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Get armed for the future: 5 things your business will need to do to survive in e-commerce in the next 10 years

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It wasn’t so long ago that you had to shell out $2,000 to $3,000 for cameras that would give you high definition quality images. It only took a couple of years for GoPro to sell its kit—pocket-sized, HD and ready for action—for around $300.

When there’s enough demand from consumers, and when there’s enough money to be invested and made, technology leaps forward.

If you’re alarmed by the speed of change, don’t be. Here are five changes I predict are coming in the next 10 years and how your e-commerce business can weather them.

1. Explosion of media, more commercial channels

What it will take to survive: A customer-centric sales and marketing strategy

There’s a lot of talk among retailers about omnichannel marketing, which is a way of accounting for interaction and sales through all media, whether in-store, on the phone or online.

The focus on media is a distraction to the main game, however. Rather than focusing on bricks or clicks, businesses need to be primarily customer-centric, not channel-focused.

There will always be many ways in which people will want to buy what you’re selling: some people want to call or email, some people want to visit the store, some people want to click and collect, and some people want to have it delivered.

Your job as a business is to have a strategy around capturing all those customers and converting those leads to sales. That may be as simple as having a coordinated approach to answering calls and emails so customers feel confident about purchasing.

Remember: customers just want to buy things. Businesses tend to segregate customers when really they’re just people who want to buy stuff and don’t understand why you’re making it so hard.

2. More content, better informed customers

What it will take to survive: Be the one to inform and educate your customers

Customers are moving away from being buyers who consume blindly towards becoming better informed about what they’re buying.

Product descriptions and images have already started to improve, and ancillary content such as industry news and product reviews will remain popular.

Video and 3D imagery will also become part of the package to help remove the barriers to purchase that come from a customer feeling unsure about an item.

The best way for e-commerce operators to stay on the front foot is to be the source of this information. The more you can educate the customer about what they’re buying, the more confident they feel about purchasing from you.

3. Expectations of a tailored buying experience

What it will take to survive: An understanding of your market driven by data and supported by algorithms

The days of junk email and mass marketing are numbered.

Businesses need to develop a better understanding of what triggers their customers to purchase, then tailor the buying experience to make the marketing process more relevant and maximise those sales chances.

It’s not rocket science: make the buying environment more conducive to purchasing by serving up what the customer wants in a user-friendly manner, and quickly, and they’re likely to buy more.

Two things need to happen for this to work: the picture of the customer needs to be data-driven and then businesses need to build an algorithm that will then serve up the optimum experience.

Smart businesses are iteratively working on both to improve lead conversion now.

4. Disruption of delivery methods

What it will take to survive: Offer the fastest, most affordable delivery method possible

The postal service, and to some extent courier services, will change at a dramatic rate.

Drone technology has begun to improve and I expect to see same-day delivery offered in major cities within a couple of years. Receiving a package will be a better, much cheaper user experience.

I recommend e-commerce businesses get on board as early as feasibly possible with new delivery methods because delivery times will become a major, of not the deciding, factor in many customers’ purchasing decisions.

5. Customers will buy IP, not things

What it will take to survive: Differentiate by design

The biggest revolution for retailers will be the uptake of 3D printing over the next decade.

At the moment 3D printers are hardly domestic items but once they reach the tipping point, expect to see customers looking to purchase designs rather than items. Retailers will then be forced to differentiate by design rather than production and delivery.

Current models are restricted to plastic replicas, but as technology improves there will be other materials on hand such as fabric and even composites as hard as steel that will widen the scope of what can be bought and produced at home.

Who knows? With more organic materials on offer maybe one day you could buy a recipe and have a meal printed at home!

The future of selling is consumer-led and the e-commerce businesses that deliver the most relevant buying experience with the fastest delivery—whether that’s in a physical package or in a 3D printing pattern—will be the ones that will survive the next wave of changes.

Jason Wyatt is the co-founder of Marketplacer. Formerly known as The Exchange Group, it is the global online destination for everything bike and now operates four global online marketplaces – Bike Exchange, House of Home, Outdoria and Tinitrader.

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