowledgeable service as the most critical aspects of a positive customer experience. But fewer than half of U.S. consumers say companies provide a good customer experience, according to a recent PWC survey. Online retailers have an opportunity to capitalize on and profit from this gap by delivering a more elevated customer experience.
Many ecommerce businesses are already taking steps to create a high-end online shopping experience. Smaller online businesses can learn from these examples and stay competitive by embracing these ecommerce technology trends that are re-shaping the customer experience in a personalized, highly convenient way.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these ecommerce trends, the companies that are using them, and why it is important for all online retailers to start thinking high-end.
Ecommerce technology trends for high-end online shopping
Here are ten ecommerce technology trends online retailers are using to create a high-end online shopping experience.
1. Subscription services
Customers can subscribe to a weekly or monthly delivery of products without having to go through the hassle of selecting specific items and placing an order. Items are selected based on the customer’s profile and preferences.
The Gap is one of the online retailers jumping into this space with its OutfitBox service for its line of baby clothing. A delivery of six pieces is delivered every three months based on a child’s style, size, and gender.
Customers pay a lower price for the bundle than they would if they had purchased each piece individually, and unwanted items can be returned. Parents no longer need to worry about not having stylish clothes for their little ones as they quickly outgrow clothes every few months.
A subscription service is a great way to introduce new items and increase product and brand awareness. It also adds an ongoing level of excitement for customers as they await their package, increasing customer engagement.
Online retailers are also able to obtain more data on customers’ preferences, which can be used for future product development and targeted marketing campaigns.
2. Product customization
Enabling customers to create a personalized version of a product increases engagement while creating a luxury experience.
Barneys is an example of a luxury retailer offering this service. Customers can create custom handbags by selecting their preferred colors and accessories.
But luxury brands are not the only place where customization is in demand. Customization allows consumers of all economic levels express their personality and become more engaged with your brand.
Customization can also help increase sales, as 25-30 percent of shoppers have expressed interest in customization options. Giving some control to customers in the design process creates a unique shopping experience that helps your business stand out.
3. Customer-controlled delivery
When it comes to delivery, the most common customer complaints revolve around waiting for packages or packages being lost or stolen. Customer-controlled delivery eases these pain points.
Amazon now offers same-day delivery in some areas, giving customers immediate gratification. The company also offers pickup locations where items can be picked up and returned quickly and easily.
Amazon’s Instant Pickup for Prime and Prime Student members even offers pickup in as little as two minutes for certain items. This service is being offered at some college campuses.
Amazon is not the only company offering more delivery options. Office Depot is offering same-day delivery of online orders. PetSmart allows customers to schedule delivery in anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on their needs. Deliveries can also be tracked with GPS so customers know exactly when their package will arrive.
When it comes to delivery, customers care about speed and control. Allowing customers to select their preferences makes them feel more valued.
4. Voice-assisted shopping
Walmart has partnered with Google Home to bring voice-assisted shopping to customers. This service can be used for one-time purchases or reorders from Walmart.
It demonstrates the innovative use of ecommerce technology trends by Walmart to elevate the customer experience to a new level of ease and luxury. Walmart proves you don’t have to be a luxury brand to create a high-end experience.
Online retailers can use ecommerce technology to create efficiencies for customers in the ordering process, whether it be through voice-assisted ordering or simpler means such as easy reordering—the next trend on our list.
5. Easy reorder
Walmart is again a leader here, unveiling its “Easy Reorder” feature in 2017. Purchases made both in-store and online are recorded in the system. A list of the most frequently purchased items is generated, with the most common items listed first. Customers can then easily reorder items with a simple click from the Walmart app or website.
Simple reordering demonstrates that you understand your customers’ time is valuable. It also helps increase sales, as shoppers are more likely to make repeat purchases when it is easy to do so.
6. Interactive product modeling
Another way to deliver a high-end online shopping experience is to enable customers to get a better sense of how a given product looks or works. This can apply to many areas of online retail.
Bonobos is a high-end online clothing retailer that uses interactive modeling of products to help increase sales. Images show men interacting with each other and the environment so customers can see how products move. Walmart was so intrigued by the retailer that the company acquired Bonobos in 2017.
Wayfair took product interaction to a new level with 3D images of items in its mobile app. Customers can get a sense of how a piece of furniture or decoration will look in their home. They can then seamlessly purchase right from within the app.
Giving customers deeper insight into how products look, feel, and move makes customers feel more confident in their purchases. It also delivers a higher level of engagement.
7. Online styling services
Some online retailers are now providing personal stylists or a personal shopper online who will help you select the right products for your preferences. This is becoming common in the online clothing space and is great for customers who typically prefer to try clothes on before purchasing.
Stitch Fix provides an assistant who will hand-pick five items for customers who have filled out a style profile. Customers have three days to try on the merchandise. Returns are free with a prepaid envelope. There is a fee for this service, but the fee is applied to your purchase should you choose to buy the items.
A styling assistant takes some of the guesswork out of online shopping and encourages customers who typically prefer to see and feel merchandise in-store to order online. It also delivers a higher quality service they are not likely to get from other businesses.
An online personal shopper creates an element of trust—someone is looking out for your preferences and tastes, while keeping your budget in mind. Customers save time, making purchasing more convenient.
8. Click-free shopping
Walmart is the first to step into this space with its introduction of Jetblack. After signing up for the service, a customer participates in a short phone call to identify preferences, style, budget, and other relevant information. Customers can even have an associate visit their home to scan essential items that are used often.
Orders are placed via text message (with the option of using voice-to-text technology) to Walmart’s online personal shopper, “J.” Orders are delivered by a courier, either same-day or next-day. The service can also be used to return unwanted items.
This is truly a high-end experience for online shoppers and allows them to order just about anything and have it delivered almost immediately—without even having to go to a website to place an order.
9. Custom mobile experiences
Many online retailers are moving into the mobile app space as a means for customers to browse and shop for products. Mobile apps had the largest share of e-commerce sales among North American retailers that provide shopping apps in Q4 of 2017. Apps accounted for 44 percent of all e-commerce sales in the same quarter.
As mobile apps continue to be an important channel for ecommerce sales, online retailers can elevate the experience by offering more than just general purchasing. Some companies are using mobile apps to deliver customization and personalization.
True Gault has created an app that scans customers’ feet. Custom shoes are made and delivered within four weeks.
These types of offerings make your ecommerce app stand out. Shoppers are more likely to download it and use it to make purchases.
10. Concierge service
Online grocer Boxed offers a concierge service to ensure enrolled customers do not run out of standing items. Returns can also be easily processed through this service.
This type of functionality relies on predictive analytics to anticipate customers’ needs. Retailers can leverage this technology to show their customers how much they value their business and their time while increasing sales and reorders.
A high-end experience is worth the investment
An investment in ecommerce technology trends is required to create these high-end online shopping experiences. Predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and augmented reality are just some of the technologies at work to bring these high-end services to life.
But investment is a necessary step to differentiate your business and compete with the bigger names in the online space and meet the expectations of the modern consumer.
The good news is customers are willing to pay for these services. The PWC survey revealed that 43 percent of consumers will pay more for greater convenience.
You don’t have to start big, but it’s important to understand what other players in the space are doing. You can then assess your business and decide which ecommerce technology is the best starting point for you to create a more luxurious shopping experience for your customers.
A small investment is often the wisest one, allowing you to test the waters. Adjust as you go and continue to test new technologies and expand your reach. With customers beginning to expect a higher level of service—and with many willing to pay for it—online retailers will find the investments made in ecommerce technology result in a measurable positive return.