The Future of eCommerce

I hate going shopping. I hate the process of going to a store, I hate having to navigate that store, I hate waiting in a line to check out. Maybe hate is a strong word here, but I really don’t like it. I do 95% of my shopping online thanks primarily to Amazon. I order it on my device when I need it and I can have it almost immediately in 2 hours or at the most wait 2 days. Generally speaking it’s cheaper as well and my options to choose from are much great.

eCommerce has come a long way. In the past many people didn’t want to put their credit card online for security purposes and now we realize that checks and other forms of payment are much less secure. Mobile has also changed the game as we’re an on the go society and we can buy something when we immediately think about it rather than having to hope we remember and then stop at a store the next time that we’re able to.

eBay changed the game in eCommerce and then Amazon took it to the next level. While I see more and more moving this direction, here are some of my predictions for the future:

  • More Options Online – right now eCommerce is mostly limited to smaller non-perishable goods. I think you will see online shopping for groceries becoming the norm rather than the exception and larger items like appliances primarily being purchased online. I even think automobiles will move online using a showroom and delivery model similar to Tesla.
  • Better try it on experiences – buying clothes through the mail is not new. Frustrations though with the right fit and returning policies also isn’t new. In the future though I believe there will be better “try it on” experiences will exist allowing you to try on glasses or clothes virtually to see exactly how they will look on your face or body.
  • More Online Giving – when it comes to donations to ministries and nonprofits, the world has already gone mobile and this will online continue. It’s easier, more immediate, more trackable and safer than sending cash or checks. This trend will only continue.
  • More Mobile – when we think about wanting to buy something or make a donation we don’t often want to wait and do it later. If we can easily do it right then we can and will. More and more donations and online purchases will take place via mobile in the coming months and years.
  • Better Security – online security has gotten so much better and this should only continue. Cyber security systems have built incredible systems for preventing hacks and individuals are getting better at understanding how to protect themselves through best practices around passwords and open networks.
  • Purchasing through our TV – one platform that I expect to grow in the next few years is eCommerce processed through our TV. With smart TV technology growing we can now interact through our television set. So, when we see a commercial or ad that has our attention we should be able to just click a button to purchase that or give them our information. This applies to donations as well if we feel compelled to make a donation while watching a broadcast we should be able to do that through our Smart TVs.

I still remember some of my first purchases on eBay and getting these items in the mail just a decade ago. eCommerce has come so far since then and will make even greater leaps in the next decade.

What does this mean for ministries? It means that you need to pay attention to your online giving experience and especially your mobile giving experience. This won’t just be one of the ways people that people give to your ministry, but it will soon become the primary way that people support your ministry. It should be easy to do and seamlessly integrate into everything else that you do and offer.

The Future of Mobile Technology

The past 5 years in the world of technology has been all about mobile. Mobile apps, mobile responsive websites, mobile transactions, etc.  It’s hard to imagine that mobile can go much further, but trust me, it can and it will.  Here are my predictions in the world of mobile technology:

  • Wearable Everything – you likely have heard about technologies like the Apple Watch or Google Glass.  Beyond these devices I think we will see smart socks, shirts, hats, etc. Socks will measure our steps, gloves will function like a controller, a shirt might become our coach telling us what’s wrong with our golf swing and push up technique.  All of these wearable technologies will be connected in a mobile context.
  • A Different Mobile Device – right now we think of mobile as a rectangular device that fits in our pocket. In the future I don’t think that device will be necessary.  Maybe it will be a watch or necklass, but I believe it will be smaller and less obtrusive if you can imagine that.  We will essentially have many mobile devices (like our Bluetooth headphones now) that all connect to our hub which will be small and flexible.
  • Mobile Data Everywhere – remember when we used to be concerned about minutes on our mobile devices and we could only make phone calls where there was a land line.  Now there is essentially cell service everywhere, but that’s not the case globally.  I believe in just a few years the whole world will be connected via mobile data and the days of our being concerned with how many Gigs we have used on our data plan will soon be a thing of the past.

So what does this mean for the church?

Well, we will have opportunities to engage with our congregants anywhere anytime.  We might also be able to use these wearable technologies to enhance church attendees experience both on campus and online.  Imagine Kids check-in and giving opportunities.  Remember when we used to have people sign the attendance sheet every Sunday? Now we will know the minute they drove onto the church campus and how long they stayed and how often the attend.  This is powerful data!

We will also have global ministry opportunities to engage anyone anywhere in the world via mobile technologies.  Any local congregation will soon have the opportunity to be a global congregation be prioritizing these fast developing mobile technologies.

I’m guessing that mobile technology has already impacted your church in more ways than you realize.  I’m guessing that as people pull out their Bible’s at church they are most often opening an app in their smart phone rather than a physical Bible.  That’s just a small change in comparison to the coming developments that I believe lie ahead in the coming years.

