New E-Commerce Technologies and Trends for Developers in 2022

David Zomaya

Tech advocate and writer @ fabric.

March 19, 2022
ecommerce-technologies
Summary
  • Integrating AR into an e-commerce platform allows potential customers to visualize products and “try before they buy” completely online.

  • Low code platforms speed up time to market and reduce the technical complexity of creating e-commerce apps.

  • New payment methods provide opportunities to reduce payment friction, lower fees, and increase consumer privacy.

  • Headless e-commerce platforms like fabric give developers the flexibility to create solutions that meet the demands of modern omnichannel sales models.

E-commerce sales are projected to continue to grow at an impressive rate over the next few years. For example, according to eMarketer, U.S. retail e-commerce sales are expected to surpass the $1 trillion mark for the first time in 2022. And the growth doesn’t stop there. The same data suggests the market will exceed $1.6 trillion in 2025, representing an 18.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2019-2025.

That impressive growth rate represents an opportunity for merchants and e-commerce developers to create solutions that fulfill market demands. Here, to help you stay ahead of the curve, we’ll take a look at some of the new e-commerce technologies and trends expected to impact the space in 2022 and beyond.

E-commerce development trends change fast

While some aspects of e-commerce design are timeless, development trends in the industry change rapidly. The latest technology in e-commerce from the 2010s is now often a widely-adopted best practice or out-of-date.

For example, SSL everywhere, mobile-friendly web pages, and fast page load times are table stakes in 2022. Similarly, while monolithic e-commerce sites are still popular, microservices are emerging as a better e-commerce website architecture.

Like microservices, the four trends below can help developers differentiate their e-commerce sites and create experiences that delight customers in 2022.

The e-commerce market is crowded and there are some basics any modern e-commerce site needs to have to be competitive. The new e-commerce technologies and trends we’ll review below go beyond those basics. The developers that get them right can gain a leg up on the competition.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that blends the real physical world with digital content. Today, AR is at an inflection point and is likely to grow rapidly over the next three years.

According to a survey conducted by Deloitte Digital and Snapchat, today 65% of consumers see “fun”, like Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters, as the primary reason they use AR. However, the survey also indicated that 76% of respondents expect and desire to use it as a practical “tool” in their daily lives. In addition to the potential for the use cases to evolve, the AR market as a whole is expected to increase almost 3x from 2021 to 2025 with users aged 13-69 increasing from 1.5 billion to 4.3 billion.

Some of the most promising use cases for AR are in the e-commerce space. For example, one of the biggest problems for online merchants is customers returning a product because it simply doesn’t meet their expectations. With AR, users can see 3D models of products in the context of the spaces they’ll use before they buy. Virtual “try before you buy” with AR can help reduce these returns and increase consumer confidence pre-purchase. Some of the best early examples of virtual “try before you buy” are Kohl’s Virtual Closet where consumers can try on clothing virtually and Sephora’s Virtual Artist for previewing makeup products.

There are a variety of platforms available to help developers build AR solutions for e-commerce. For example, Google’s open-source (Apache license) ARCore offers SDKs for Android, AR Foundation, iOS, and Unreal Engine. On the other end of the complexity spectrum, commercial platforms like Threekit simplify the process of integrating AR and 3D models to e-commerce sites.

Low code

Low code, also known as citizen development, is an approach to app development that minimizes the need for traditional programming by using visual tools instead. Low code platforms help lower barriers to entry for app creation. That means non-developer employees such as product managers and marketers can now build apps.

However, the more compelling side of low code isn’t about who is building the apps, it’s about the abstraction and automation low code makes possible. With low code platforms such as headless commerce platforms, enterprises can get apps to market quicker, streamline internal processes, and focus more on business objectives and less on technical nuance.

Comparing the development of native mobile apps to hybrid apps built using low code methods is a great way to conceptualize the benefits. Building a native app simply means using a dedicated codebase for a given platform. For example, a developer using Swift to write iOS apps from scratch. There certainly can be performance and customization benefits with native apps but often they’re outweighed by the agility and speed to market of low code.

In fact, one analyst found that 74% of the top 50 retail apps are hybrid apps already using low code. By leveraging low code platforms, merchants can reduce the amount of technical work they need to do and speed up their time to market. This in turn enables rapid innovation and tighter feedback loops.

Non-traditional payment options

Card payments, PayPal, loyalty programs, payment gateways, and merchant accounts have long been staples of e-commerce. New payment options are some of the most popular e-commerce technologies and trends in 2022. In particular, these forms of payment are beginning to change the online payment landscape:

Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay

Apple, Google, and Amazon’s mobile payment platforms have surged in popularity. In addition to the growth of contactless payments in brick-and-mortar retail, these payment methods are becoming commonplace in e-commerce as well. By using an API (like the Apple Pay JS API) or a 3rd party payment gateway (like Stripe) to integrate these payment methods to their online stores, merchants can provide users with a low-friction, secure, and reliable checkout process.

“Buy now, pay later” (BNPL) payment platforms

BNPL platforms such as Affirm, PayPal Pay Later, and Klarna offer e-commerce customers flexible payment options for high-ticket items. Instead of paying all at once, they’re able to make more affordable payments over time.

From the merchant perspective, these BNPL platforms can be a conversion tool that helps reduce abandoned carts. Additionally, they can de-risk payment plans for merchants because with most BNPL platforms the merchant receives their payment upfront.

From a developer’s perspective, many BNPL platforms provide APIs that streamline the integration process. For example, Affirm and Klarna have extensive API docs for their platforms.

Cryptocurrency

Blockchain and cryptocurrency are popular buzzwords across the tech space, and e-commerce is no different. While the volatility of crypto markets today may make it impractical for some merchants, many e-commerce stores are beginning to accept popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (BTC), Etherum (ETH), and Ripple (XRP).  And there is plenty of potential upside to accepting crypto including reduced fees, less risk for chargebacks, faster settlements, and exposure to more markets. Platforms like Zabo and CoinGate provide APIs that make it easier for developers to integrate crypto payments into an e-commerce site.

Adopting the latest technology in e-commerce comes with new challenges for developers, and these new payment methods are no different. The ease of integration varies significantly depending on your existing e-commerce platform and what security and compliance requirements you must meet. The e-commerce businesses that quickly adopt the payment methods their customers prefer can eliminate friction from the purchasing process and improve overall customer experiences.

Omnichannel commerce

Last in our list of e-commerce technologies and trends is omnichannel commerce, a sales approach that allows retailers to deliver a unified customer experience across all touchpoints. For example, an omnichannel customer loyalty program can track purchases made online and in physical locations and allow users to spend or reload points on a website, in an app, by phone, or in-store while keeping all channels updated in real-time.

In 2022, omnichannel commerce’s popularity and personalized customer experiences are likely to continue to grow. To keep up with the trend, developers will need to build solutions that can interface with multiple endpoints and provide a seamless customer experience.

In practice, a headless architecture that uses e-commerce APIs and a robust and up-to-date central hub for product data is the most reliable and scalable mechanism to meet the demands of omnichannel commerce. For example, an e-commerce business using a modern digital experience platform (DXP) that includes a headless content management system (CMS) can manage, create, and publish data across multiple online channels based on specific customer profiles.

David Zomaya author Tech advocate and writer @ fabric.

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