How and where we shop has changed considerably in just the past few years. These days, we have the ability to buy products without the need to leave your house or bring your wallet.
Moving into 2017, we’re starting to see some interesting innovations and trends that might be worth tracking. While it’s too early to make judgment calls on what will be successful, we can at the very least start taking note.
#1. Social Media Shopping
Social networks have already impacted the buyer’s journey in big ways. PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed 22,618 digital buyers, aged 18 and up, and asked about how they use social media to influence their purchasing decisions online. They found that 45% read reviews, comments and other feedback on social media to influence their purchases.
People want assurance before spending money, and there are few better places than a network of your friends and family.
Pinterest, the popular social media network for cataloguing ideas like recipes or DIY projects. Recently, the company made a decision to differentiate itself from its social media competitors. On June 27, Pinterest announced that it would be adding a shopping cart feature, allowing users to collect buyable pins to review later or purchase. The cart feature can be transferred between mobile and web browsers.
Pinterest will also allow users to incorporate visual search into its e-commerce. While Pinterest has had the technology for at least a year now, we’re starting to see some practical use of this object-recognition software.
We’ve seen companies like Facebook and Twitter attempt to mix social media with shopping before, but very little has emerged from the concept labs. Still, the shopping cart feature has not yet been implemented in a major social media website, so only time will tell whether this move will be successful for Pinterest.
#2. Mobile Payments
When Apple Pay was introduced with the iPhone 6 back in 2014, customers praised the payment option that didn’t need outdated plastic cards or cash. While companies like PayPal, Walmart, and Google had tried mobile payment before, many of these failed because of how the market was segmented and largely unsupported. Paying with your phone was just too inconvenient.
When Apple stepped in, they had the backing of major credit card companies like Mastercard, American Express, and Visa. They also had support from 7-Eleven, McDonald’s, Starbucks and numerous restaurant and shopping outlets. Most importantly, the process was as easy as tapping your phone against a reader, and pressing the home button with your thumb. While some Android Phones were capable of this, it wasn’t until Google introduced Android Pay that it started becoming more prevalent and easy to use.
At WWDC 2016, Apple announced that Apple Pay is expanding beyond retailers and apps. Over the next few months, many websites will start supporting Apple Pay as a payment option. For added security, online shoppers will be asked to authenticate their purchase by using their iPhone or Apple Watch.
As Apple moves into the the online shopping sphere with competitors like PayPal (which has 179 million active users) it will be interesting to see how the online payment battle will pan out. Walmart has already announced its own tactic- not a proprietary service for payments, but by using QR codes for checkouts.
Mobile shopping has been in the works for a while, but what about shopping with your voice? Up until now, no one has had the technology or influence to make any significant impact. Amazon wants to change that.
Starting on July 5, shoppers can now use Amazon Echo to purchase select Amazon Prime products. Users will need to set up 1-Click Purchasing and Voice Purchasing in the app, but afterwards, it’s as easy as saying, “Alexa, order an Amazon Tap.” Alexa will then make the purchase based on your default settings.
To encourage voice shopping, Amazon is offering deals for using Amazon Echo to order during the company’s biggest shopping day: Prime Day. Not only will there be exclusive Amazon Echo deals leading up to Prime Day, but a $10 off your first purchase, or a purchase of $20 or more.
#4. Tracked Store Visits
Even though online shopping has become more popular, it still only accounted for 7.5% of all retail spending in 2015. This could be due to a number of reasons: the need to physically test some products, expensive shipping or delivery fees, and the overall risk from ordering online. Regardless, tracking these in-store visits are just as important as tracking online ones.
We’ve discussed how Google has been tracking store searches and visits by using the phone’s GPS and search history. Over 1 billion visits have been tracked in the 18 months since the launch of the technology. Now, Facebook wants to do the same.
Starting back in June, Facebook advertisers were given the ability to show ads that display a map to their physical store location. Facebook will then track users (depending on whether their location services are enabled) to determine whether they visited the stores or not. And to take it one step further, a new Facebook API called Offline Conversions API will attempt to match customer data from in-store POS systems with Facebook’s advertising data. This allows for greater and more accurate tracking of how effective ads can be.
Online Shopping, 2017
How many of these will become trends, and how many will fade as a gimmick or fad? Interestingly, these four changes are all backed or started by a major e-commerce website or platform. Companies like Apple and Amazon have large enough revenue streams and brand power to attempt bold new ways of shopping, and to impact the market as a whole.
Paying with your phone, and tracking conversions through your phone have been around for at least a year, and we can safely assume that more companies will want to ride the wave. Why wouldn’t you? If the technology makes shopping more convenient for your customer, and if you can track customer purchases more accurately, businesses will want to take advantage of this as soon as they can.
On the other hand, shopping through social media or by using your voice is just the beginning. The technology is still in its infancy, and we’re not quite sure how the public will react. Still, it’s quickly becoming clear how shopping is changing rapidly, influencing and influenced by our technology.