eCommerce is by its nature connected to technology. It’s in the name after all, electronic commerce, meaning commerce done by electronic means. However, just because you’re connected to technology doesn’t mean you’re getting the most out of it, after all some people still operate on Windows XP and don’t bother getting upgrades.
That’s not to say that you need to get every upgrade you can, but there are definitely some upgrades that you can’t afford to miss. Digital transformation, the art of fusing technology with the way you operate your business, is key to e-commerce.
We’ve gathered below some of the noticeable e-commerce upgrade trends that have cropped up over the past few years, as well as some that are just starting out but look to be big game changers.
Remote working is the idea that you and your team can do your work from the comfort of your own home, not bothering with an office or other central location. Hybrid working takes the same idea but on a part-time basis, with some necessary days in the office and the rest at home.
For obvious reasons this won’t be possible with hands-on types of work, but it suits e-commerce just fine. It’s a benefit to the employees since they don’t have to take the time to get into work, nor pay for transportation costs to get there.
It’s also a big boost to any business that can do it, since it takes away the costs of running an office space. No having to pay for power and water, any rent and taxes that are relevant to using an office, and no worrying about the extra staff that such a space needs like security or cleaners.
There’s also the logistics factor, if you don’t have a central location then you don’t need to worry about moving all of your stock into it and can instead direct it around from manufacturing locations.
Of course, you’ll need to have a good system in place for communicating since you won’t be able to just pop your head into the next room and ask a question. The internet provides just that, with many free pieces of software such as Zoom or FaceTime available for face-to-face meetings, and dozens of text-based methods of communication, assuming plain old email isn’t fast enough for your liking.
It isn’t the 1960’s anymore after all, offices and the systems they put in place aren’t ones that you have to follow. Instant communication across the country means that you can run your business from New York, with outposts in Hawaii, Alaska and California, without having any delays or
Remote working exploded with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, since lockdowns and other restrictions meant that new methods of working had to be found if businesses were going to keep going. Two years on from the beginning, workers have seen the benefits and don’t want to go back into the office if they don’t have to.
A lot of ordinary businesses are reluctant to keep remote working and want their employees to come back to the office, since they don’t want to deal with the hassle of restructuring the way they work. eCommerce businesses, operating online already, have the advantage of already being a few steps along the path towards full remote working and can implement it much more easily.
What do you do when you don’t have a big filing cabinet to store all of your paperwork in, and don’t have a computer that everyone can share to keep your team up to speed? Well, you use cloud computing software.
Of course, this approach needs an internet connection to work which can be a downside for many ordinary businesses, but you’re in e-commerce! The internet is your thing and you’re always going to have access to it. The main drawback where you’re concerned is cost, but it’s almost always one worth paying.
Cloud based approaches to business are spreading throughout most of the business world already, and are basically hand-crafted to work with e-commerce. It’s the most effective means of keeping all of your data in one place when you’re dealing with a remote working approach like we mentioned above, but it’s also useful for “regular” models of operating too.
Keeping all of your data in one place means that not only can anyone access it at any time, but any changes that are made are instantly logged so as to keep your team up to scratch in real-time. Most cloud software packages let you rest easy with the knowledge that your data will be secured with backups and failsafes too, and since it isn’t physically on the premises you don’t have to worry about accidents or power cuts causing data losses.
Another great advantage of cloud computing is how easy it is to use in different locations, even on different machines, provided you have the password to get in. The key factor is that the software runs on a server separate from your machine, so you can pick up where you left off even if you smashed your computer apart with a sledgehammer.
Cloud services can be split into several different types, including Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) like DropBox, Salesforce or Slack, and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) such as Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine and Cloudways.
You know them, you’ve seen the memes, 5G towers seem to be everywhere these days. Of course, while 5G is a mobile network it has the potential to become a staple of internet providers and even supplant wired internet given enough time. Why is that? Well, let’s break it down.
5G is faster and more efficient than the previous 4G network, reaching speeds of up to 10 gigabits per second. That’s faster than most wired networks can offer, letting you download a full 4K movie in less than a minute. 5G is also available anywhere there are 5G towers, with more being built every day.
Having your phone connect faster is always useful, but where things really get interesting is combining 5G technology with regular computer setups. By having your computer able to connect instantly to a 5G network, you combine the on the go aspect of mobiles with the versatility of laptops and even desktop computers if you’re able to lug yours around, all while getting the speed of a wired connection.
When you look at a map of the US by broadband internet coverage like the one above, you’ll notice a glaring issue that is lack of coverage and slow speeds in many areas of the country. Plenty of places don’t even have fiber-optic cables, with some even being stuck at the speeds that dial-up gave you back in the 1990s!
Why hasn’t this been tackled? Well, the cost and the difficulty of installing underground cables is a huge factor here. People don’t tend to like it when you dig up their streets en masse for weeks at a time, even if it’ll give them better internet in the end.
