ePages CEO Wilfried Beeck on why we can definitely skip the ‘e’ in e-commerce

OPINION: What will shake the retail industry in 2014

Wilfried Beeck (pictured), CEO of ePages, on why we can definitely skip the ‘e’ in e-commerce…

If there is one thing that we know for sure about the future of PC and tech retail, it is that its evolution will accelerate. Shopping is increasingly becoming an experience that can begin at anytime and anywhere. But which are the most important trends that will definitely shake the industry in 2014? A worldwide research project, under the heading “Next in Commerce”, has revealed that the borders between online and offline retail are becoming more and more blurred.

Some pioneers already show solutions that will link both retail stores and online businesses in the future. A field of groundbreaking innovations are applications for customers’ mobile devices. As smartphones and tablets are increasingly turning into intelligent shopping agents, it is only logical to use them in PC and tech retailers too. 

The start-up, Sonic Notify, is now using audio signals to offer smartphone users exclusive content such as coupons, websites and videos straight to their devices. The audio signals, which are inaudible to the human ear, activate the customers’ smartphones. The devices show the desired content from the sending company. This technique dramatically lowers the risk to lose the customers’ attention and see them browsing to competitors’ websites.

As customers in brick and mortar shops have become price-sensitive through the permanent availability of price comparison portals on their smartphones, retailers such as Toys R Us started to make prices transparent. Therefore, they display their online competitors’ offerings in real time by digital signage solutions right next to its own product range. By adopting this development, PC retailers are in danger to enter in a price war which is very hard to win.

Tech resellers can also rely on user-generated content to address customers in their stores. Both reviews as well as recommendations can be integrated into the point of sale. This idea is illustrated by the New York based company Perch Interactive. Their displays replace simple tables for product presentation. Customers who pick up goods receive product information in the form of images and videos, together with related content from social networks. 

The start-up, Greentape, offers customers product recommendations from other users of its mobile app while they are in-store. The app detects people’s locations with an accuracy of one metre and displays a ranking list of the products surrounding them based on their user reviews. As they are used to dealing with user-generated content, online vendors that tap into offline commerce will probably have less difficulty with evolving in this direction.

The usage of smartphones also allows analysing consumer behaviour in stores. For this purpose the Finnish company, Walkbase, provides a small device that tracks customers’ flow via the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. Retailers can see the percentage of passers-by who pause in front of their shop windows, enter their shops and which sale areas they move through. This information helps optimise the sales space.

Besides the merger of online and offline, retail the research, which was conducted by online shop software company ePages and the global network of trend scouts from TrendONE, has revealed even more exciting trends in the near future for the industry. Examples are visual and omni-channel commerce or data based business. To illustrate these trends, 80 real examples including videos and related links were compiled on the website www.next-in-commerce.com.

About the author

Wilfried Beeck (pictured) is the CEO of ePages, the online shop software provider for resellers such as BT and 123-reg. To keep the products up-to-date with the latest commerce trends, he is always looking for new tech partners to add them to the ecosystem of 60-plus add-on suppliers already connected to the ePages shops.

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