Do you remember the first generation of e-commerce sites? they were very static, difficult to navigate, few images, not very interactive and tons of glitches. However, "back then" user expectations were not very high, just running a basic e-commerce store - successful or not - was a big thing.
Fast forward a couple of years and into the present rat race, you'll find every e-commerce brand in a desperate competition to outshine the other with new technological integrations and creative(sometimes not very practical) new features.
What does owning an E-commerce 2.0 store even mean?
Owning an e-commerce 2.0 store means your website/app encompasses but is not limited to the following things:
Really..really good end-to-end product experience
From the first visit to the post-sales support, there have been new standards set for product experience. Seamless movement from product to checkout, informative yet not overwhelming landing pages to plain creativity in the UI design.
Responsive mobile-friendly design
It is a cannot-do-without standard feature for leading e-commerce brands.
With Apple and Samsung in a constant bid to win the war on unnecessary screen/phone dimensions with each new release, making your e-commerce brand mobile responsive for various screen sizes or creating a different experience for mobile or tablet users is a challenge, yes, but one that must be overcome in our time.
Social media everything
Long gone the days where "social media integration" just meant having a facebook and twitter page with links back to your website (simpler times...). Now social media integration is on a whole new level with regards to e-commerce.
Due to its proven effectiveness in engaging audiences from around the globe, brands have started leveraging social media in a variety of ways. From chatbot integration for sales and support to gamified contests, social media has come along way with regards to the customer's lifecycle with the brand.
Majority of successful e-commerce brands have a dedicated social media strategy and team to execute it. Afterall, it is a far easier way to reach and engage audiences without even having them visit the site.
User-level data such as no of visits, most viewed items, pending checkout transactions and demographic interests are invaluable for e-commerce brands.
Entire brands are built and marketing strategies are crafted around user-level data. You get a notification and sometimes even a discount(trade secret..shh..) if you have items in your cart but have not checked out yet, or before check out you see 2-3 additional products with a combined total price that can all be added with a touch of a button.
All of these small features are derived from analytics to give consumers the extra push to purchase or even upsell the existing product, none of which is possible without analytics.
Now, what is e-commerce 3.0?
Although it is not an official term yet and is still relatively new, my take on e-commerce 3.0 will be about integration of new technologies rather than features.
If you think about any new technological trend, at its first release only those willing to take the risk and invest huge loads of money would use it, but as soon as it becomes more affordable, you would see it applied to a variety of businesses - whether if it was actually needed or not.
Augmented & Virtual Reality for e-commerce will soon kick off. With brands apart from eyewear, real-estate, and fashion being more ambitious with the way they use AR & VR to engage audiences.
Blockchain (no...not cryptocurrency, the technology underlying it for those unaware) is already being applied to a variety of business niches for trial runs. One can safely say that due to secure, transparent and distributed nature - it has potentially limitless applications to existing industries.
Amazon's Alexa has already been assisting users to order their items online, its just a matter of time before voice bots are integrated into everything.
Where are we?
We are at a very important midpoint between the future and the present. Almost anyone can become an e-commerce entrepreneur these days.
Those who have smaller goals, market size or inventory can achieve this by using sites like Shopify and BIGcommerce to get ready-made e-commerce template websites with minimal customizations and integration capability.
Those who want to stick out to be the next Amazon, Flipkart or Alibaba usually have their multivendor e-commerce software solution tailored and built from the ground up from a reputed app & web development brand that can incorporate their own unique USP and at the end of the day own the app made.
Recurring payments to online e-commerce builders, give users the feeling that the product isn't truly yours at the end of the day.
But the question isn't how fast you can launch your store or if it is crammed up with every technological integration out there, the question is far simpler - Can it bring VALUE to the present-day customer at the end of the day?
If you're an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to build the next "HOT" e-commerce startup, don't focus on technological integrations that have no or very limited ROI. Focus on bringing immediate value to your target audience instead.
Simplify processes for your customer that no one thought could be simplified further, for example, did you know that the swiping and matching feature that Tinder heralded is now being used by fashion brands, letting users to quickly decide what they want and move to checkout faster?
And that's just ONE example of improving an existing process to improve e-commerce conversions.