As the rise of e-commerce fuels a convenience economy, retailers must keep pace — and here’s how. 

Technology is revolutionising everything we do from how we communicate to how we pay our bills. Since the invent of the internet, consumers have rushed to adopt new and innovative ways that give them a better retail service. And the pace of adoption hasn’t slowed. Consumers who were once bowled over that they could use their pay cheques online, now demand instant transfers.

Three weeks delivery to the door was considered ‘the future’, now if it hasn’t arrived in three hours it’s too slow. This has created an industry where consumers are more demanding than ever. They want fast, easy, safe and seamless transactions, and they want them now.

Australian businesses have always prided themselves on being early adopters of technology and leading the global race on the eCommerce revolution. However, shockingly almost half (49%) of Australian businesses are not yet optimised for mobile commerce. To let this really sink in, the same study from PayPal found that 72 per cent of Australians shop via mobile.

To avoid being overlooked in the race for relevance, merchants need to reinvigorate their e-commerce strategies to ensure they meet the needs of today’s empowered consumer. So how do merchants focus on better serving more demanding shoppers and remain competitive?

  1. Keeping a bit of context

Consumer loyalty is dead. Gone are the days where someone will walk into their favourite shop and only buy from them no matter what the experience. We have entered the convenience economy and merchants should adapt.

This means retailers need to offer their wares across multiple channels so they can connect with consumers at each point of their purchase journey, including the point of intent – whether that’s when browsing social media, messaging friends or completing an in-app transaction. It’s about putting your product or service in context, so that people can purchase wherever they want to, making the experience as seamless as possible. We call this ‘contextual commerce’.

While it is imperative for retailers to meet customers where they are already spending their time, whether it’s on a social media platform or an ecommerce website and beyond, contextual commerce is not something merchants can simply add onto their current strategies. Fintech tools such as vaulting allows for retailers to take secure payments through any platform.

A great example of this is Pinterest. Originally an inspiration platform, Pinterest transformed into a marketplace when it started storing data in a vault. Now, when consumers see something they like on Pinterest, they can click ‘buy now’ and securely send payment and order information through to the retailer to be fulfilled via shared vaulting. In this way, retailers can capture customers in-context through Pinterest, eliminating the need for consumers to transact directly from their website.

  1. Conversational Commerce

With an unlimited range of options available, consumers moving away from their keyboards and just speaking their minds. Retailers who really want to create seamless shopping experiences are turning to voice assistants and augmented reality (AR) apps to keep pace with customer expectations.

These tools allow businesses to listen to their consumers, understand their motivations, and align their buying experiences with practicality and style considerations to lifestyle choices, such as what they like to eat and when.

For example, Australian premium tech and fashion accessories brand STM Goods recently integrated AR to address challenges around communicating to customers the depth of design in its products.

STM Goods found that a native AR app allows them to communicate key features and engage customers directly in a functional but enjoyable experience. Customers can virtually try on backpacks, explore the functional design of each pocket and zip to understand the thought that goes into design, and even view the bags in X-ray mode. Since launching the AR experience, STM Goods have seen an uplift in both customer engagement and sales at all levels of its distribution chain, making the decision to invest in AR a positive one for the Aussie retailer.

  1. Let’s get digital (wallets)

Cart abandonment is a recurring issue in the retail environment. Successful conversions often hinge on speed and convenience, therefore removing roadblocks to transactions is vital. In looking for an agile and scalable strategy that enables businesses to cater to demand for seamless transactions, businesses should look no further than digital wallets.

Digital wallets enable users to simply enter payment details with their preferred digital wallet provider, whether it be Apple Pay, PayPal or Android Pay, and instantly transact from integrated websites effortlessly and securely, without the need to re-enter their all their billing details every time.

From a merchant perspective, this quickens the processing of transactions, enhances operational efficiency and lowers payment processing fees, in addition to reducing friction for customers.

The retail industry in Australia is a tale of two traditions. Some retailers are adopting tech-driven eCommerce strategies, with the constantly connected consumer more empowered than ever to influence business innovation. The other half hasn’t even optimised themselves for mobile.

As merchants adapt to this era of significant change, only businesses who are ready to build new experiences that align with their customers’ expectations will succeed in the race to stay relevant.