Navigating the Future: eCommerce User Experience Trends to Boost Your Online Store
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In the ever-changing e-commerce landscape, from online marketplaces to branded online stores, user experience (UX) has become the compass that guides online businesses towards success. As the digital sphere continues to shape the way we shop, customers are no longer content with brick-and-mortar transactions – they seek immersive and personalised journeys that captivate and satisfy.
In this article, I’ll delve into the dynamic realm of e-commerce UX trends, shedding light on the strategies and innovations that are redefining the online shopping experience. Whether you’re a seasoned e-commerce entrepreneur or just getting started in digital retail, understanding these trends is crucial if you want to stay ahead in an extremely competitive market. From mobile-first design to ethical UX practices and everything in between, we’ll explore the boundaries of user experience that can take your e-commerce venture to new heights.
Driving Needs for Mobile-First Approach
According to Statista, in 2023, 60% of all eCommerce purchases were made via mobile devices and were worth 2.2 trillion US dollars. Predictions indicate that the trend towards online shopping will grow steadily in upcoming years, and we’ll be more and more willing to use cell phones to make purchases. It’s predicted that in 2027 62% of all eCommerce sales will be made via mobile devices, and the value will reach almost 3.5 trillion US dollars.
With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices as shopping companions, e-commerce companies that don’t have a mobile app yet are forced to build one or adopt a mobile-first design approach to their existing websites. This strategy places a huge emphasis on creating user interfaces initially tailored to smaller screens and then scaling them to support larger devices.
The driving force behind this necessary change is to provide customers with a seamless and user-friendly shopping experience when accessing e-commerce websites and applications on mobile devices. Whether it will be a landing page loading time, intuitive layout, easy payment flow, simplified checkout process, or an overall enjoyable shopping experience, each element plays a pivotal role in winning and retaining loyal customers. After all, a smooth and efficient mobile experience is not just an option. It’s a must for any successful e-commerce venture in the 21st century.
Moreover, implementing a mobile-first approach to an e-commerce website goes beyond just meeting direct consumer needs. It also acts as a fundamental element in building long-term brand loyalty. In an era of big competition and constantly changing customer expectations, consistency in providing the highest quality, useful and convenient mobile services can become a factor that distinguishes one e-commerce company from all the others. It’s about creating a bond of familiarity, trust and reliability with customers that goes beyond the digital sphere and translates into loyal brand supporters. This relationship is critical to ensuring user retention and encouraging positive word-of-mouth marketing, which can be invaluable to the ongoing success of any e-commerce business.
Currently, many companies still rely on websites as the main shopping platform and treat mobile apps as optional and complimentary instead of a main source of revenue. In those cases, the shopping experience is different depending on the platform we use. Sometimes the payment options are different depending on the platform we’re shopping on (sometimes even integrations with payment processors on mobile cause problems), and similarly, the catalogues of products and even basic prices can differ this way as well. It surely is irritating when users receive a newsletter with items that are unavailable in the app and are accessible only via the web! Sometimes such an app crashes constantly and won’t let buyers finish their purchases (e.g. they can add some items to the basket, but those are not there).
I experienced that myself in full this year using a mobile app of one of the brands with children’s clothing. All that affects user experience and discourages users from using such an app. The only thing that keeps them returning is brand loyalty, in my case, driven by quality.
Such an approach might result in lower user retention, a lower number of transactions and lower sales value from mobile channels, indeed. That’s the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy – if we neglect the mobile channel, users won’t use it, and we can conclude there’s no point in investing in it anymore because it’s unpopular. What a waste of market share!
Hyper-Personalisation and Customer-Centric User Experience
In the e-commerce space, there is a growing trend towards personalisation. This trend encompasses the art of tailoring the online shopping experience to the unique and specific requirements and desires of individual customers. By harnessing the power of data analytics, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in the e-commerce domain, the potential for personalisation has reached new heights. By leveraging these technologies, companies are now better equipped to deliver highly personalised recommendations and content that can significantly increase customer engagement and loyalty.
Personalisation is no longer a buzzword; it is a strategic element of the success of companies in the e-commerce business. It’s not enough to start a newsletter by saying “Hi, John” anymore. Such an email is no longer seen as personalised, especially if the content is not adjusted to their preferences. It’s just a spam. Nowadays, we can reach a new level of personalisation without even mentioning one’s name!
People expect hyper-personalised experiences and are willing to exchange their data to get some. eCommerce companies already have vast amounts of data (according to Statista, we’ll generate 180 zettabytes, 180 trillion gigabytes, of data in 2025!), and by leveraging it, these companies can create shopping experiences that appeal to individual customers. This includes understanding browsing history, purchasing patterns and even unique preferences, which can include everything from product categories and brands to communication channels and delivery options.
