Today the economy is still in pretty rough shape, but it's better than it was a year or two ago, and that's great news! A large part of the success of this most profitable holiday season is due to the impressive amount of money being spent online. Over the past ten years, the Ecommerce revolution has transformed the way we shop to the point where you don't even have to get dressed and make contact with another human to find a great deal. Although the amount of time and money we spend online grows every year, the Ecommerce experience has changed very little since its inception.
In the beginning, Ecommerce was touted as a "Jetsons-esque" online phenomenon that would transform the way we shop. In many ways it has lived up to that expectation, but still lacks many of the basic virtues embodied by the in-store shopping experience. For instance, if you shop regularly at your favorite boutique, chocolate, or fitness equipment store, it is likely that the employees or owner will get to know you. They will remember what you have purchased, become familiar with your particular taste or workout preference, and suggest items that may be of interest to you.
Adding Human Elements That Sell
Although many websites do remember your name (Hi "insert username", welcome back!), the last item you purchased, or suggest additional items you may want, the experience as a whole is still somewhat predictable, cold and calculated. Despite all the bells and whistles, most Ecommerce websites are still not much more than electronic catalogs. Completely lacking is the human element; the element that sells to you, or convinces you to change your mind. There is no bargaining, there are no surprises, there is no "sweetening of the deal." In this regard, Ecommerce has been unable to provide the same experience that shoppers take delight in -- or perhaps hate -- when making in-store purchases. Thanks to some innovative and dynamic web technologies, all this is due to change in the near future.
Imagine visiting your favorite online store and stumbling across the Holy Grail of all gadgets, the "Awesomematic DELUXE." This is something you have been dreaming about for the past three weeks, so you read all about it, examine every photo, and experiment with every possible configuration. Then after twenty minutes of deliberation, you decide not to buy it, and return to your Facebook page for your bi-hourly status update and some vigorous "Liking!" Had you been in an actual store talking to a live person, that individual may have been able to convince you to make the purchase by sweetening the deal or lowering the price. You would have been transformed from a gawking observer to the proud new owner of an "Awesomematic DELUXE." But because you're shopping online, a situation which would normally have been an easy sale has become instead, a missed opportunity for both you and the merchant.
This time, imagine that a few days have passed and you find your way back to your favorite online store. But instead of the standard, (Hi "insert username:, welcome back!) message, you are greeted with an image of the "Awesomematic DELUXE," marked down 20 percent for today only! How lucky that you just happened to stop by to find the product of your dreams displayed front and center, and marked down on that very day! Lucky enough to make a purchase? Probably.
A Custom-Tailored, Dynamic Experience
And herein lies the future of Ecommerce: A custom-tailored experience that can remember your preferences, gauge your level of interest in a certain item, and make dynamic adjustments to the price and options -- all in order to make the sale, rather than miss an opportunity. By implementing advances in dynamic programming, combined with thoughtful design, Ecommerce of the future will resemble a catalog less and less, and feel more and more like an in-store experience.
User-specific promotions are just one example of how the new, dynamic Ecommerce experience will change the way you shop online. Retailers understand that a smaller profit is better than no profit, and that volume can make up for smaller margins. This is something that has been practiced by brick-and-mortar merchants for centuries, but has been largely absent from Ecommerce. You are more likely to make a purchase when you feel like you're getting a deal. The ability to adjust pricing and make deals on the spot -- without the need for human oversight -- can transform what would have been an impersonal online shopping experience into a rewarding and enticing opportunity.
Emerging web technologies allow the retailer to interact with customers in much the same way as they would in a store. By becoming better acquainted with the customer and tailoring the experience to the shopper's personal taste, retailers can present products of interest and avoid wasting time on things that hold no interest. Websites will already "know" what customers are looking for, even before they browse. Sites will eventually become so honed to the personal taste of the individual that everywhere a person shops will be a next-generation experience, built just for them. As these technologies begin to enter the market over the coming year, online transactions -- which already represent a significant portion of the US and world economy -- will continue to grow in number.
The Internet has given way to countless breakthroughs in information sharing, business, networking, productivity, as well as time-wasting disguised as productivity and entertainment. On every front, it casts an ever-expanding cloak of influence over global society. For the world of commerce, it has changed the game forever.