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December 2, 2014

8 commerce trends in 2015

Looking forward to next year, Intershop's innovation director reveals his predictions.

By Ben Sullivan

What’s going to happen in e-commerce in 2015? Lars Schickner, Director Innovation Lab, Intershop, shares his predictions with CBR.

Omnichannel remains a focus

Omnichannel commerce remains a trend for 2015, and a challenge for retailers. During the past 24 months we finally saw the launch of a new generation of POS systems that will be much easier to integrate with e-commerce platforms, product catalogues and databases – allowing retailers to build highly flexible omnichannel processes and share product, customer and order data across software and POS terminals. Customers will experience a more seamless journey across online and offline, and retailers will be able to offer a better service on all touchpoints.

Internet of Things: New applications

The much-quoted fridge that automatically places an order when the milk runs out may be a fun example of how the Internet of Things could change the world. But, smart services based on M2M communication can be even cleverer than that. We think that the IoT revolution will affect nearly all business areas. Healthcare will probably be next with the next generation of wearables, such as personal trackers with more sensors or specific sensors that can be applied to the patient’s skin and that constantly monitor and send health information. This will truly revolutionise healthcare, probably not driven by the big pharmaceutical companies but by health insurance companies.

Or, take the example of recharging points for electric cars: The infrastructure is patchy today with lots of different providers, offerings and adapters in place. Alternative battery loading concepts with increased ease-of-use require new integrated mobile platforms and lots of IoT communication. Smart stations need to communicate with the car before and while charging, they need to coordinate with each other so they don’t use too much electricity in total, and when finished, any incurred costs must be charged. Using your mobile device to track charging progress is just one possible use case. Why not also advertise the best places for coffee or shopping nearby while the car is charging, or have your online purchases loaded into the boot of your waiting car?

Device proliferation is a challenge

Laptop, tablet, work smartphone, private smartphone… the average consumer already uses a variety of connected devices for researching products and shopping, and this number is only set to increase. Brands are faced with the huge challenge of engaging their customers across a very diverse range of end devices, optimising the user experience for different operating systems and screen sizes, and maximising conversion rates. And there is no one size fits all solution. Offering added value on digital touchpoints is a great way of increasing customer loyalty, but for B2B sellers a simple solution may be best. Wearables probably won’t quite come into play yet in 2015 – but that’s a space to be watched.

Amazon Supply & B2B Commerce – a threat and an opportunity

B2B commerce is a growth area and Amazon may well have plans to roll out Amazon Supply in Europe. This is both a threat and an opportunity for B2B sellers and distributors. B2B sellers should be ready to secure their customers’ loyalty by offering added value, i.e. unique services that can’t be shipped in boxes and special B2B functionality. It’s definitely not an option to fight this battle purely on price or with ignorance.

Mobile payments, will they make a difference?

Apple Pay has certainly got retailers thinking about the payment methods they offer. The expectation is that mobile payments will become more widely accepted and adopted. But at the end of the day, for now at least, mobile payments are just another payment method alongside credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, PayPal, cheques and cash. The question is – can retailers create new and unique use cases for mobile payments that would make a real difference to them and their customers? We will see.

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Big data needs to be specific

Masses of data are collected on every website and in offline retail environments. But, only a few retailers have the money to run big data warehouses to analyse this data and build reports across the complete value chain. Instead, they will increasingly turn to specialists such as Akanoo to solve specific problems, gain specific insights and convert defined sets of business intelligence data into actions. Data insights will drive increasingly personalised customer experiences and personalised offers, but the idea of having customers pay personalised prices is probably not practical and simply a step too far.

Storytelling: The importance of content and presentation

Everyone likes a good story, and large brands such as Burberry have shown us how to excel at inspiring consumers with storytelling. While many companies simply don’t have the budget to follow Burberry’s example, content and presentation are just as important for smaller brands as a way of engaging customers. This is also true for the B2B space, where instead of "content worlds" intelligent information management and presentation beyond listing the basic product details is starting to play a bigger role.

Instant gratification for the connected consumer

The connected consumer is impatient, so instant delivery is something we’ll see more of in the near future. Order now, have the goods delivered in under an hour – it’s a huge opportunity for retailers to stand out from the crowd and create that all-important competitive advantage. In a fiercely competitive market, optimising processes and going the extra mile to provide the best possible service will attract more shoppers and more orders. Similarly, brands will look into ways of enabling instant ordering – the consumer notices a product offline and with just one click, can find and immediately buy it online.

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