We can create profiles of people based on their behaviour, non-transactional preferences, values and beliefs and adjust products, apps, processes, branding and even company activities to suit their needs and expectations. We can also conclude what they might like based on people similar to them!
The dynamic nature of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence plays a key role in this process. These technologies enable e-commerce platforms to adapt and refine their personalisation strategies and positive user experience continually. For example, algorithms can respond quickly to a customer’s changing preferences, ensuring that their interactions with the platform remain relevant over time.
The ultimate result of this trend is not only increasing sales volume and value but also cultivating lasting relationships. Personalised recommendations on products or content and building brands that resonate with consumers aren’t just sales tactics; they are a way to show that a brand values its customers as unique individuals, not just as anonymous consumers. Especially when it comes to brands, the right and knowledgeable approach allows people to identify with the company and see it as more familiar. This, in turn, fosters deep-rooted loyalty and encourages to make a purchase again in the same place.
In a crowded e-commerce environment where choice is abundant, hyper-personalisation has become the basis for differentiation and lasting customer relationships.
Immediate Assistance with Voice Commerce
Although voice search has been considered marginal so far, it might change soon. A study by Juniper Research recently indicated a significant surge in voice commerce, projecting sales to escalate to $19.4 billion by 2023, rising from $4.6 billion in 2021. This reflects an impressive growth rate of 28.1%. The twist towards voice commands or conversational commerce might be even more significant with the unprecedented growth of accessible AI solutions.
Chatbots and voice-activated shopping are emerging as disruptive trends that are redefining the way customers interact with businesses. These innovations are deeply rooted in cutting-edge technologies, particularly Machine Learning and Natural Language processing. They are designed to provide users with interactions that are conversational, intuitive and highly engaging.
Voice-activated shopping takes personalisation and convenience a step further. Using voice commands, customers can effortlessly browse, select and purchase products without touching a keyboard or screen. Not only does this hands-free approach meet the growing preference for touchless interactions but also it streamlines the purchasing process. It transforms any environment with a voice-activated device into a potential shopping space, whether it is home, car or office. This expansion of shopping options increases the accessibility and convenience of e-commerce, making it even more embedded in customers’ everyday lives.
Moreover, these technologies play a key role in improving UX for e-commerce sites by offering customised solutions. Chatbots can analyse customer data and interactions to offer tailored recommendations and assistance, creating a more personalised shopping and customer journey. Similarly, voice-activated systems can recognise and adapt to user preferences and habits, improving future interactions and increasing customer satisfaction.
Customer service associate
Chatbots can also act as virtual customer service representatives who can engage in meaningful dialogue with customers. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, respond quickly to inquiries, help you with product searches, choose products and even facilitate transactions. This not only increases efficiency but also provides customers with the convenience of immediate assistance, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.
What’s more, chatbots and AI assistants can learn and adapt over time, offering increasingly personalised and effective support, changing the game for customer service. A great example is PolyAI, a Voice Assistant that can handle product returns, support in finding and buying the right product or simply help manage the delivery.
Implementing these innovations is not only about staying competitive but also about setting new standards in customer service, product search and convenience in the e-commerce area. As these technologies continue to evolve, their impact on the e-commerce user experience will grow, offering users a shopping journey that is not only seamless but also incredibly enjoyable.
New Approach to Online Shopping: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are at the forefront of technological innovation in e-commerce, and their potential to transform the UX for the e–commerce industry is nothing short of revolutionary. These immersive technologies promise to provide customers with completely new ways to interact with products and services, which in turn can significantly impact their decision-making process and overall satisfaction.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that combines the real world with virtual elements. In AR, we view the physical world through a device, such as a smartphone, with additional digital images, information, or effects overlaid on the real environment. It’s like blending two realities – the real and the virtual – into one visual experience.
One of the key advantages of AR in e-commerce lies in the sphere of experience-based shopping. For example, AR allows customers to try on clothing and accessories virtually, bringing the fitting room experience directly to their homes. Not only does such an attractive product presentation increase customer confidence in making the right choices, but it also reduces the likelihood of returns, which is a major concern for e-commerce companies.
Additionally, AR gives customers the opportunity to visualise products in their own environment. For example, they can see how a piece of furniture fits into their living room or how a new appliance complements their kitchen. This level of interactivity gives customers a greater sense of control and a deeper understanding of the products they are considering, ultimately contributing to more informed purchasing decisions.
On the other hand, Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that immerses the user in a completely virtual world, replacing the reality they see and experience. VR requires specialised equipment, such as VR headsets, which block the user’s field of view, allowing them to be fully immersed in a different virtual environment. There’s no connection to the outside world in VR, as the entire experience takes place within the virtual environment.
Using VR, the idea of a virtual storefront is becoming more and more common. Customers can explore digital replicas of physical stores, navigate the aisles, browse products, and make purchases in a simulated yet highly realistic environment. This not only replicates the in-person shopping experience but also allows companies to expand their reach beyond geographic boundaries.
