The Future of Ecommerce
It's 2030. We are not fighting Amazon anymore, we are fighting our inability to adapt.
10 editions down, this is my 11th. It’s been 5 months since I’ve been at it and I felt it was time to shake things up a bit here. So today, I’m not giving you anything tactical.
I’m going to pretend to be one of those douchebags on the internet trying to give advice to 24 year olds. Except that I’m not. And this isn’t advice. This is just my experience & research. If you know me, you know me to be brutally honest. So take this with a pinch of salt, all of you.
Also, you gotta forward it to one new person who could subscribe and benefit. Sticking the link here for New Signups.
On to the crux now: Saving Your E-Commerce Ship
Well, e-commerce has been around for a few years now. But the last one year saw a rapid increase in adoption both from consumers as well as retailers to online shopping. In fact this is one of the few sectors that swelled through the pandemic like a behemoth. So here’s to the trends that would need attention from high growth or evolved brands in the coming months (not years).
The truth about beating Amazon:
Let's get one thing right. If you are a startup consumer brand, Amazon’s your engine. As you grow, Amazon’s your biggest competitor. It’s like the rival you can never beat by rising to its level. So what do you do, you go small, or rather niche.
Your own e-commerce app. Bunch of evolved brands still rely on Shopify Stores. Well that’s fine, but this is in defense of applications: If you are looking to play the long term game, it’s wiser for you to build your own product that can be super-personalised to the experience you wish to give your shoppers. Applications come with inherent benefits that websites or even PWA’s don't offer as experientially: Subscription experiences, delights, communities, AI engine integrations, in-store experiences and what not.
You want your applications to become future search engines for your categories. The race for it starts today though.
2) Social Shopping: The largest battle that humans will face in a few years from now isn’t climate change or even nuclear wars. It would be ‘loneliness’. While digital is what would take us there, digital would also be the antidote.
The future is all about community interactions. And e-commerce would have to start to bridge the gap between retail and online shopping. It cannot be just transactions anymore. What would build out is:
- You bump into someone you know or rather plan to go online shopping at the same time with your friends. Discuss what to buy and engage in social interactions virtually.
- Intuitive experiences from e-commerce store stores like how a salesman would, around every product within the store. Intuitive shopping experiences around text, audio or video chats with salesmen online would enable something like this.
- We’d also start using virtual reality to build out shopping through the retail store, possible online. People would be able to walk through the store virtually and get privileges like ‘early access to new products’ as community members of the brand.
- Collaborative shopping experiences will eliminate the need for you to ‘share via whatsapp’ an item that you want to buy.
- And all of this would be linked to Facebook & Instagram, for you to also encounter serendipitous interactions with people you know.
Imagine shopping on the Zara Application online and you can share the shopping experience of what’s good and what’s not with your friend(s) in real time.
(A lot of my thinking around social shopping here is borrowed from Greg Isenberg’s ideology of the future of e-commerce)
3) Live Experiences: Online stores would start to become like day time infomercials. Content creators walk you through the entire experience of the product while you shop; and questions from your chat being answered in live video streams. We’re already halfway there with the concept of ‘reels’ and ‘Amazon Live’. Matter of time before other brands start to adapt to this trend.
Imagine what it would do to (commercially) higher end brands: the intimacy of interactions around high-end shopping (cars, apparel, furniture) or even education oriented products (insurances, fintech, education courses) would massively benefit from increased human interactions.
4) Brand Communities + Networking: Brands will start to form their own exclusive communities, so active that people would flock to be part of those clubs. The reason people associate with communities (imagine sneakerheads here) is because they share common interests & values. Brands will drive subtle cues for community interactions and these would become places for people to meet other like minded folks to increase their personal & professional networks. The possibilities of what one can do with such communities (UGC, primary research, feedback, interactions, product tests) are unlimited.
Imagine ecommerce meets Hinge.
Paid Memberships: Brands that evolve faster to stay aligned with community building would start forming exclusive clubs with restricted access. Imagine ‘Clubhouse’ in it’s initial days. You’d need an invite to be part of all the buzz. It was selective and exclusive. So moving forward, if you want to be part of the brand’s community, here’s a paid subscription just for you to have exclusive access to what’s happening. Some brands already have a level of following that they could start establishing themselves as member clubs.
5) Voice: The next big thing for increasing convenience & comfort is voice. This will soon start to become synonymous with most brands where one could place orders (say on essentials) just with voice.
- Voice meets Subscriptions: Imagine using a case for reordering, for example: “Alexa, put dog food in my shopping cart.”
- In this case, Amazon remembers your brand and quantity preferences, making reordering a breeze. The ultimate future for this, though, builds on the voice commerce trend along with the rise in subscriptions to reach automated commerce (acommerce) and headless commerce-powered IoT devices.
- User Preferences: If you’re a brand that doesn’t already understand your users preferences, you’re in for trouble. It’s no longer the generation of typical home & product pages on your site or application. Unless you’re showing what customers want to see, they’ll hop over to another site and that’s a loss of opportunity. Brands will have to cut through the noise in most evolved categories with personalised tastes & preferences.
Myntra is halfway there, building it’s ML engine through its application.
6) Creator Economy: Individual creators would become influencers and associates of curated products. This could be anyone who has a social following and not necessarily the typical ‘influencer categories’. Social proof & credibility from these creators would become a yardstick for customers: what they use, what they promote and how they influence thinking is going to change.
A few products are already out there, trying to leverage the power of content collaboration through creators.INSPO does exactly that for you. It’s a new age content-builder that crowdsources ideas from the most creative minds. It’s mind blowing to see how collaborative the creator economy has come to be.
Creators and community builders would become faces of branded content in the coming months.
All in all, tomorrow is all about niche fandom: If you start attracting 1000 customers (figuratively) who you have to educate about your product, you are in for massive cash burn while battling competition. CAC’s will start diverting bigger brands to start creating smaller more independent brands that attract a niche set of audience. The more niche you could go, the higher your customer LTV starts to swell.
Not everything from these would apply to every category, but you get the drift of what you could pick from here. My intent today was just to stir some conversations on the future of digital experiences.
Let me know in case you’d like me to dive deeper into any of these futuristic routes, with execution steps for high-growth brands. I <3 feedback.
Until next time,