By Michael Jabbara, Director, Digital Products at Visa
I recently had the opportunity to present at the Annual America’s SBDC Conference in Nashville about the digital trends that are changing the commerce landscape and their potential impact on small businesses. Although digital commerce is not a new trend, the ways it is continually evolving consumer behavior can present both challenges and opportunities for small business owners. From virtual reality to voice activated assistants, I presented about how digital technology isn’t just altering the way people shop but what commerce can mean. Mobile and desktop channels made the shopping journey less linear. Now, emerging platforms are poised to transform entirely the way consumers interact and transact with their merchants.
According to an IBM study on digital platforms and commerce, 80 percent of companies are implementing Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives, 70 percent are developing voice command services and 50 percent are exploring augmented or virtual reality.1 These initiatives are especially appealing to millennials and affluent consumers in the U.S., two segments that quickly adopt innovative solutions that make their lives more convenient and seamless.
The SBDC members were interested in how small business owners can leverage these digital trends to better engage with their customers. Some of the examples we discussed include a neighborhood restaurant that can use messaging services and chatbots embedded in social platforms to enable customers to order via interactive texting and track their delivery in real time. In addition, local businesses are looking to offer unique and targeted loyalty programs directly to customers’ smartphones.
With a sea of innovation around us, a key question raised during the session centered on how small business owners should prioritize the implementation of some of the technologies discussed. The focus should be on meeting and exceeding their customers’ unique needs, especially when it comes to digitally enabling the right payment experience for them at every touch point – in store or online.
In the physical channel, consumers are embracing new ways to pay during the checkout process—in the U.S., the number of in-store mobile payment users is expected to reach 150 million by 2020.2 This presents merchants with an unprecedented opportunity to provide their customers with frictionless and personalized commerce experiences at the point of sale by enabling contactless capabilities at their payment terminals.
Similarly, while mobile commerce has exhibited the fastest growth of any shopping channel3, it has a lower rate of conversion than other shopping channels4, increasing the need for merchants to provide expedited checkout solutions for their online stores. That means implementing new options for reducing online shopping cart abandonment and managing fraud with enhanced risk products, as well as increasing engagement through targeted offers and strengthening brand affinity through richer digital experiences by accepting digital wallets.
As the next wave in digital commerce gains momentum, I believe that small- and medium-sized businesses can position themselves well.