Virtual Reality (VR) holds tremendous potential to transform the eCommerce experience, yet it faces substantial challenges that temper its widespread adoption. The cost barrier is still significant for many. Therefore, VR remains a hefty investment for the average consumer. The physical design of VR gear also poses a hurdle – it’s often heavy and cumbersome, far from the sleek, almost invisible headset showcased in movies like “Free Guy” that might be the future of this kind of IoT. Another case is that a VR headset should not be worn for a long time as it might cause a headache – this can tell anyone who has ever tried a virtual ride.
For the moment, the prevalence of VR technology is low, limiting its utility for broad applications. Businesses are hesitant to develop 3D virtual stores when only a tiny fraction of customers might engage with them and with no guarantee of purchase. VR’s future is undoubtedly bright, and its possibilities are vast, but until it becomes as lightweight and common as a pair of sunglasses, its role in everyday eCommerce remains a vision not yet fully realized.
AR or VR – Which One is the Future?
In addition to enriching the customer experience, AR and VR have the potential to disrupt the competitive landscape. Companies that successfully implement these technologies can stand out from the competition by offering unique shopping experiences that are memorable and enjoyable even for whole families. This distinctiveness can be a significant factor in attracting and retaining customers, thereby enhancing brand loyalty, extending customer lifetime value, and ultimately driving profitability.
The transformative potential of AR and VR extends to all e-commerce industries, from fashion and interior design to automotive and real estate. The adaptability of these technologies is expanding the horizons of e-commerce, and companies that leverage them can excel in providing customers with innovative, engaging and deeply satisfying online shopping experiences. As AR and VR evolve and mature, their integration with e-commerce will become not just a trend but an integral part of the future landscape of the industry.
However, although AR technology can be widely implemented thanks to the popularity of mobile devices, we haven’t reached the point of common and vast Virtual Reality usage yet. Some futurologists, like Kate Levchuk, see the potential of VR as endless in an AI-driven world but requiring improvements in terms of IoT and wearables. We can expect that if this technology expands and becomes cheaper and lighter, VR might become a part of the everyday shopping experience.
Gamification as a Way to Increase User Retention
Gamification in eCommerce harnesses the compelling elements of game-playing to enrich the online shopping experience, fostering customer engagement and brand loyalty in innovative ways. In the upcoming years, we can anticipate several trends and applications in this arena:
Similar to earning points in games, eCommerce platforms can have reward systems and reward customers for a variety of actions, such as frequent purchases, social shares, or product reviews. These points could unlock special discounts, early access to sales, or exclusive products, driving engagement and repeat business.
Interactive challenges or missions can be set for customers, encouraging them to engage in certain behaviours, like checking out new product collections or participating in community discussions. Completing these could earn them badges, rank advancements, or special perks.
Visual indicators of advancement, like progress bars found in video games, could be implemented to encourage customers to fill their carts to a certain level to unlock a reward or to progress through different levels of loyalty programs.
Time-limited quests can create urgency and encourage daily visits. For example, customers might be invited to find and click on a hidden item somewhere on the site each day, leading to small rewards or entries into larger contests. That can be especially beneficial for FMCG stores.
Allowing customers to personalize their shopping experience or create avatars that earn new features or clothing as they shop can increase the time spent on the site and foster a personal connection to the brand.
Leaderboards can tap into the competitive spirit by showcasing top shoppers or those who have completed certain challenges. This can also be tied to social media, where customers can share their achievements or rank.
Educational games, on the other hand, can help customers understand the products better. For instance, a skincare brand might create a game that teaches customers about skin types and appropriate products, rewarding them with product recommendations or discounts.
Gamification can also build a community around a brand by encouraging users to participate in forums, share their experiences, and help each other. Engaging with the community can earn users special status or rewards.
With the increasing use of mobile devices for shopping, gamification strategies can be specifically tailored for mobile users, utilizing app notifications to engage users with games or challenges on the go.
As gamification strategies grow more sophisticated, the key will be to balance fun and engagement with the ultimate goal of enhancing the shopping experience. Gamification has the potential to make shopping more interactive, rewarding, and personalized, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Growing Awaraness: Ethical e-Commerce and Sustainability
The trend of ethical e-commerce and sustainability in the user experience landscape points to a broader societal shift towards conscious consumerism. More than ever, consumers are looking beyond just product offerings, analysing the values and ethical practices of the brands they choose to support. This trend has forced e-commerce companies to adapt and evolve to meet these expectations.
Ethical e-commerce involves a commitment to transparent and responsible practices such as fair working conditions, environmentally friendly sourcing and social support. This not only benefits society and the environment but also enhances the reputation of companies and e-commerce store owners that prioritise ethical considerations. By presenting these values through user experience, e-commerce companies can build trust and influence consumers who are increasingly interested in the ethical dimensions of their purchasing choices.
