Staff Writer

A 'nom de plume' for one of our talented wordsmiths...

The Balance team are back from Magento Imagine, with insights into the key eCommerce trends of 2019, here are our top four:

1. Ethical commerce is becoming a thing.

And that means there is money to be made. For better or worse, the rise of online social platforms has to lead to the widespread and rapid dissemination of information in consumable chunks for your afternoon train ride home. From politics to science, environment to social inequity, people are learning, sharing and forging their identity through discussion online.

This naturally leads to many shoppers taking a more considered approach when it comes to their understanding of brand identity. As brands continue to develop their online presence, increasingly questions are being raised as to the where and they why – how are their products made? What are the working conditions like for their employees? What political stances do they take? All these questions are becoming more frequent, and smart brands are beginning to understand that as comfortable as the top may be, customers might not want to buy it if it was manufactured in a shady manner.

Conversely, brands that get this messaging right can find customers who are willing to pay a premium for a product specifically because the brand has been open about their methods for creation and their stance on various issues.

Whether you think its a good idea or not, its something that needs consideration in the current climate, as doing this well can lead to massive upticks in brand recognition and engagement, and doing this poorly may see potential customers walk if you dont have your messaging right.

2. PWA based sites taking priority as mobile use continues to rise

Speed is king, especially when it comes to conversion. Each second a site takes to load has a direct impact on site conversion rate. As a result, it is crucial that eCommerce site performance is optimised to deliver experiences quickly, whatever they may be.

With the release of Magento PWA studio earlier this year, Magento has made their intentions clear when it comes to the future of Magento commerce. PWA studio offers a range of tools to allow an existing store owner to set up a mobile optimised blazing quick site in a relatively short amount of time. It allows the use of cutting edge frontend development languages to build fully customised storefronts that can load much faster than traditional sites, leading directly to a smoother and more satisfying experience for users.

The first storefronts built using this technology have already started to appear and not only did they arrive quickly, but they also go quickly as well. Going forwards this provides the Magento community with an invaluable tool to set the standard when it comes to online commerce experiences.

3. Social media sites allowing purchases

Recently Instagram announced its pioneering purchase of items directly from the Instagram app. This is great news as it allows brands to begin selling directly on a social channel, expanding potential sales reach greatly to any who shares a post. This isn’t new technology however, its actually already common on the Wechat network, an enormously popular messaging app in China. Their users have already had the option to purchase goods shared via a link or image directly within the app for a few years now, and the practice has become enormously popular.

We expect the Instagram option to catch on, although it remains to be seen how their payment offerings will play out. No doubt they will look to integrate directly to Apple pay and Google pay to streamline the whole process.

As online channels continue to grow and evolve, it will be important for brands to recognise where users are congregating and look to update and have the technology in place to integrate to these systems in order to maximise their potential audience.

4. Increase in AI-based data analysis

Big data is two words and doesn’t really mean much to most people. To savvy data scientists, however, data is money just waiting to be realised. In today’s landscape, each site you visit collects an enormous amount of data about your habits. When enough of this data is aggregated, it can reveal trends that allow businesses insights into which of their business practices are working and which are not.

The problem these days is that the amount of captured data is so vast, it can become prohibitively expensive to actually process and understand it. Enter AI, machine learning and data science. Instead of trying to get humans to understand it, it is now becoming much more effective to set up AI based services to parse the data.

The important step then is to allow them control. Instead of relying on humans to review results and to update things manually, these services are given control of marketing and content systems. They have the ability to A/B test two approaches and to then modify the approaches based on incoming results on the fly, or to replace the losing test with another once a certain threshold is reached. The overall result should be a service that is capable of doing a thousand years of human work in a week and delivering optimisation to all aspects of customer experience extremely quickly. It is not a cheap investment, but the potential benefits may well outweigh the costs.