What does the future of e-commerce look like?

The e-commerce industry is booming. Retail e-commerce sales are expected to rise from $3.5 trillion in 2019 to $4.9 trillion in 2021 (worldwide). In this article, learn how evolving technologies and customer shopping behaviors, combined with increased customer expectations are changing the face of e-commerce as we know it. 

You’ll also explore how an omnichannel approach can help boost sales for your store, and how can you automate your marketing communications across all the major channels (email, web push, SMS and Messenger).

Omnichannel shopping is the future

Consumer shopping behaviors are always evolving and the rapid growth of e-commerce has had much to do with that (though e-commerce still only accounts for 11.9% of retail). 57% of consumers now prefer to shop online, while 81% of retail shoppers do some research online before they make a purchase. 

shop online

*Screenshot from Business2Community.

Interestingly, more consumers are now purchasing directly through social media channels (known as social commerce). They can do this through features like “Buy now” buttons on social media posts and through paid social media adverts.

What’s clear for the future of e-commerce is that consumer shopping behavior is becoming more omnichannel. People are shopping across several channels, including online, in-store and through social media platforms. 

how we buy

*Screenshot from BigCommerce Blog

An omnichannel strategy puts the customer at the core of the business and ensures they receive the same messaging and experience seamlessly across all channels. This article contains 31 tips from experts on dominating an omnichannel strategy. 

Online stores can adapt to these new consumer shopping behaviors by developing a targeted, omnichannel marketing strategy and aiming to provide a cohesive customer experience. Here’s an example of how that might look. Imagine that a merchant is running a one-day flash sale across selected products. A basic omnichannel approach to promoting this might be to:

  1. Carry out audience segmentation using customer insights to determine which existing customers might be interested in this particular sale. Then send an email to this segmented group of shoppers explaining the details and benefits of the sale.
  2. Send a web push notification, a text message and Messenger message to subscribers who have purchased or browsed similar products (using customer insights to determine this information).
  3. Use chatbot AI to recommend the sale or provide further information about it.
  4. Include a pop-up promoting the sale on the online store too.

Firepush is one such app that can help with omnichannel marketing. Currently available for Shopify stores, Firepush is an all-in-one app that helps drive sales through automated marketing communications across all the major channels. The app also provides detailed customer insights to help users carry out more targeted and personalized campaigns. 

The rise of Augmented Reality (AR)

AR is changing the e-commerce landscape. It’s a digital technology that many online stores are experimenting with to help them stand out from their competitors and provide immersive browsing experiences for their customers. Through AR, shoppers are able to see a virtual representation of products they’re interested in. 

An example of AR for e-commerce is Shopify’s video and 3D update for products. Soon merchants will be able to showcase their products using video and 3D model assets so customers can get a much better idea of how they will look in the flesh, as opposed to relying on a photo alone. 


*Screenshot from Shopify AR.

Some AR apps allow shoppers to visualize products at actual size in their home environment, try on or test out products virtually, and see products they’re interested in customized according to their preferences. AR is one of the most exciting developments in retail generally - this interesting article explains more. As a global market size, AR is expected to be worth $198 billion by 2025.

Chatbot AI is progressing

Chatbots are automated programs that simulate human conversations over the internet through artificial intelligence. For e-commerce stores, chatbot technology can be used to automate customer support 24/7; they’re capable of recognizing and responding to frequently asked questions and can execute straightforward tasks such as providing further information or verifying an order.

Chatbots have huge time-saving benefits for merchants and can massively help to improve customer engagement. They can even respond to inquiries from multiple customers at the same time and can do so in different languages.

By harnessing the power of machine learning, AI-driven chatbots are becoming more advanced than ever before. They now have the ability to better understand the meaning of a sentence, not just keywords, and can even learn from user inputs! By integrating chatbot AI with communication channels like Messenger (learn about Tobi’s free Messenger bot here), e-commerce businesses can offer smarter, more personalized customer experiences.

Top takeaways

E-commerce is thriving and is set to grow even further over the next few years, in part due to the staggering pace in which digital technologies such as AR and AI are progressing. Customer shopping behaviors are becoming more omnichannel; people are now purchasing (and researching products in advance) across multiple channels, including social media and online, as well as physically in store.

For online stores, the future of e-commerce is exciting and packed full of opportunities. By capitalizing on key trends such as using AR and chatbot AI within their stores, merchants can create more personalized, immersive browsing experiences that help meet the expectations of customers today.

Finally, by using an app like Firepush to implement an omnichannel approach to marketing, merchants can reach their customers via the channels they like to use while providing a cohesive customer experience.