How innovation is revolutionising online retail

By Lengow

Innovation is why ecommerce continues to take over the world of retail. The perpetually expanding ecosystem that is online retail thrives on innovation as customers continue to expect more and more from their buying experiences, and the technology facilitating purchases continues to constantly evolve.

The buying experience is a very important factor in ecommerce; we know that the product is no longer enough to entice sales nowadays. Shoppers have developed their buying journeys to include many different channels, including comparison shopping services as well as many marketplaces, and the brand itself, often doing extensive research before going through with a purchase.

Innovation we’re seeing

For this reason, personalisation now seems to be the key to keeping customers interested, by appealing to each individual and making them feel special and appreciated. This personalisation can be anything from recommended products based on past purchases to providing social proof in the form of customer opinions on social media and notes.

In fact, this personalisation is so important to shoppers that a study by Qubit found that 81% of customers would shop elsewhere if they were offered a more enjoyable and personalised service. Therefore, this is a pivotal time for brands who must find new and innovative ways to appeal to their customer base

Traditional retail has gone digital. This means that brands must find innovative solutions for online retail. One of the problems with this new digital age is that customers now demand instant gratification, and online retailers have to try to provide this for them.

Some ways that we have seen brands, such as Sephora in France, tackle this is through click and collect services, where a customer can order something online and collect it in person in 2 hours from the physical store, or Amazon’s Prime Now service where prime members can have goods delivered to them within 2 hours (in big cities only).

On top of this, brands are experimenting with innovative new ways to instantly gratify their customers, as we saw at this autumn’s London Fashion Week: Tommy Hilfiger changed the traditional fashion format when all of his looks were shoppable straight from the runway, and the whole collection was streamed on multiple platforms with options to buy all the products as they came down the runway and Topshop embracing Instagram’s story feature to create more buzz about their new collection, posting more than any other brand during the week.

In recent times, we have also borne witness to the complete explosion of mobile in the online retailing industry. According to We are social, 67% of the world now uses a mobile phone meaning that their impact will be huge. Shoppers are now making purchases on their mobiles, creating the need for mobile optimised sites as well as app development.

However, eMarketer found that although 57% of traffic on ecommerce sites came from mobile devices, only 35% of purchases did. What this boils down to is that shoppers are using their mobiles for more than just purchases, they are using them to breach the gap between physical and online retail.

Mobile devices are being used to research items and compare prices of physical retailers nearby. This where services such as Google Local Inventory Ads have been successful, promoting local product inventories on mobile, easily showing shoppers where they can buy goods. Obviously, social media is also a big part of mobile use, meaning that brands must take advantage of the amount of time we all spend on our phones (at least 2 hours a day, according to We are Social).

This mobile revolution is being attacked head on by online retailers, and we are seeing the implementation of innovative services like chatbots in apps such as Messenger, where Artificial Intelligence is being used to engage with customers. Indeed, Facebook just bought Ozlo, an AI startup, to help build a better virtual assistant for their Messenger chatbot, ‘M’. 

Innovation in the (near) future

These chatbots and the implementation of AI are an example of what the future of online retail will look like. Brands must try to come up with the best and most innovative ways to take advantage of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and voice technology.

We are already seeing the propagation of AR technologies across the industry after last month’s iOS update and the quick adoption of the new system by a wide variety of apps. Ikea released Ikea Place, an app that allows users to see how would furniture would look in a space, showing brands the real world applications of these innovative technologies.

Voice control has also seen real life success, primarily in the US, where shoppers can order products on Amazon through Alexa on their Amazon Echo devices.

Considering that Amazon just released 6 new Alexa powered devices, Google just announced its new Google Home mini and Google Home max, and that the Apple Homepod is coming this December, there is sure to be more demand for voice shopping, something that brands will have to cope with. And given that Gartner predicts that 30% of searches will be done without a screen by 2020, brands have an exciting journey ahead of them.

There are so many ways that the ecommerce world is adapting to the digital landscape that (online) retail is nowadays, and innovation is at the root of them all.


By Lengow


To learn more about online retail and innovation, why not join James Roper, founder of IMRG, as well as many other speakers such as Sean McKee from Schuh, Michel Koch from Time Inc UK., Chris Dawson from Tamebay and 350 retailers and brands at Lengow Day in Paris on October 11th, 2017, for a day centring around innovation and cross border, where the three main themes discussed will be customer experience, sources of growth, and logistics.

Engage with leaders in the industry through talks, panels, and workshops, and expand your ecommerce strategy thanks to our 20 partner solutions. If you are at all involved in the online retail sector, it is certainly a day not to be missed.  Register here.

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