The Future of Online Business: 6 Trends to Watch

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In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, staying ahead of emerging trends is essential for the success of online businesses. As e-commerce continues to reshape the way we shop and conduct business, it's crucial to anticipate and adapt to these shifts to maintain a competitive edge. In this article, we'll delve into six trends that are shaping the future of online business and transforming the e-commerce landscape.

Rise of voice commerce

Voice-activated devices and virtual assistants have become a part of our daily lives, altering the way we search for information and interact with technology. Insights from earlier this year, reveal a remarkable shift in e-commerce transactions. The value of purchases made through voice assistants is projected to surge from $4.6 billion in 2021 to a staggering $19.4 billion in 2023.

This 400% growth in just two years highlights the rising popularity of voice-assisted purchases. This trend is largely driven by the convenience of using voice assistants, especially on smartphones and smart devices at home. These numbers showcase how voice technology is transforming online business and changing how consumers shop.

And for small businesses, these cool new ways of talking and interacting with gadgets open up awesome chances to make real connections – something big companies sometimes struggle with.

These tools make the digital world feel more like chatting with a human, giving small businesses a way to build real relationships. Also, they make things simple – great for small businesses that might not have tons of resources. Customers can get info quickly without tackling confusing menus. It saves time for both the business and the customer, which is a win-win.

To thrive in this environment, businesses need to optimise their content for voice queries. Here are several effective approaches to achieve this:

Use natural language and a conversational tone

Adapt your content to align with the way people naturally speak. Utilise a conversational tone and incorporate phrases that mirror real-life conversations.

Optimise your content structure

Organise your content with well-defined headings, bullet points, and clear answers. This enhances readability and makes it easier for voice assistants to extract relevant information.

Improve your local presence

Voice search is often used for local queries, such as "Where is the nearest coffee shop?" or "Find a mechanic near me." By making sure that your business's location, contact details, and opening hours are accurately listed on platforms like Google My Business, this will increase the chances of your business being recommended in local voice searches.

Mobile friendliness 

Many voice searches are made on mobile. By ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and loads quickly, you’re enhancing user experience as well as improving the chances of your website ranking well in voice search results. 

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) experiences

Imagine trying on clothes or testing out furniture without leaving your home. That's the potential of AR and VR technologies in online shopping. Augmented reality allows customers to virtually try products, enhancing their shopping experience and reducing purchase uncertainty. 

VR, on the other hand, creates immersive shopping environments that can transport customers to virtual storefronts. These technologies are set to redefine how consumers engage with brands and make purchase decisions.

Mobile commerce and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)

The e-commerce world is undergoing a mobile revolution, and the numbers are speaking loud and clear, with a whopping 60% of online retail sales now happening through mobile phones.

Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) offer a seamless mobile experience by combining the best of web and app technologies. They provide fast loading times, offline access, and app-like interactions. As Nick Maskell, Product Manager at Capital on Tap notes, "PWAs bridge the gap between mobile websites and native apps, delivering a user-friendly experience that encourages higher conversions."

In the pursuit of online success, businesses must prioritise mobile optimisation and responsive design as cornerstones of their approach. These strategies pave the way for a seamless user experience that accommodates the preferences of modern consumers and positions businesses to thrive in a world increasingly dominated by mobile devices.

Personalisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the way businesses understand and cater to customer preferences. Machine learning algorithms analyse vast amounts of data to deliver personalised product recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns

These AI-driven experiences enhance customer satisfaction and drive sales. Our blog post on how you can utilise AI to improve customer experience offers further insights into leveraging AI for your e-commerce strategy.

Social commerce and influencer marketing

Social media platforms are no longer just for networking; they have evolved into powerful e-commerce channels. Social commerce integrates shopping features directly into social platforms, enabling seamless transactions.

Think about it: you're scrolling through your favourite social platform, and suddenly you come across a post showcasing an outfit you like. But here's the twist – you can tap on that outfit and buy it without leaving the app. That's the magic of social commerce.

Here’s a few examples of platforms that have taken this approach: 

  • TikTok Shop: TikTok, known for short videos and viral trends, has also jumped into social commerce. They introduced the "TikTok Shop" feature, allowing users to shop for products directly within the app. Creators can even link to products they're using in their videos, making it a dynamic way to discover and purchase items while enjoying entertaining content.

  • Instagram Shopping: Instagram has transformed into a shopping hub with its "Instagram Shopping" feature. Businesses can tag products in their posts, stories, and even on their profile. Users can tap on these tags to learn more about the products and make purchases seamlessly without leaving the app.

  • Pinterest Shopping: Pinterest has always been about discovering ideas, and they've embraced shopping with "Pinterest Shopping." Users can shop for products inspired by Pins, and brands can upload their product catalogue to create shoppable Pins. 

Influencer marketing, backed by user-generated content, has also emerged as a potent tool for driving online sales. This kind of marketing works like magic because it's relatable. It's not a big brand shouting about their products; it's someone you trust saying, "Hey, I love this, and you might too!" It's a lot more personal and convincing.

When businesses team up with influencers, they're getting access to an engaged audience that already follows and trusts these influencers. It's like a shortcut to building credibility. Plus, influencers create content that feels authentic, which resonates with their followers.

By collaborating with influencers and leveraging user-generated content, businesses can tap into engaged audiences and enhance brand credibility.

Sustainability and ethical business practices

As consumers increasingly prioritise sustainability and ethical considerations, businesses need to align their values with their offerings. Eco-friendly practices and social responsibility resonate with conscious consumers, fostering brand loyalty. 

Businesses that prioritise eco-friendly choices, such as utilising sustainable materials and minimising their carbon footprint, not only attract consumers but also contribute to a more sustainable future.

Ethical considerations are equally important. Today's consumers seek brands that uphold fair labour practices, treat their employees equitably, and contribute positively to the communities they operate in.

A great example is Patagonia, this outdoor clothing and gear company is renowned for its commitment to sustainability. They prioritise using recycled materials, reducing their carbon footprint, and even encourage customers to repair their products instead of buying new ones. 

The bottom line

In a nutshell, these are the trends that are set to redefine the online business landscape. From voice commerce to immersive AR/VR experiences, mobile optimisation, AI-driven personalisation, social commerce with influencers, and a deep commitment to sustainability and ethics – these trends are shaping the way business is done.

The key takeaway? To stay ahead in this rapidly evolving digital world, businesses need to ride these waves of change. Being flexible, embracing innovation, and aligning with what consumers want are the keys to staying competitive.

Mastering these emerging trends could very well determine which businesses thrive in the exciting future of online commerce.

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