The Future of Social Media

Predicting the future of social media can be so challenging. Who could have predicted social networks like Periscope or the Peach App 2 years ago? Who would have predicted that Snapchat would become such a big deal and the hottest social network of 2016. While things continue to change fast, I do think there are some trends that I feel confident in predicting:

  • Facebook will Continue to Dominate – With over 1.6 billion active users globally and the continued growth of Instagram and What’s App, it’s hard to imagine Facebook not continuing to dominate the space. They continue to innovate internally (example: Facebook Live and Instagram Stories) and externally through acquisitions (example: Oculus Rift) that it’s hard to imagine anyone surpassing them in social engagement in the next 5 years.  Anything can happen, but I don’t see Facebook becoming the next Myspace.
  • The Gap between physical and online will minimize – Many people perceive their life in 2 places: online and offline (face to face). Through social media most people now have friends that they have never met face to face. Currently we separate those relationships perceiving them to be different but over the next 5 years, I think we will not see them so differently. For instance, I have many clients I have never met face to face. I have actually never met any of my employees face to face. I also would tell you that I’m closer to them than I am to most people that I know face to face. That likely sounds weird to you reading this, but 5 years from now I think this will actually be more of the norm for many of our personal and professional relationships.
  • Mobile video will continue to grow – Video continues to take over social media and video created and consumed via mobile is the majority of that. Currently, many of those videos have poor production quality, but as mobile cameras and editing apps continue to improve as well as the creativity of those using, these technologies will go to new levels.  Anyone anywhere will be able to create great video content with their mobile device and the majority of the views will be from mobile devices.

The reality of social media is that the one thing we know is that it will always be changing. Any social network that stays the same for too long will quickly become irrelevant. Humans are social by nature and using web technologies to connect people in social ways will only continue to grow and develop. It will sure be interesting to see what happens in the next 5 months much less trying to dream about what might be ahead for the next 5 years.

 

So, what does this mean for ministries?

Well, I wouldn’t ignore Facebook while also expanding efforts simultaneously to other social networks. I know it can be challenging to manage multiple networks and Facebook can be frustrating because you essentially have to pay to play, but it’s worth the investment with both your time and financial resources.

Finally, I would start making as many mobile videos as you can. The more mobile videos you create, the better each video will get. The better you get, the better you will be prepared for the future of social media.

Get ready, this social media trend is not slowing down any time soon and the world is only becoming more connected. This might be scary for many, but if you look at these trends as opportunities, the future can look very bright with incredible new ministry opportunities!

The Future of Websites

Remember when websites were a big deal? Now it seems like all people talk about are apps and social media.  It’s often because websites have become something that is considered essential rather than optional. The question is no longer if you have a website, but how good your website is. Not that long ago, websites were only for large companies who had lots of money to spend on this technology. Then GoDaddy and Wordpress came along and seemingly everyone was able to create a website on a small budget. Now with platforms like Squarespace and Wix websites are just the basic essential, and everyone can have a really good website on a minimal budget. As we look to the future with new technologies that are developing, websites will soon be so much more.

Here are some predictions about the future of websites:

·      Top Level Domains (TLD) will become the norm

.com will for many years continue to be the ideal, but other domains like .church, .technology, .media, etc. will become more and more the norm for website domains

·      Mobile will only grow

As wearable technologies continue to grow, so will engagement via mobile web. Our on-the-go culture desires information and connection on-the-go which will only grow with website engagement on mobile devices continuing to increase at rapid rates.

·      eCommerce will continue to grow

It’s hard to imagine life without Amazon today. In the coming years, Amazon will have more competition from companies like Jet and people will grow more confident buying almost everything online.  This will also include donations to ministries, which for most ministries has already surpassed 50%. I expect eCommerce to become more and more social as well.

·      Websites will customize to the user

 Currently, websites often adapt to users based on their devices.  I believe, in the future, sites will adapt on additional factors on where people are, what language they speak, how they might have behaved on the site previously.  For example: if I live in New York and speak English, the website will adapt to me different than for someone in Arizona who primarily views websites in Spanish.

·      SEO will be driven by social

Search will continue to be a significant part of all websites and the power of ranking high on Google, Bing, YouTube or any other search engine will be important. These algorithms are already changing due to social engagement and will likely only continue to effective your website traffic in a very significant way.

Honestly, this post could be a list of 20 future updates and I know I would be missing a few as well. I will likely also be wrong on one or two of my predictions. Either way, this technology is not staying the same and we must remain flexible.

So, what does this mean for ministries? Well, don’t get comfortable. Your church or ministry website should stay in a constant state of beta, meaning it’s never done. Constantly look to adapt and adjust and get better. If possible dedicate resources to not just keep your website up to date on new technologies, but lead the way with the best website in your community.

The Future

The future is incredibly hard to predict. Many people make predictions about the future and most are wrong. I’ve made predictions and been wrong many times before. This month, I will be writing a series called The Future Of and we’ll be looking at the future of various things like social media, cars, TVs, etc.

As we look to the future, I will be sharing my opinion on how certain technologies will develop. I might be wrong, but I do want to clearly communicate that these opinions are based on the trends I have seen over the past decade along with the constant research that I do toward the future.

I will also be sharing my opinion on how these developments can impact the future of the church and ministries in general. The reality is that we live in a world that is changing fast in many ways due to the rapidly changing technologies all around. These changes impact our daily lives, our homes, workplaces, entertainment and even ministries.

It’s my desire that ministries will not only be reactive to these new technologies, but lead the way in how these technologies might be used for gospel opportunities. For instance, mobile and language translation technologies allow for the gospel to reach into regions that the gospel could not go into before. We also have opportunities here in North America using technologies like Virtual Reality to share the story of the gospel in new and creative ways.

The truth is that industries like the pornography industry are leading the way in many of these new technologies like Virtual Reality. The church doesn’t have to lag behind. We can pay attention to these growing trends and make strategic efforts to reach people in new and creative ways. My hope is that these posts might stir an idea in your ministry context as to how you might pioneer the new ministry frontiers.