Augmented Reality has the power to accelerate the pace at which sales of physical goods, especially homewares and some apparel, move online. It's also much more important for this sector than 'full fat' Virtual Reality. The ability of AR to place a product (or multiple products) in a customers own context gives direct-to-consumer sellers a distinctive proposition, beyond just convenience, to compete with physical 'touch and feel' stores. In a way, it's literally the first 'killer app' of the next generation of ecommerce in that the customer just needs a phone with a camera.
When will this start to appear in the mainstream? It's already happening - I'm involved in 2 client AR projects and Shopify (supporting thousands of merchant stores) are developing tools right now. In certain product sectors, I expect to see AR being commonplace within 3 years. For a sector like furniture, with nearly 80% of sales still offline, the introduction of the ability to place chairs virtually in the room you're in and change colours, styles, etc. is likely to be profound.
In fact, just a couple of days after I first published this post, furnishing giant Wayfair announced the piloting of AR advertising in a partnership with Facebook.
"I need to update my ecommerce platform. Should I choose Woocommerce, Shopify..... or something else?”
WHY YOU MIGHT NEED TO CHANGE?
When it comes to choosing a new ecommerce platform, the decisions are probably harder to make than they are when you first start out. After all, you and your team have got used to a particular way of working now and understand the benefits and limitations of your current platform. You've also got a lot of data in there (products, customers, orders, media files, etc.) and you may well have integrations with accounting systems, live chat services, courier companies and the like. In fact, you need a really good reason to change at all!
However, even with all the hassle, cost, planning and risk, the average time in the UK between major ecommerce upgrades is only 3 to 4 years. Why is the case?
SHOPIFY, WOOCOMMERCE OR SOMETHING ELSE?
There are a plethora of ecommerce platforms to choose from and, for the purposes of this guide, I'm going to ignore the enterprise level offerings like Netsuite, Episerver and Magento Enterprise, although Resonant has several years' experience with Magento Enterprise clients and it's a good, cost-effective option for businesses with £5m+ website revenues.
Below this level, there are still many options with all manner of strengths and weaknesses. Resonant works on both Shopify and Woocommerce projects because, unlike most typical web agencies that will offer a specific platform, our goal is find the right platform for the client - and Shopify and Woocommerce represent the best-developed platforms for the two major ways of buying ecommerce functionality. These are the 'one box' hosted solutions (Shopify, BigCommerce, SquareSpace, etc.) and the 'two box' self-hosted solutions (Woocommerce, PrestaShop, OpenCart, etc.).
HOSTED VS SELF-HOSTED ECOMMERCE
If you're reading this article, you probably already know that you can either opt for a 'traditional' infrastructure where you build an ecommerce website using a free or paid software package and then buy a hosting package separately OR you opt for a SaaS (software as a service) solution where the hosting and website building tools are combined in one package. Woocommerce is a leading example of self-hosted and Shopify is a leading example of SaaS.
Now, if you're looking for a definitive 'this is the best way to go', I'm going to disappoint you! It all depends on your needs as a client. However, here are some of the key differences and they probably explain why Resonant doesn't offer a single solution to clients:
Probably the easiest way to make your choice is to think about 3 related aspects of your requirements.
Moving ecommerce platforms is a big decision and the process is never as easy as developers with a vested interest will suggest. If you want to understand the real benefits and risks of migrating and which platforms are likely to suit your needs best, just get in touch for a conversation here.