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Predictions Series 2022: VR/AR, Live Shopping, and Payment Hurdles Influencing E-commerce Trends

Welcome to our Predictions Series 2022. Today, we are discussing the biggest forces driving e-commerce trends. Recent advancements in Artificial Intelligence, AR VR, Automated payments, and Blockchain have proved to be a complete game-changer for e-commerce trends. After a year of massive changes and disruptions in the e-commerce world, what trends and challenges will the next year bring for the industry?

Laura Haines
Laura Haines, Chief Product Officer at Famous.

Today, we are hosting insights from Laura Haines, Chief Product Officer at Famous.

Hi Laura, please tell us about the biggest trend-setters in the e-commerce industry? Which technologies made the biggest impact on the e-commerce market?

Laura Haines (LH): AR and VR will see massive growth in e-commerce as companies are exploring the Metaverse.

As businesses like Facebook are making strategic shifts to the Metaverse, we will see the adoption of AR/VR in e-commerce accelerate. Expect massive growth in this area, including things such as AR glasses for Instagram shopping and businesses supporting users to create a greater personal identity in VR.

Inclusion and identity will be a big focus along with this. We are already seeing businesses take note of the imagery they are using across products and branding – 2022 will be the year where businesses catch up with the pace and importance of individualization in our society.

Gamified e-commerce trends are on an all-time high. How do you relate these to advancements in AR VR/ Metaverse and NFT? Do you closely follow these trends for the e-commerce market?

LH:  Yes, I think you have to follow the trends closely to ensure you can compete in the market and deliver users the best experiences possible.

Gamification has been used for a long time in retail, e-commerce, and education to increase customers’ affinity to the business, increase knowledge of the products and overall customer engagement levels. What we are now seeing with the accelerated shift from in-store to online purchasing is the value AR brings to the consumer. AR gives customers a real-time glimpse of a product and supports their purchasing decision, leading to increased sales and also decreased returns. Gamification used to be the lever pulled by businesses to increase engagement and time-on-site and build a love for their brands and products – now online experiences far exceed those of the past and AR/VR is blurring the line between commerce and entertainment. Customers are choosing to stay around for longer and are more engaged than ever before.

As lines continue to blur, consumers don’t have to pick between online vs. offline and are no longer restricted to traditional marketplaces or even traditional currencies – NFT and cryptocurrencies have expanded the definitions of trading and ownership. These too are benefiting from gamification strategies as the pace of growth charges towards mass adoption. Play-to-earn NFT games mean we are seeing the complete cycle of user engagement from reward to purchase, all in a singular ecosystem.

Could you tell us about the latest mobile-optimized designs for e-commerce stores that influences better interaction between online shoppers and brands?

LH:  Consumers today are experience-agnostic. They will engage with your business in person and online; they will encounter you across many channels and on multiple devices, and they make purchasing decisions (large and small) on the go.

E-commerce sites, therefore, are increasingly designing for mobile-first experiences, and then from there consider how they expand for other experiences. With mobile devices limiting the size of your product pages, you must be selective with what to feature. Images not only speak a thousand words but visual content far outweighs text in terms of engagement with 84% of consumers saying that they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a video. Interactive features, such as 3D images, GIFs, and animations, allow you to tell your brand’s story and show off your products in an effective, entertaining, and immersive way. Optimizing this for mobile screen size, performance, navigation, engagement, payments, and more, is now table stakes for a business.

How do AI and chatbot assistants help to improve online shopping experiences? Any exemplary examples that you would like to share with us?

LH: Chatbots simulate a real conversation with customers and help brands transform customer experiences by introducing a new level of connecting with consumers at the exact moment they need support. In a world where customers are now expecting the ability to self-serve, bots removed roadblocks for businesses and consumers alike. Customers expect to be able to find the information they’re looking for in a click of a button right away, via their preferred channel. Chatbots offer that additional option for customers who like to engage this way and provide real-time assistance and guidance as consumers explore the site.

With expectations continuing to rise, customers can be frustrated by the lack of sophistication in many chatbot assistants, especially where a fully comprehensive support model does not exist beyond bots – there is a limit (for most) businesses as to how much you can use them solely for support purposes. Leveraging AI and chatbots in the realms of product discovery and selection is where I see it done exceptionally well. In a day of endless choice and personalization, consumers can be overwhelmed – this leads to a drop in decision-making and therefore sales. Utilizing great user experiences and technologies such as AR to help them understand the product more, unlocking their earning and spending options with blockchain technology, and then leveraging AI to help them discover the right products at the right time will ensure business success and happy customers.

What do you think about streaming payments in transforming social commerce? 

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LH: Streamlining payments will be the biggest hurdle for businesses to overcome and win the social commerce game.

I think a few businesses are already leading the way – and changing the game – in social commerce by adopting cryptocurrencies or NFTs. More will follow suit in 2022.

Live shopping will be the final challenge – how can businesses make it simple to discover and view a product, and then make a purchase via livestream? Businesses that can streamline this experience are almost guaranteed success in 2022.

How do trust and transparency enhance brand value? 

LH: Brands must prioritize building consumer trust, transparency, and product understanding to avoid increased purchase regret. Consumerism can be a double-edged sword. We see an increase in channels where purchases can be made, more content/ads used to influence decisions, and a decrease in the content length and customers’ decision-making time.

If we continue on this path of encouraging quick, impulse, and often ill-informed consumer decisions, we run the risk of increased purchase regret and therefore lowered trust. In this fast-paced world, brands need to purposefully foster trust, transparency, and product understanding to counter-balance that risk.

Is there enough room for small-sized businesses and local merchants to grow in e-commerce? 

LH: In 2022, Small businesses will be able to compete with global brands but need to stand on the shoulders of the giants when it comes to e-commerce tech.

2022 will be a game-changer for the decentralization of e-commerce as we know it and smaller brands will be able to compete on a global level thanks to lower barriers of entry and solutions that allow them to create premium, high-quality content and branding – on par with top brands.

However, as there will be so many progressive areas in e-commerce next year, it will be impossible for smaller businesses to create their own tech enablement solutions (e.g. around product discovery, payments, etc.) – they will need to integrate and adopt those of the e-commerce giants.

Tell us more about advertising trends for e-commerce. Should brands still rely on TV ads to promote their content and services?

LH: Brands will move away from longer-form content such as TV ads and shift marketing efforts towards social platforms and other emerging channels.

As our attention span shortens and our multi-tasking abilities grow, marketing channels are moving to short, easily digestible content. In 2022, this means

1) the continued drop in TV advertising with a shift to short in-screen or online video content, and

2) a move to audio and banner advertising, making content digestion a by-product of your current activity.

QR codes were previously only widely adopted in Asia but – as all generations have adapted to scanning QR codes – their usage will grow in 2022 as a way to shift people online for information and/or purchasing activities.

With that, multi-channel messaging during a customer’s journey will be key. It’s all about the right message at the right time and AI will play a big part in helping brands understand when/what that is.

Thank you, Laura, for chatting with us! Hope to speak with you again soon…

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