Technological advancements are changing the landscape of e-commerce trends, from driving an increasing reliance on the data derived from the “internet of things” (IoT-based solutions drive efficiencies) to improving the mobile shopping experience (10 mobile platforms serve just about any customer imaginable). Staying in front of the curve can help businesses better serve their customers while carving out a niche in a rapidly evolving marketplace.

Welcoming voice-enabled systems

Consumers are rejoicing as more systems become voice-enabled. The broadening interest in products like the Amazon Echo is merely a harbinger of change. The voice search function is a differentiator in the e-commerce experience. It allows the customer to simply speak a desire to obtain results, creating a smooth interaction between the system and user. While natural language searches can leave something to be desired, for many simple searches producing the desired result is no longer an issue (although there is still the thorny problem with accents). Chatbots are an increasingly important part of this landscape, providing the essential human touch while quickly and efficiently managing customer requests. While voice-driven activities will benefit a broad range of people, such as those with disabilities or who simply may not have the requisite technology skills, studies have shown that Millennials are particularly enamored with the technology, with about 40 percent of them engaging with voice-activated solutions.

It’s all in the delivery

The lifeline of e-commerce is its ability to deliver quality goods or services in a quick, efficient manner. This is no small issue, since brick-and-mortar stores offer the ultimate in customer experience: Buyers can touch the product, try it out, make a purchase, and take it home immediately. Price is where e-commerce retailers typically compete for customers, but they are somewhat handicapped in this area by the additional cost and time needed for delivery. The need to emulate Amazon’s strategy for quick, low-cost delivery is an important trend in the e-commerce marketplace. This trend will revolutionize business, as more e-commerce retailers invest in same-day delivery. To capitalize on faster delivery times and routes, companies may need to tap into the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through data and provide key insights. They may also need to invest in their own fleets or develop relationships with those who can quickly and safely provide delivery services. This investment will likely lead to an uptick in driverless freight deliveries that utilize autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, like those developed by Tesla or Mercedes-Benz.

The AI is no blockhead

Blockchain, a kind of digital ledger architecture that manages transactions using a cryptocurrency, has been hailed for its ability to accurately and safely process trustless interactions. Blockchain is being implemented in a wide number of areas, from banking to voting, and e-commerce is riding high on this surge. The partnering of blockchain with AI allows for the creation of a decentralized learning network. 2018 is predicted to be a banner year for blockchain that utilizes AI. AI can help identify important patterns and trends in data, especially the enormous data sets generated by the IoT, to highlight potential areas of growth or new opportunities for expansion. AI will help companies derive significant value from customer purchasing histories, chatbot data, website utilization and even dark data. In addition, blockchain-enabled AI may become the next important step for the protection of customer and business data.

E-commerce will experience significant changes in the year ahead, but businesses that are willing to utilize and grow along with the technology stand to gain. Businesses will find that capturing value with technology will become easier than before. While no one can predict the future with perfect accuracy, one thing is certain: Businesses that are flexible and open to technology will benefit.