man reading the business papers
Four experts weigh in on what commerce trends they see delivering and which ones they find overblown PHOTO: olu eletu on unsplash

As the end of the year approaches, prediction articles on future trends in commerce will undoubtedly crop up. But which of them are mere hyperbole or too early to adopt commercially? Which ones demand your attention now — offering tangible ROI?

Let’s hear from four industry experts what they see as the trends and hype for 2018 and beyond.

Real Time Personalization of the Shopping Experience

Peter Irikofsky
Peter Irikofsky
Peter Irikovsky
, Co-founder & CEO, Exponea

Passinger: What do you think are the main commerce trends, and where do you think the smart money is headed?

Irikovsky: The key trend is the complete understanding of every single customer and personalization of the shopping experience on a 1 to 1 level — in real-time. This is especially critical on mobile platforms (which account for more than 50 percent of sales in fashion retailing), where dwell time is shorter, messaging space restricted and offers need to be highly focused. Here, the role of AI will become crucial. 

Another important trend is connecting the customers’ online and offline journeys. Retailers should seize opportunities to optimize the research online, purchase offline (ROPO) phenomenon. This can easily double the customer lifetime value through lucrative upselling.

Passinger: Which trends should I leave on the back burner for now?

Irikovsky: We’re working with several of the Top 25 fastest growing online retailers in Europe and haven’t seen anyone getting any real value from beacons, chatbots or social listening. Mobile apps also get too much hype. Very few companies have more than 10 percent of their revenues coming from an app, although many drive 50 percent from the mobile web. 

Omnichannel Evolution

Joshua Goodwin
Joshua Goodwin
Joshua Goodwin
, Director, Commerce Product Management, NetSuite Oracle

Passinger: What do you think are the main commerce trends, and where do you think the smart money is headed? 

Goodwin: Omnichannel evolution. While brands have invested in providing a strong presence in each of their channels, 2018 should be full of initiatives focused on integrating those channels to provide a unified experience. Personalization, recommendations, visibility into purchase history, shared carts, wallets and wish lists are all ways to accomplish this, but without a single source of your content and customer activity in one place for it to be shared by all of your brand’s touch points, you won’t have a chance. 

Consolidation of this data, which traditionally has lived separately in ERP, CRM, POS, ecommerce, order management and customer service systems, into a single system will become vital in order to deliver these consistent and relevant cross-channel experiences.

Passinger: Which trends should I leave on the back burner for now?

Goodwin: Chatbots programmed to specific behavior turn out to cope only with a minority of use cases. The ones based on artificial intelligence can work better based on the situation and context, however complex algorithms that only IT giants can pay for are needed. The time of chatbots will come, but given the early stage of development, I would put this on the back burner.

The other trend that’s too early for nearly all companies is cryptocurrency. Unless you are selling a grey market product/service, you should wait until both the market and providers are much more stable. 

Look to Speech

Michal Hrabi
Michal HrabĂ­
Michal Hrabí
, CEO, Phonexia

Passinger: What do you think are the main commerce trends, and where do you think the smart money is headed?

Hrabi: To have true omnichannel analytics, companies can’t restrict themselves to social media signals and email messaging. The real 24 carat nuggets of insight originate from call centers. Datamining from speech allows marketers to leverage a huge array of metadata to provide much tighter customer profiling, segmentation and personalization.

Voice assistants can not only be used to automate relatively straightforward tasks such as hands-free form completion, but also enrich augmented reality experiences with sophisticated “natural speech” voice commands.

Passinger: Which trends should I leave on the back burner for now?

Hrabi: Using voice as a password where you have to repeat a predefined sentence to access some service (for example accessing account details) appears to have great UX benefits. However, until such time as concerns over fraudsters using speech synthesis based on AI to mimic a user’s voice are resolved, adoption rates are likely to remain extremely low.

A Push Into IoT

Rich Geyer
Rich Geyer
Rich Geyer, Innovation Product Development Director, Vectorform

Passinger: What do you think are the main commerce trends, and where do you think the smart money is headed?

Geyer: One of the biggest trends we’ve seen is the push into IoT (Internet of Things). With a pathway into the digital world just a tap away for nearly everyone, being able to seamlessly integrate touchpoints into that world is the only way to be part of a customer’s daily life. With the various technologies now available, nearly everything can go digital. From “smart” stores to the products themselves, customers not just want, but increasingly expect, to interact from their screens.

Passinger: Which trends should I leave on the back burner for now?

Geyer: We often see clients who have spent too much time focusing on one specific trend. With the pace of technological advancement today if you are not at least thinking of the future, you are more than likely already behind. This means always contemplating how current actions could influence more forward-thinking trends or even past trends may make a comeback. 

For instance, asking yourself how a major backed overhaul may not just benefit a short-term mobile release, but also provide the foundations for an augmented reality application tomorrow!