Online digital retail has come along way since 1995 when Amazon first launched as a global selling site for buying and selling, new and second-hand books.  Recognised as the first digital retail era, at that point that only 3% of Americans had ever used the internet – a stark contrast to today’s figure which confirms that approximately 76.2 percent of the U.S. population accessed the internet in 2016.

In 1995 both the concepts of the World Wide Web and using E-commerce were in their infancy and its future as to how it would evolve was naive to early users.  During that year, the first auction site also launched and branded as Ebay, it sold its first broken laser pointer to a broken laser pointer collector for $14.83.

The concept of buying online and browsing websites to research products using a PC or a laptop was the fundamental aspect behind the shopping experience at that time. This continued for some years and then in 2007 Apple launched its first smartphone called the iphone and changed everything. Defined as the second digital retail era, the iphone enabled users to use a single device as a phone, as well as to access the internet and combine the users ipod music. The device set out to propel online shopping along with many other uses through its innovative app technology. At the time this new method of accessing the internet was seen as a very different but also a fresh look and a simpler way to access websites and buy online.

Just over ten years on, today in 2018 for many people across the UK, using a smart-phone or a tablet seems second nature. Ordering goods is so simple and ability to purchase whilst on the go and at any time of day is effortless. The shopping experience is no longer available at a set time, businesses are open 24/7 and with new apps launching daily by big brands, the ability to save products, order products, send product information to another user and carry out your research on colour, size, style and price has never been easier.

So what will be emerging in the 3rd era of digital retail?

In a recent report launched at the WPP Global Retail Forum by David Roth (CEO The Store WPP, EMEA and Asia) and Jon Bird, Contributor for Forbes Magazine. They outlined several aspects of research which focused on both the global digital retail changes for the East and West of the world. Through their findings they have predicted that the 3rd era will be ‘more human’.

Here are some of the findings for the 3rd era of digital retail:

Voice Interaction – Voice interaction will play a much larger part in the home and whilst on the go. Using Alexa and Google to place orders by audio is becoming more popular yet still in it’s infancy.

Interactive Screens – The opportunity to interact with digital screens in shops to select items, place orders and pay is becoming more popular. The likes of retail chain Argos and food outlets such as McDonalds now provide screens on their premises so that customers can order and pay immediately.  Many supermarkets now offer self-check-out facilities and even the opportunity to ‘scan and go’ whilst walking around the store. Offering these capabilities in other sectors of the retail market such as clothing and homeware is still currently less obvious.

AI – Artificial intelligence is forecast to have a significant impact on our shopping experience over the coming years. How the technology will be applied is still relatively in its infancy, yet research into similarities and the understanding of animal behaviour could resonate with our own thought processes and buying habits and be applied to AI in the future.

Security – Security is key in the future of the 3rd digital era. With the recent launch of GDPR and a clearer understanding of what our personal data really means to us, protecting our information and how we are treated as online customers will be a priority for the future growth of digital retail.

Tech based giants – The biggest brands are already emerging into something far greater again. Their revenue and resources offer them the capability to research, prepare and drive the next era of digital retail forward, paving the way for how we buy online in the future. The likes of Amazon, Google & Alibaba have the capability to independently define the next era.

Government – As digital technology evolves at such a rapid rate, major changes as to how digital companies (especially the larger companies) are regulated needs to take place sooner rather than later. There is no longer the option of a ‘ten year plan’, it needs to be a ‘two year’ or a ‘five year plan’, in order to sustain change and moderate before the next digital era begins to unravel.

Are you an online retailer who is operating your business either independently or through a fulfilment service such as Amazon FBA? Here at Crendon Insurance we support digital retail as both manufacturers or third-party sellers, who are looking to protect their stock, the transportation of goods and protect against consumer disputes. To find out how we can support your online digital retail business or Amazon FBA business further, please contact our expert online retail team for further information.

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