5G side steps this issue by dropping the need for a physical cable going into every building on a street, and in a city you can simply put them on top of existing structures like radio masts and street lamps, or just adapt the 4G towers already in place.
Even in rural areas where you’d need to build much taller towers they’re far less intrusive than tearing up the ground to lay cables, and while they might not be nice to look at they can be camouflaged or disguised if the locals really kick up a fuss. Analysts are already predicting that 5G will eventually replace cable internet, and it’s not hard to see why. And if you are looking for a full complement of professional, creative, commercial audio visual and data cabling solutions from the simple to the complex in this fast paced, dynamic marketplace, you may hop over to here for professional data cabling services.
Now, the downsides. There’s the pushback against 5G towers, I’m sure you’ve heard people say that they “cause cancer” or “spread COVID”, and while these aren’t true at all they’re going to have an impact on how fast 5G spreads.
The other major downside is battery life, since 5G is very power intensive and can drain mobile batteries very quickly. This one will be solved as time goes on and more efficient batteries are made, and when you’re talking about using 5G with desktop computers you’re plugged into the mains so you don’t need to worry about that.
The way it used to be, buying things online was quite a risk. All you had were pictures and the occasional video to give you some idea of a product’s quality, sizing, etc. and often these could be misleading. Whether intentional or not, bad lighting and poor camera quality led to a lot of people losing trust in online selling, especially when it came to clothes and other items that needed accurate sizing information.
With the introduction of augmented reality, all that changed. Not only can you get an idea of an item’s shape, size, color and more, you can also put your products in a variety of different locations or situations to demonstrate how they stand up. Not only that, but customers can see how items might fit into their own spaces, similar to trying on clothes in a dressing room but for furniture, decorations and more!
Of course, you’ll need to make sure that your products’ simulation stands up to the real thing, but that’s much easier to do in a complex simulation than a few photographs. The technology isn’t perfect but it’s getting there, with software available that lets you scan a 3D model of an item and transfer it over to the AR software without losing accuracy. You might need some way of making sure the scale is accurate, but that’s an easy fix.
AR/VR technology is still quite new, but with all the support it’s being given there’s no chance of it simply being a fad that goes away like 3D TV or smart glasses. It’s completely captured the imaginations of people worldwide, and has long since been present in movies and TV shows.
While the more mundane aspects of such tech isn’t really visible in these, they’ll definitely see use in real life before the gigantic open game worlds or Matrix-esque simulated worlds of VR slide into the picture.
When you hear the phrase “alternative payment” you might think of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. While they’re definitely included here, they’re not entirely what we’re talking about. Plenty of e-commerce businesses have embraced other methods of payment than cash or debit, with credit cards being the glaring one that has become so common you might not think of it as different.
Alternative methods you can use widely online include PayPal, Klarna, Payoneer and other means of indirectly using your bank account. These function pretty much the same as a credit card, except that the payment is routed through a third party instead of going straight from your bank account to the vendor.
It’s also worth mentioning direct bank transfers that aren’t the same as direct debits, but share a lot of traits. They’re often used for international payments both to avoid debit fees and for security reasons.
The big one that plenty of online retailers are now offering is Buy Now Pay Later, letting customers pay for something on a monthly basis. It’s most often used for expensive items such as furniture, electronics and such that you really need to replace if they break down, but most people won’t be able to afford right out of pocket. They’re mostly set up via a direct debit or through a third party app such as Klarna or Afterpay, with even Amazon and Walmart accepting these payment methods.
Mobile wallets are another method worth mentioning, with the idea being that you load up your mobile phone from your bank account or via another means then use that to buy the things you want. The most basic example of this is topping up a pay as you go mobile phone, then using it to make calls, texts etc. depending on what you feel like doing.
The App Store is another great example of this, with the option to just add credit to your account that you can use later. It also lets you use your credit or debit card directly if you want to, making it more flexible than you’d think.
Lastly, let’s talk about cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is the big one, with companies such as Microsoft, Paypal, Etsy and Twitch being e-commerce or e-commerce adjacent organizations that accept it as a form of payment. El Salvador has even adopted it as legal tender,
Cryptocurrencies are attractive thanks to the blockchain database that’s used to exchange it being considered more secure than other forms of electronic payment, along with the fact that IP addresses involved can be traced publicly which theoretically gives greater transparency. Bitcoin has been used since 2009, and was featured widely in the press during the so-called “Bitcoin Boom” that began around 2016.
Other cryptocurrencies aren’t as widely recognised, but do exist. Bitcoin can be “mined”, in other words new “coins” can be generated using a computer to solve computational puzzles, while other digital currencies are simply tied to real-world currencies for stability. Whichever you choose to use you’ll benefit from blockchain’s increased security.
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