Justyna Skorupska

Head of Businnes Consulting Europe

The latest trends in European e-commerce. 6 inspirations from the Global E-commerce Summit in Barcelona

The Global E-commerce Summit in Barcelona brings together the most important personalities and experts in the e-commerce world. What subjects were raised this year? What were the themes?

First of all, it was emphasized that e-commerce is a field of innovation; not only is e-commerce constantly changing, but it is also revolutionizing the whole concept around how we do business. E-commerce technologies and practices have already entered stationary stores and revolutionized the way they operate. Solutions that a few years ago were considered science fiction are becoming commonplace today.

1) New reality in e-commerce: AR, VR

While the use of smartphones in the process of purchasing is already standard behaviour for both consumers and businesses, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) still present a challenge.

Conference participants were able to see how those technologies could be used in the fashion industry: a user creates an avatar in 3D, who then tries on items of clothing in which the user is interested,allowing virtual fitting without ever entering a fitting room. This method will be helpful to customers who (for whatever reason) are unable to actually try on the clothes in order to assess fit.

This will make virtual shopping more exciting.

2) Artificial intelligence for better shopping

Certainly, we will also see commerce-specific applications of voice assistants (like Alexa) and artificial intelligence. Perhaps we will dictate our shopping list to a voice assistant, which will automatically place the order on our behalf, searching first to find the best price? Maybe a sensor-equipped refrigerator will automatically reorder products that are running low?

3) E-commerce is changing the way we conduct offline business

The fact that e-shops introduce such innovations is not without effect on brick-and-mortar stores - they have to adapt to new shopping habits. Therefore, companies are testing various technologies in stationary stores. The most popular are:

  • Self-service product scanning stations
  • Self-service checkouts
  • Smart payments (e.g. using smartphones or smartwatches)
  • Digital shopping lists (e.g. on a smartphone)
  • Personalized promotions
  • Personalized product recommendations
  • A stand / touch screen that offers product information
  • Product personalization (configuring a product by a customer)
  • Shop navigation (often used in supermarkets)
  • Foot/body scanners
  • Smart mirrors
  • Smart fitting rooms

Technology has come to stationary stores and is changing their role in the buying process.

4) It is not about devices - it is about the experience

Today, the most important challenge for e-commerce is creating a consistent shopping path that proceeds seamlessly regardless of any changes in channels or devices. In other words, the focus will be on delivering the best Customer Experience;this common goal will break the barriers between online and offline and force greater collaboration between manufacturers and sellers, as CX, by definition, embraces every aspect of a customer’s exposure to the product: the buying process, the brand, and marketing communication. It includes the features of the product itself as well as the price, delivery method, narration around it, after-sales service, and experiences reported by other users.

However, regardless of whether shopping will take place at home or at a stationary store, shopping centre, or tram, we will focus more and more on the fact that the shopping is - first and foremost - an experience: you do not sell a specific product, but the related experience and emotions.

5) Experiment!

Nowadays, there is no secure, established path to business success.With fast-changing consumer habits and the emergence of new business models, vendors must adapt to new circumstances and quickly deploy new solutions. In such a dynamic environment, the only winners are those organizations which are able to experiment; they efficiently implement new ideas and verify their effects. This approach also applies to product development. Do not strive to create a perfect product, but one that can be changed based on customer feedback.

When you plan to introduce experiments into your regular business, get support from the CEO and find partners: incubators, accelerators, local development and innovation space.

6) Technology enables a direct, emotional relationship with the customer

Technology is often portrayed as cold, impersonal, and unsatisfying, contrasting with the warm, emotional, interpersonal experience which we want to provide our customers. In truth, however, it is technology that allows us to establish that direct, personal contact with each and every customer and enables personalization of content and offers or 1-to-1 communication. The key is to understand the needs of the end-user, his/her shopping path, and the proper selection of tools needed to meet those needs at every stage.

E-commerce is part of the contemporary customer's shopping path

Today it is important that no one thinks of e-commerce as a separate sales channel;it is just one of the elements of the multi-channel Customer Experience that contributes to the end result. Depending on who the particular user is and what his/her shopping path looks like, e-commerce can play a variety of roles. It is important, however, that the technology back-end allows personalization of communication to each recipient and his/her needs individually, so that the message is coherent and contextual. This involves the change of perspective - communication has to put the customer first and keep the so-called brand promise.