It is this time of the year again when everybody takes out his or her crystal ball and make wild guesses about what commerce land has to expect in the next 12 months. We could not resist either, so here are five topics which in our opinion will become especially relevant this year.

#1: Microservices – turning commerce architectures upside down

You heard us talking about microservices quite a lot this year – for instance in this book and some articles by our CPO Kelly Goetsch. And guess what, we are just getting started. Microservices was THE topic at 2016 digital commerce conferences – a good indicator that the new approach to building more reliable, less risk-prone and above all more innovation-friendly commerce platforms is about to have a breakthrough.
The advantage: Microservices are developed by small, dedicated teams that can create and deploy new commerce functionalities in parallel and without the need for extensive system tests for each system alteration. This can lead to drastically shortened development times. Speeding up development processes from quarters to hours means a huge business benefit both for established players as well as the chance for new startups to disrupt an existing market constellation.

#2: Mobile becomes a catalyst for personalized experiences

When did you check your web store’s traffic for the last time? The chances are that a majority of visitors will access your offering from a mobile application. Ten years after Steve Jobs presented the iPhone to the breathless public, there are now three billion (!) smart devices out there, generating more traffic than conventional PCs and notebooks do.
However, mobile does not only mean being able to do on a small screen what you used to do on the big one: More, it becomes a catalyzer for our personalized digital world. It serves as an extension of our brain and controls our apps and other devices we use.

#3: Retailers address more and more touchpoints

We have seen the Amazon Dash button taking off. We discuss the Internet of Things devices which can take over practical tasks in modern connected households. We see the rise of conversational commerce with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Microsoft’s Cortana. Moreover, there are new advancements in the areas of artificial intelligence, making it more likely for us to converse naturally with a chatbot as we would with a living human being.
This year, we will see that customers interact with multiple touchpoints, adding new ones to the mix to make shopping more convenient. For retailers, it will be important to find ways to connect to all these devices – one option being the usage of flexible commerce APIs.

#4: Customer Experience becomes the most important business driver

Talking about convenience: Shopping not only becomes easier but also more enjoyable and entertaining at the same time. Only a few apps and websites are the digital gatekeepers of today’s Internet – think Amazon, think Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat – and retailers need to put much effort into creating an experience that will cater to their audience’s needs in a way that the “big ones” cannot.
Delivering a great customer experience is not restricted to the digital channels alone. We will see more retailers experimenting with merging online and offline channels seamlessly.

#5: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning propel digitally savvy retailers further ahead

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning have increasingly made headway in strategic commerce planning in the recent past. 2017 and the next few years afterwards is where it will really get graspable for digital commerce. Industry analysts are already predicting increasing business interest: Forrester, to name just one example, thinks investment in Artificial Intelligence will grow 300% in 2017.
At commercetools, we see a lot of potential for intelligent algorithms to make sense of an increasing amount of data collected as part of digital commerce processes – from closer to home aspects such as product information management or search, to broader applications such as fraud detection or churn prediction. Just think of a marketplace such as Ebay with more than 800 million products in its catalog – what a difference a more intelligent, self-learning search algorithm can make here!