As is the case with all major industries, with e-commerce, it is sometimes difficult to differentiate which of the innovations have been created by the industry and which have only been adopted by it with amazing results. With its steady growth over the years, in 2018 in the US, e-commerce represented 14.3% of total retail sales, and as such, its influence on the development of different technologies is undeniable. In other words, even if the idea to use chatbots in customer relations didn’t originate in e-commerce, the fact that the industry relies on this technology means they will be investing in it and helping it develop. Here are some of the other innovations e-commerce incorporated, with or without benefiting them and expanding on them in the process.
Even though people have had a lot of time to get used to spending their money online, there is still a bit of hesitation every time you need to give a new website your credit card number. What’s worse, that feeling is not just sheer paranoia, but actually has a basis in reality. As much as some people have been working to improve the security of these transactions, you know there are plenty of those who have been just as relentless at trying to compromise it. The security that comes with blockchain technology could help us get over at least a part of our reservations, but is obviously not the only benefit that e-commerce websites would get from exploring this option. Naturally, the other benefit is the simple convenience of offering an additional payment method. In this case, a payment method that people have been warming up to for quite a while now. Aside from drawing in more customers based on that convenience, e-commerce websites allowing payments of this kind could significantly boost their revenues by taking an active part in the currency exchange market, thereby effectively diversifying their portfolio.
While e-commerce managed to stay mostly online, there are simply some parts of the retail experience that can’t be fully digitalized, and that’s the actual transport of the goods. Since the rest of the process is so streamlined and organized, people seem to be quite unwilling, or incapable of showing patience when it comes to the delivery itself. Apart from thinking carefully where they’ll build or rent warehouses and working out the other problems with logistics, e-commerce stores have mainly been turning to technology to appease the consumers and make the experience as tolerable and as short as possible. These attempts are ranging from things like ensuring your trucks are equipped for accurate GPS vehicle tracking, so that customers know where their order is at any point in time, to using drones to ensure minimal delivery times, or allow delivery to previously inaccessible locations.
Virtual and augmented reality
The advances in both of these areas may not have been so fast as to make them a part of everyone’s daily life, but the technologies and devices they require are constantly becoming more accessible. This is especially true of augmented reality, when sometimes all that you need to be able to tap into its potential is a smartphone. Regardless of their current degree of proliferation, these two technologies are being effectively used to address the same issue from two different perspectives. This issue is attempting to provide the best of both worlds when it comes to the retail experience.
On the one hand, you have the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. You are physically there, you can touch the product, inspect it from different angles, etc. However, you don’t get a convenient tab with its specifications, comparisons with other products, price ranges of similar items, etc. This is where augmented reality comes into play to provide that extra data, in order to make sure that this transaction also offers some of the benefits of online shopping. At the same time, virtual reality technology is used to plug the hole in online shopping. The tactile experience is still not there, but different virtual showrooms make the transaction much more similar to what you used to have in stores. You get to see the product in some kind of proportion to the world, are able to examine it more closely than you could with the help of simple images, etc.
The number of potential applications of these technologies in e-commerce is bound to keep growing with the increase in their accessibility, but even their use so far is already quite impressive on its own.
The bottom line
While it might sometimes simply rely on advancements made by others, e-commerce does have at least a supportive role in the development of certain innovations. Whether it’s by providing a large testing ground, financing different research, or creating demands which might solve more universal issues with a particular technology, it’s rarely just a user of these technologies, but quite often, their propagator as well.