Trends come and go every year, especially in the retail sector. One minute a certain strategy is in, and the next it is out. If you’ve recently started an online retail store or an ecommerce site, you know that there are articles everywhere discussing the latest hot retail trends that are guaranteed to catch your audience’s eyes and boost sales. And sure, incorporating some of these fleeting strategies can work for a little while. But every so often, one comes along that totally disrupts the industry and leaves it forever changed. While things with online companies can change in an instant, there is one that will remain constant: A better customer experience will lead to more sales. This has been proven with multiple case studies and reports that have all come to the same conclusion: the more you delight your customers, the more likely they are to convert. These four disrupting trends are here to stay because they all support a better and more intuitive CX. Curious to know what they are? Let’s dive in. 1. AR and VR for a More Personal Experience So, the “trend” (if you can even call it that anymore) of personalization has been around for a while, but it has become even more important to the modern consumer than ever before. AR and VR can bring the very concept of personalization to a whole new level. Ikea has been pioneering this type of customer experience for years. Source 91% of customers agree that their purchasing decisions are influenced by personalized experiences from a brand, and the majority of consumers actually expect it on a consistent basis. With this in mind, whether you are selling clothing online, furniture, electronics, etc., leveraging AR and VR can do wonders for your CX. Obviously, AI technology is important for supporting personalized experiences thanks to its ability to gather and analyze massive amounts of data and turn it into actionable strategies. But the latest trend that is proving to be an industry disrupter for online retailers is the use of AI-supported virtual reality systems for a truly unique and immersive shopping experience. For example, Sephora’s online chatbot now includes an AR feature where shoppers can virtually test out makeup products on their own face through Facebook messenger. This truly innovative option brings in 11% more conversions than the makeup brand’s website because it allows shoppers the kind of unique experience that would typically be available to them only in-store. Source 2. A More Progressive App Experience Today’s customers are starting to use mobile search far more than any other method for online shopping, especially in the initial stages of the buyer’s journey. According to a report, mobile traffic is 1.5 times higher than desktop, and 56% of online consumers would prefer to buy from their phone if the CX was improved upon. Source Sadly, lots of online retailers miss the mark when it comes to optimizing their websites for mobile. Less features, confusing navigation, or tricky checkout processes can kill a smartphone sale instantly. The latest trend that offers a true solution to this issue is a Progressive Web App (PWA), which essentially turns your website into an app with no download required. The information from the page is downloaded once, and users can save the link, which will appear as an “app” on their smartphone for instant, future access. This means that your website will work for them, even when they are offline. Furthermore, this type of platform loads far faster than traditional websites, has better engagement ratings, and has resulted in 104% higher conversion rates than traditional websites. Source 3. Non-Traditional Payment Options Issues with the checkout process kill conversions, and payment options and security play a huge part of the CX during the final phases. 13% of customers will abandon their purchase if they suspect an issue with the security of their payment, and 12% will leave if the checkout process is confusing. And obviously, 100% of customers will exit if you don’t accept their preferred method of payment. E-wallets and fintech payment options open the doors to reach far more customers. This includes options like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or even financing options for larger orders. Crypto-currency is another fantastic option that more and more online companies are offering. With over 4.3 million crypto-currency users across the globe, accepting digital payments like Bitcoin not only expands your market even further, it offers far more security with checkout thanks to Blockchain technology. Source Obviously, supporting major credit cards and PayPal will allow the majority of your customers to finalize a payment without any issues. But, new technology that allows for non-traditional ecommerce checkouts while increasing the level of data security can support higher conversion rates by eliminating two common abandonment triggers. 4. Rise of the Micro-Influencer Influencer marketing is a huge deal, and 84% of brands have used it as a marketing strategy at one point or another. But, it still doesn’t make it the perfect tactic. According to a report, marketers are still challenged when it comes to finding the best partners, and a significant percentage saw little to no changes in raising brand awareness or number of sales. Source This is why the micro-influencer trend is becoming more prevalent and important. Big name celebrities and influencers may draw in a lot of numbers in terms of post engagement (i.e. views and likes), but their conversion rates are typically far lower than that of micro-influencers. 82% of consumers would be likely to buy something if a micro-influencer (accounts with 10,000 followers or less) recommends it. These recommendations normally bring in 20% higher conversions than larger influencers. It sounds counter-intuitive to expect bigger results from smaller accounts, but micro-influencers tend to be far more connected to their followers. Moreover, their audiences tend to be more focused on a specific niche, which means you can reach more relevant and interested customers, too. Conclusion Your customers have virtually endless options when it comes to finding a retailer that offers the same or similar products to you. This is why 71% of businesses view a superior CX as their top competitive advantage. By improving the experience your customers have with your brand, you can ensure higher conversions and longer-lasting loyalty. Offering incredibly personal shopping experiences with AR, better mobile shopping, more payment options, and highly relevant recommendations from micro-influencers will create a better CX overall. This is why these four trends are set to reshape the online retail industry as we know it.