Why Now Is the Time to Advance Your Ecommerce Platform
Retail ecommerce is growing. The global market is projected to reach 8.1 trillion by 2026. Mobile also continues to rise. Through 2024, mobile commerce in the United States is expected to increase by an impressive $418.9 billion, according to our channel partner Adobe.
With that level of growth, it’s clear that businesses investing in ecommerce web development and next-generation mobile experiences today will be more likely to lead the market tomorrow.
But with over 26 million ecommerce sites worldwide, and more being developed every day, standing out isn’t easy.
Fortunately, for ecommerce businesses, technology is also moving fast. Advancements in ecommerce web development, such as progressive web apps, headless commerce, and API-first development are changing the landscape, enabling ecommerce companies to develop powerful web and mobile experiences so they can attract, convert, and keep customers.
But that’s not the only advantage. Companies that can leverage these technologies are also scaling, innovating, and adapting faster. Essentially, they are the future of ecommerce.
5 Technologies Available to Create a Competitive Advantage in Ecommerce
- Augmented reality
- Progressive web apps
- Internet of Things (IoT)
- Headless commerce
- API-first development
These are the technologies that are set to reshape ecommerce web development. Here’s a look at what they are and how they can help a business create next-gen experiences for their customers.
1. Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented reality is one of the most useful technologies ecommerce can use to elevate the online shopping experience. With AR, customers can augment reality using nothing more than their smartphones.
How are ecommerce brands using this technology to increase engagement? Here are the top use cases for AR in ecommerce:
- Product placement preview: Forward-thinking furniture brands use AR to let customers view items in their homes. Luxury brand Burrow, which uses BigCommerce for its ecommerce platform, created a custom app with augmented reality to let users place 3D models of Burrow couches in photos on their iPhone or iPad.
- Social media filters: Consumer brands with a customer base that favors social media sites like Instagram and Snapchat can use filters to boost brand awareness and sales. For example, with AR, users can try on sunglasses virtually before they buy.
- Interactive user manuals: AR can bring 3D graphics, interactive menus, and charts into user guides, making manuals for appliances, cars, machinery, and other items more helpful and easier to understand.
Buyers might not be able to touch a product or try it on as they can in-store, but with AR, they can envision how it will look in their environment, helping them make more confident buying decisions and reducing returns.
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Progressive web apps improve the mobile experience and engagement. They combine the sophisticated user experience (UX) of platform-specific apps with the flexibility and smaller file sizes of traditional websites. Essentially, you can offer customers the best of both worlds.
Here’s a look at how a progressive web app acts like a traditional web app and a platform-specific app.
How a PWA is like a website:
- A PWA is built on a web platform, so it can run on multiple operating systems and devices with a single codebase.
- It can be distributed over the web — there’s no need for someone to download an app on their device.
- PWAs have faster load times, which can reduce friction and lift engagement.
How a PWA is like a platform-specific app:
- Like a native app, users can still download a PWA to their device so they can access it through the app icon.
- It can be used offline and run in the background.
- PWAs integrate with other applications. For example, a PWA can integrate with the camera app on a user’s iPhone.
Slack, Spotify, and Airbnb are all progressive web app examples. Users can access each of these applications from a downloaded app or their web browser. These apps work across devices and OSs and integrate easily with other tools.
With Airbnb, for example, users can search, share, and book, whether they log in from a browser or access the app from their phone. This functionality makes the app accessible to people looking for a rental from home or while on the go with the same level of ease and security.
3. The Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things connects products, shipping vehicles, household items, storage containers, and other physical objects with the Internet through sensors, software, GPS, microcontrollers (MCUs), and other technologies.
This connectivity enables data to be transferred online, where it can be accessed, analyzed, and shared for almost infinite uses. Here are some of the most popular use cases for IoT in ecommerce today:
Real-time product tracking: Ecommerce brands can track a product from order placement to delivery. They can view storage temperature and humidity, location, traffic conditions, and more. Data received from product tracking helps companies improve the delivery experience.
These deep insights have also been game-changing for ecommerce businesses selling perishable items online, such as frozen food, flowers, and medical equipment. IoT makes it possible for merchants to ensure quality products are arriving at customers’ doorsteps consistently.
Optimized inventory management: IoT sensors and RFID tags on items let ecommerce stores maintain an accurate count of inventory both in-store and in warehouse locations.
ERP integrations allow you to sync inventory data with your website and ecommerce platform, eliminating problems with out-of-stock items, a major pain point for B2C and B2B buyers — In 2020 alone, North American retailers lost $71.4 billion due to out-of-stock items.
Better personalization: For brands with major ecommerce systems like BigCommerce, Optimizely, and Shopify Plus, it’s possible to use APIs to connect to a variety of apps, including custom-made applications, so you can access data from AI voice assistants, smart vehicles, and smart appliances. Then use this data to create personalized offers and shopping experiences.
As more things become IoT-enabled, ecommerce websites will need to develop innovative ways to connect with them to stay competitive. And to innovate without limits, they’ll need the next technological advancement in ecommerce web development: headless commerce.
4. Headless Commerce
Headless commerce separates the front and back end of an ecommerce platform. This decoupling enables developers to make changes to one part without impacting the whole system.
The main benefits of a headless platform boil down to greater flexibility and control.
- Brands can experiment with customer-facing content to test out what increases engagement. They can also create unique graphics and interactive elements that aren’t possible with a traditional ecommerce platform.
- Headless websites load faster, which can lead to higher conversion rates. According to research by Portent, a B2B website that loads in one second has a conversion rate 3x higher than a site that loads in five seconds.
- With APIs, brands can integrate all their existing systems, including ERP, CRM, payment technology, and other tools, to build a shopping experience customers will love.
- This flexibility also makes faster scaling possible because of the ease of adopting new technologies without creating downtime or service interruptions.
Want to see headless commerce in action? Find out how Guidance helped travel gear brand Herschel Supply Co. complete an invisible migration when it wanted to migrate to Shopify Plus without impacting the front end of its platform.
5. API-First Development
API-first development is when the application programming interface (API) is designed before the user interface or UX design.
With API-first, developers can focus on the core functionality of the platform. They can look at data relationships and the way information needs to flow with APIs instead of building around design elements.
When developers take an API-first approach, they consider what the front end needs from the back end to achieve customer-facing goals. For example, a search feature on your ecommerce platform. Web developers would plan an endpoint for that and factor in what data should be accessible for searchers.
This approach might involve more thought and time in the development phase because software developers have to create a very detailed roadmap for how information flows. But, at the end of the day, more thought and testing upfront prevents blockages in the front end and simplifies integrations, which can streamline ecommerce operations and improve CX.
Get Your Ecommerce Platform Ready for the Future
These innovations aren’t brand new, nor are their impact untested. Leading brands like Starbucks, Uber, and Valvoline have been building innovative experiences with these technologies through ecommerce platforms like Optimizely, Adobe Commerce, and Shopify Plus to drive revenue growth for years.
With the right web development partner, your business can use them as well. Guidance has been providing web development and design services to enterprise brands for over 25 years. Our team of experts can help deliver a world-class ecommerce experience to your customers.