Disruption in the world of online retail lurks around every corner, but that’s no reason to panic. Instead, a well-prepared retailer should see these changes as an opportunity. Here are eight ways you can prepare for the new world of commerce that lies ahead.  

Reflect & prioritise

Before you institute any major changes to your business, naturally you’ll want to dig into 2018 to see what worked. But don’t rely on your initial site audit for all of your insights — go deeper into your analytical data, both from your own store and other channels. 

Consider the stand-out campaigns, partnerships, and products that drove the highest volume of new buyers. That will help you further optimise organic and paid strategies in 2019. 

Optimise & automate

By identifying and deploying new opportunities to introduce automation to your business, you can free up your employees to focus on the customer, while keeping pace with the industry. Forrester predicts that 40 % of enterprise businesses will have automation centres and frameworks in place by the end of 2019.1

Even small investments now in the latest automation practices, as well as emergent artificial intelligence (AI) methodologies, will help your business do more with less—offering faster deliveries, greater personalisation, and better reliability for your customers. 

Customer service chatbots are a great place to start integrating automation into your business operations. Keep in mind, however, that not all chatbots are created equally—60% of chatbots deployments in 2019 won’t have live-agent safety nets attached, which could lead to a negative experience for customers.2

Automation is also your best weapon as your business scales up—so revisit your fulfillment strategy to incorporate automation solutions. While receiving 30,000 orders in a single day might seem like a big win, if your current fulfillment process is limited to 12,000 daily orders, you’re going to run into trouble. 

For those shops managing order fulfillment in-house, it’s probably a good time to rethink sourcing. And for stores that use third-party solutions, investigate how you can introduce automation to scale logistics without diluting your brand. 

Consider cross-border selling

It’s a big world out there; 2019 might be the perfect time to expand your business’s horizons to a new region or marketplace. How to decide? Let your customers be your guide—analysing the signals in your social data and web analytics should help you understand regional audience demographics and traffic sources. 

Cross-border selling is increasingly a key tactic for driving e-commerce business growth. Seven out of 10 European Union shoppers have made a purchase outside their home market, typically motivated by better prices and the search for a specific brand or product.

Of course, there are hurdles in geographic expansion: country regulations, language, and fulfillment among them. As you consider moving into new regions, it’s essential that you clarify the costs of regionalising your content, support, fulfillment policies, and strategies. 

If you would like to test international markets, pay-per-click advertising is a great way to gauge interest. Consider starting with a nearby region, and reframe your posts to appeal to a global audience, not just a region. 

Explore online marketplaces

Expansion isn’t necessarily limited to geography. Extending your product offering to an online marketplace can help diversify your income streams, bolster brand awareness, and test out new products to another established audience. 

While we are admittedly biased, Amazon.com offers merchants a great way to improve brand visibility, while also reaching hundreds of millions of customers around the world. In fact, small and medium-sized businesses account for half of all items purchased on Amazon.com.Start by referencing the volumes of marketplace tip sheets and e-books available online to guide you through set-up and optimisation. 

Download the full white paper, “8 ways to activate your store during 2019” here.

Investigate artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and voice commerce have all made the leap from sci-fi movies into reality—and consumers are increasingly using all of these technologies to discover, research, browse, and make their purchases. Every business needs to meet their customers where they are and continue to evolve with them. It’s important to investigate which of these channels and technologies best align with your brand and customers. 

In the years ahead, it’s artificial intelligence that will have the most profound impact on all aspects of commerce. By 2022, at least 5 % of digital commerce orders will be predicted and initiated by AI.If you’re looking to evolve the customer experience with AI, don’t worry about being groundbreaking. Instead, start by finding ways to make product recommendation smarter, improve content personalisation, refine fraud detection, or hone customer segmentation. 

Adopt social commerce

Of the seemingly endless commerce channels that are growing with the industry, we think it’s worth considering three core avenues relevant today and into the foreseeable future. 

Social commerce isn’t merely a source of traffic; it’s also a potential source of revenue and discovery. Start with identifying a few social channels that can help you cut the number of steps in the conversion process, improve the customer experience, and help grow your business. 

Employ mobile commerce

Mobile commerce is such a rapidly growing segment of retail growth that many businesses find themselves confronted with big questions concerning their mobile strategy. For most shops, building a mobile app is typically not the answer—it’s a resource-heavy initiative that does not see reliable gains. Instead, progressive web apps could be the solution, offering current and future customers a mobile-first experience that helps increase engagement and conversions. 

Embrace voice commerce

With the adoption of voice for multiple retail scenarios, voice commerce is moving towards the main stage, and innovative brands are rapidly building a voice presence. By embracing voice commerce, today’s merchants can take customer convenience to the next level, exceeding customer expectations in an age where personalised, seamless experiences can make a big difference.

It’s important to start with the customer and ask yourself how you can make their shopping experience more convenient. Grubhub and Starbucks saw an opportunity to develop a reorder Alexa skill so their customers could save time grabbing their favourite dish or drink using just their voice. You may discover your customers are always checking on the status of their packages and may build an Alexa skill for tracking orders. If you’re not ready to develop voice ordering capabilities, consider creating a skill that offers customers support, deals, or product information.

As commerce moves to the next frontier, Amazon Pay is helping businesses adapt to the expectations of today’s connected shoppers. You can make money through Amazon Pay for Alexa Skills by defining your product offering and price, and letting Amazon handle the voice purchasing flow.

Download the full white paper, “8 ways to activate your store during 2019” here.

1 Forrester, 2019 Predictions Report, 2018
Forrester, 2019 Predictions Report, 2018
Comscore, UPS Pulse of the Shopper: Europe, 2018
Amazon, Small Business Impact Report, 2018
Gartner, CIO’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence, 2018

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