On the other hand, sustainability, which often goes hand in hand with ethical practices, is becoming a matter of utmost importance for both e-commerce companies and their customers. Sustainable e-commerce is characterised by efforts to minimise environmental impact through initiatives such as eco-friendly packaging, reducing the carbon footprint in logistics and offering eco-friendly products. Incorporating sustainability into the user experience not only attracts eco-conscious consumers but also supports broader global efforts to address pressing environmental issues.
Delving even deeper, certain brands go beyond merely selling products; they actively champion specific social causes and make purposeful decisions. Brands can support local cultures and express their support for particular values and people. Dior, for example, expressed their support for Johnny Deep by engaging him in their campaigns when others did not. Yes launched a campaign supporting women, and Durex catered to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. These are not just marketing strategies – they are the values that brands stand for, and consumers strongly resonate with them. Consumers engage not just because they like a product but because they support the ethos behind it, and that drives the sales.
Both ethical e-commerce and sustainability trends are not only increasing the attractiveness of e-commerce platforms but also aligning them with the values of a growing segment of conscious consumers. Companies and e-commerce websites that authentically embrace these principles and integrate them into their UX design and messaging are better positioned to succeed in an emerging market. Nowadays, ethics and sustainability are not just trends but critical determinants of brand identity and success. Moreover, the positive impact of these trends extends beyond the digital sphere, contributing to a more responsible and sustainable global economy.
A Journey Towards Full Accessibility and Inclusiveness
In the ever-evolving landscape of eCommerce, technology is not merely a tool for convenience but a powerful enabler of inclusivity. Cutting-edge advancements are being leveraged to ensure that everyone, including those with disabilities, can experience the freedom and joy of shopping online. Let’s delve into the specific technologies that are paving the way for a more accessible and inclusive digital marketplace.
Voice search and commerce are rapidly becoming a cornerstone of accessibility in eCommerce. With the simple utterance of a command, users with visual impairments or motor difficulties can search for items, compare prices, and make purchases with audio descriptions guiding them through the process. This technology, integrated with AI-driven virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, is transforming intelligent speakers and smartphones into personal shopping devices. They provide a hands-free experience that is not just convenient but essential for those who navigate the world differently.
Personalisation technology is pushing the boundaries further. It uses data analytics to adapt the shopping experience to the individual needs of users, including those with disabilities. By analyzing past interactions with the site, machine learning algorithms can predict and present products, adjust the website’s layout, and even change colour contrasts to accommodate visual impairments, ensuring that every shopping experience is as unique as the shopper themselves.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are breaking new ground by offering immersive experiences that were once out of reach for many. Innovations like this can offer an immersive shopping experience for individuals with cognitive disabilities. AR apps on smartphones can display how a piece of furniture might look in a room or how clothing might fit without the user ever needing to leave their home. VR takes this a step further, creating entire 3D environments for users to explore products as if they were in a physical store, a feature that is incredibly powerful for those for whom traditional shopping is a challenge.
The Internet of Things (IoT) extends this connectivity, with smart devices able to monitor user needs and preferences, automatically reordering products when they run low or adjusting settings in the home for optimal comfort and accessibility.
This tech-centric approach in eCommerce is not just enhancing accessibility; it’s creating a world of opportunities for people with disabilities to engage in online shopping independently, ensuring that the digital marketplace is a space for all.
UX for E-commerce: Summary
In the rapidly evolving e-commerce industry, user experience (UX) trends are redefining the way online businesses operate and engage with customers. From the rise of mobile-first design, AI-powered personalisation and the immersive potential of AR and VR to the conversational capabilities of chatbots and voice commerce, these trends are driving engagement of online customers and convenience. Moreover, social commerce is connecting consumers on social media platforms, and ethical e-commerce, sustainability and social engagement are becoming crucial in attracting eco-conscious customers.
Combining these e-commerce trends isn’t just about staying competitive; it’s about setting new standards in customer service, convenience and ethical practices. These innovative UX trends reflect the dynamic evolution of how companies and consumers interact, with an emphasis on personalisation, sustainability and social engagement. They represent a profound change in the e-commerce user experience, offering more engaging, interactive and responsible ways of shopping online. By leveraging these trends, companies are not only staying at the forefront of e-commerce but also shaping a future where digital shopping is more inclusive, ethical and sustainable.
Marketing is about research and communication. As a social scientist and marketer with many years of experience, Kasia combines knowledge and crafting to help design the app and plan and execute marketing strategies for TeaCode and our clients.
Even the best app can fail if no one uses it. How do we reach them with our messages in a world saturated with communication? That's why she helps clients spread the news about their apps worldwide.