Yesterday’s definition of eCommerce is dead. The rough definition — buying and selling over the Internet—is inadequate for today’s commerce companies.
Today’s shoppers expect to shop anytime/anywhere, to buy every kind of product, to use whichever device or channel suits them at that moment and to be recognized and valued for their custom. Today’s business leaders (whether brands, retailers or B2B businesses) are grappling with increased shopper expectations, rapidly evolving technology and new sources of competition.
So, should we now drop the “e” and call this form of transaction just “commerce?” Since all commerce today involves electronic systems and the lines between the online and offline worlds are blurred, the “electronic” in eCommerce may be redundant. Another approach would be to redefine it as “everywhere commerce” so that we can focus on the big opportunities and challenges in eCommerce today.
To assess whether a company is adequately recognizing this shift in commerce and taking the necessary steps to be present everywhere, business leaders need to ask themselves these key questions:
Every country Are we offering international shoppers a seamless experience? Are we reaching potential shoppers in fast growing markets? Are we personalizing the shopper’s experience based on his/her location?
Every device Does our eCommerce platform support the wide (and increasing) variety of devices and browsers? How are shoppers using their devices? Are they using a smartphone and laptop at the same time and in complementary ways or at different times and then keeping them in sync?
Every channel Are we supporting every possible route into an eCommerce transaction? These include: social networks, brand marketing, physical stores or branches, wholesalers, Amazon, eBay and other marketplaces, aggregators and choice engines that simplify options to help consumers make better decisions.
Every shopper Are we personalizing the shopper’s experience based on the current context plus his/her past and predicted behavior? And are we catering to both B2C and B2B shoppers?
Every interaction Are we delighting our shoppers every time they interact with our brand (whether on our own web properties or elsewhere)? Are we delivering excellent service right through the customer experience: from brand awareness, to product awareness and purchase, as well as the delivery, returns and customer service processes?
Every product How effectively are we managing product information, pricing, inventory and returns across our own, third party and drop ship supplier locations?
Every piece of data Are we gaining enough insight from the mass of data available on our shoppers’ interactions? What new opportunities are offered by the exponential growth in data from smartphones and social media (big data) and from information disclosure?
Every business model Have we just taken our pre-Internet business model online or have we really exploited the new opportunities offered by the Internet? Which aspects of our old business model can be blended with digital to offer a differentiated proposition? Can we integrate with our legacy systems? How do we keep up to date with new developments like Google Shopping Express?
Every delivery option Are we meeting the needs of those shoppers who want the product in the next hour or the next day as well as those who are willing to wait until next week? And what about those shoppers who want a one-hour delivery slot or want to pick up from a nearby location at their convenience, not ours?
Based on the answers to these questions, business leaders need to decide on priorities and start making changes to adapt to this new environment. The name change from electronic commerce is important, not just because the term too narrowly defines the today’s reality, but also because it confines thinking. The term focuses thinking on the wrong problem.
Retailers need to think about how strategic use of technology, mobile location-based services and big data can improve life for the customer, unify the brand experience across all venues and provide a competitive advantage.
“Everywhere commerce” is here already and the choice for today’s commerce companies is stark: adapt or die.
This article was first published in BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands 2013