What E-Commerce Will Look Like in 2018

The way North Americans shop could undergo a massive change in the next 12 months.

The Montreal-based Absolunet has released 10 trends they think will impact North American retailers the most when it comes to the landscape of shopping in 2018. Some of them look familiar, while others are bringing in whole new ways of understanding shopping. Above all, it seems that AI, voice commands and imaging will play a huge role in how retailers offer products to consumers.

The Rebirth of Brick and Mortar: Physical, on-site transactions are still king when it comes to shopping, but retailers will have to digitize physical infrastructure and roll out new store features based on experience and convenience if they want to keep up with online options.

The Consumerization of B2B: Business-to-business retailers will have to offer and perfect a B2C-like experience as product discovery and buying behaviour shifts to online and mobile platforms. Things like print catalogs and sales calls are being replaced by digital-first discovery processes. Over 55 per cent of B2B buyers expected to make half or more of their business purchases online in 2017, up from 30 per cent in 2014.

Augmented Reality in Your House: Brands will have to roll out features that let consumers visualize what a product looks like at home before actually buying it. This can affect everything from clothes to couches and could increase retail for large objects as well as related shipping services.

The New Measure of a Retailer’s Digital Success: Retailers will now be able to see exactly how many dollars of an in-store sale are attributed to dollars spent on digital. Over 80 per cent of mobile users search for a local business and 18 per cent of local searches lead to a sale within 24 hours.

Mobile Checkout Overtakes Desktop Checkout: Buying something on a phone will be a convenience merchants will be unable to ignore.

Machine Learning and Commerce: AI will create a perfect and customized consumer experience, meaning millenials will likely be the last generation marketed towards as an actual generation of people. Brand targeting will move away from broad sweeping strokes and look to focus in on specifics.

Amazon and the Year of Marketplace Maturity: Amazon will continue to grow and likely hit a $1 trillion market cap soon—it is such a massive retailer (dominating 44 per cent of e-commerce U.S. sales, beating eBay who comes in at second with seven per cent) it needs its own trend.

Voice Will Change SEO Forever: More consumers will look to virtual assistants and voice commands to interact than ever before. For SEO, there will be a wild-west-like land grab for spoken keywords, as voice only provides one answer as opposed to multiple results. Second place is the new last.

Photo Shopping: A picture is truly worth a thousand words. Shoppers will begin searching with images rather than keywords a lot more in 2018, with some studies saying image and voice-activated inquiries will make up 50 per cent of all searches by 2020. Merchants must incorporate image recognition and awareness in order to truly be rewarded.

Reaching Peak Browser: The days of using Chrome and Safari as the only gateway to the internet will wane as consumers look for more convenience when it comes to shopping online. AR, conversational assistants and mobile devices will offer customers a true omnichannel experience.