eCommerce as we know it started its journey at the very end of the last century.
There was no blueprint, and definitely no template.
Those that had been operating in mail order land with an existing database of regular buying customers had a huge start on all those bright young Dot Com kids, but, as history has shown they simply failed to seize the day.
That was then, this is now and this pandemic has catapulted eCommerce into it's well deserved moment in the sun.
If you work in marketing you convince yourself that everyone is looking at your brand and company, yet the reality couldn't be further from the truth.
This is because pre-Covid people were bombarded with brand messages (adverts) of circa 4k -10k per day across multiple devices.
When the internet opened up the companies with 'content' (news, magazines) were amongst the first to jump on board. They had new and a back catalogue of latent content in the can, and this was a way to further leverage their investment.
Pre-internet all this content was only being used in one fixed and heavy cost medium of print. This was a model that for over a 100 years relied on 'sponsors' and advertising to pay the bills.
So, it was inevitable that when the internet arrive they simply transferred the same model into the new 'wild west' of content - revenue first, reader experience second!
Had they pursued the same offline strategy as the online one, which was to sell 'ad space' to as many people as possible for the highest price possible I'm pretty sure that the printed medium would have seen it's demise a lot sooner.
As they continued the move into digital 'ad-land' websites became overwhelmed with adverts, that at one stage made us unsure what was a real story, and what was an advert, all of which just slowed down the page load which in turn increased 'bounce' rates.
What's happened is that we've all started to disengage with the corporate message, basically the level of trust has been diluted, which in turn means we no longer relate to, or trust what you're saying is true.
Something similar happened during the early stages of eCommerce. Those brands looking to move into the space had no option but to set up a 'transactional' website and become obsessed with 'the funnel' - all very functional and not always the best of experiences.
Things have changed, that we know for sure. This crisis has seen the move online at a pace highly desired by many, however in broad terms it still isn't at the levels predicted in the early part of this new 21st Century.
Therein could be a great opportunity for those bold enough, innovative enough, and of course agile enough.
By adding 'fun' back into the online experience mix requires retailers to think 'outside in'.
What I mean about this is they (retail) need to go back to why they had stores in town centres, and stores in shopping malls - from a consumer perspective they simply used to go where they could 'experience' things, not just shop.
eCommerce is a bland functional experience drive more by convenience than fun!
Platforms that can combine both entertainment and e-commerce will win this category.
As proven in China, entertainment could be in the form of social network, live streaming, user videos, product build videos or influencer content. On the e-commerce side, categories such as apparel, home products or electronic accessories should be relevant. SKUs that are low intent, low price and non-branded would be more likely to succeed.
"Current players in the US & EU are good at either entertainment or e-commerce but none are great at both".
Those that take time out to better understand the difference between search based eCommerce and browse based eCommerce will probably win out during the 2nd stage of eCommerce growth during the next 3-5 years.
The KPIs required to win in the search based e-commerce and browsing e-commerce models are different.
As usual it seems that China is leading the way.
PDD has built a differentiated experience using a blend of entertainment and e-commerce. To the western audience, PDD introduces itself as a combination of Disney and Costco. Within five years, it has grown to 683M Active Customers and 569M MAUs and $180B GMV (Q2–20 metrics). It took Alibaba 15+ years to reach the same scale.
The KPIs required to win in the search based e-commerce and browsing e-commerce models are different. While Amazon might be laser focused on 1) delivery time 2) SKU count 3) conversion; PDD might be laser focused on 1) user engagement 2) churn 3) SKU count. Amazon doesn’t look like making an effort to increase engagement on its app, whereas PDD is optimizing for high DAU/ MAU and time spent.