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This month we will be pulling out our crystal ball and taking a look into the future to see what is in store for some of the areas that we focus on. First up is e-commerce.

The retail industry has undergone a massive shift over recent years, from physical to digital retailing, as customers are always on the lookout for the best prices and most convenience when it comes to shopping. Statistics from the Centre for Retail Research shows that online sales in the UK grew by almost 16%, between 2013 and 2014, from £38.83 billion to £44.97 billion, and with advancements in technology this is set to continue to increase.

With that in mind, we take a look at what the future has to hold for e-commerce:

A human element

The change in retailing from customers going into a shop to sitting at home means there is a lack of human interaction, which is traditionally the element that convinces you to buy something, or offers more information, if you're not sure. However, emerging web technologies are beginning to spring up that allow retailers more interaction with customers. This means e-commerce of the future could begin to resemble the service customers receive in stores providing a far superior personalised experience.

New features in website programming will provide a tailored experience that:

  • remember customer's preferences and past orders;
  • can understand how interested customers are in an item;
  • make adjustments based on weather conditions and news stories;
  • can make suggestions based on social media activity, if they have access;
  • make adjustments to prices and options.

By making e-commerce websites that customise shoppers' experience based on their tastes, retailers can become better acquainted with their customers and drive sales, so they miss fewer opportunities to make a sale.

Physical and immersive

As well as providing a reactive and customised online shopping service, retailers will be able to take advantage of new and upcoming technology - such as 3D printers and virtual reality headsets (like Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus) - to give customers a physical, sensory and immersive experience.

3D printing has been dominating technology headlines lately, and we could soon see it be put to use by e-commerce retailers. This would allow instant delivery because customers would have the option of printing off an item they've bought. This would prove useful for small plastic parts, such as plastic screws, toys, plumbing pipes, models, figurines and coat hangers. Also, if the customer changed the material in the printer, it could allow them to print off clothing too.

Virtual reality headsets will allow customers a similar experience to what they get in-store, where they can browse, buy and try in a very natural way. This would make it possible for shoppers to transport themselves to any of the world's shopping hotspots, like Paris's Avenue Montaigne, New York's Fifth Avenue or LA's Rodeo Drive, from the comfort of their living room.

To get an idea of what virtual reality shopping might be like, take a look at this video from UK supermarket chain Tesco.

The shift from traditional sales channels to e-commerce is rapidly increasing and the majority of sales are now being captured online, making it crucial that you react to the times and incorporate new technologies and user-defined interfaces that will help to drive sales further and create a unique experience for your customers.