The Future of Social Commerce (2012 Perspective)

What most people agree on is that e-commerce as a whole will continue to grow rapidly and eat into offline commerce. In the steady state, offline commerce will serve only two purposes: immediacy (stuff you need right away), and experiences (showroom, fun venues). All other commerce will happen online.

Check out this forward thinking post from Chris Dixon. If you are new to getting online and perhaps considering a new business here are some super tips from people in the know about the future of retail, e-commerce and its integration with social and mobile technologies. Be sure to read the comments from industry leaders such as the CEO of Fab, Jason Goldberg.

Thanks to Social Commerce Today, the following list compresses the article:

  • The future is e-commerce; offline commerce will serve only two purposesimmediacy (stuff you need right away), and experiences (showroom, fun venues).
  • But immediacy may no longer a promise for offline commerce companies as both Amazon and eBay have announced same day delivery.
  • The role of offline lies in the value of the “showroom” and “entertainment” aspects to places like Williams Sonoma. The future of commerce is a hybrid model with (entertaining) showrooms + online fullfillment
  • The future of e-commerce is combining online and offline experiences in disruptive ways. (Chloe + Isabel, Warby Parker, Everlane, and Stylemint)
  • There is no such a thing as e-commerce any more. There’s just commerce. You can innovate in commerce with technology, but the e-commerce silo is dead/dying (mobile payments are disrupting/removing the online/offline divide).
  • The future of e-commerce is vertical integration in markets where there is significant markup in both wholesale and retail (think Shoedazzle, Bonobos, J Hilburn, Warby Parker, IndoChino).
  • Few successful e-commerce companies were started in the early 2000s, although a slew of recent new entrants appear to be getting traction - flash salessocial commercesubscription commerce and other new “content + commerce” models
  • The first wave of e-commerce was about commoditization this wave online and offline is about being a “merchant” (point of view, authority, experience etc).
  • The key equation driving e-commerce is: profit = lifetime customer value minus customer acquisition costs
  • If it has a UPC code, Amazon will beat you.”
  • Before you enter the e-commerce game, visit an Amazon warehouse.
  • E-commerce is good for two things – price and exclusives. Amazon will beat you on price, so you have to beat it on exclusives.
  • The only way to escape commoditization and catalogue commerce dominated by Amazon is to a) sell used stuff, or b) make your own products (or provide a marketplace for those things), or c) (possibly) offer customisation
  • Be wary of e-commerce businesses based on customization – they’ve  existed for a decade (cafePress, Shutterly, Vistaprint) and yet none are thriving. Customers don’t want customization, they want great brands and great design, and they want to be told what they want.
  • The e-commerce opportunity is to contribute to the e-commerce ecosystem rather than sell directly yourself; four opportunities – 1) supply chain innovation, b) marketplaces, c) e-commerce solutions for small businesses, d) mobile payments
  •  There’s room for innovation in the space as long as the ecommerce company creates value for all participants – the retailer, the supplier and the customer
  • To make money in e-commerce, you need to sell in emerging markets where there are no huge incumbents
  • Compete in an industry with a grey market, where consumers are willing to pay higher prices for reducing risk, for authenticity, and warranties
  • The opportunity is to venture into segments where Amazon won’t go (adult, arms… !)
  • The opportunity for e-commerce success is a) sell to iPad owners (iPad owners are 10x more valuable than non iPad owners), b) mobile commerce (nobody owns this yet), and b) target your customers who use social features  (3 to 4 x more valuable)
  • You can’t sell to people who know exactly what they want – Amazon owns that; focus instead either a) ‘discovery‘ (“the best place to discover the stuff you don’t know you need”) or b) deep domain expertise
  • to succeed in e-commerce, you need to sell exclusives. You can’t sell stuff that Amazon sells, Amazon will crush you
  • Amazon is not a store, it’s the world’s best supply chain and logistics company. Amazon is transforming from a retailer to a marketplace+services provider over time.
  • Domain expertise, live assistance, and overall experience are the critical success factors for success in a market where price-competitiveness and scale rule
  • Necessary (but not sufficient conditions) for e-commerce success are a) remarkable,  unique and branded experience and remarkable, unique and branded service; do what Apple, Tiffany & Co., Coach, Lululemon do in bricks and mortar commerce, but online

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