Goodbye, “catalogue website.” Hello, metaverse. The internet is rapidly outpacing your granddaddy’s storefronts – so learn to adapt if you want to keep up.
Ecommerce is dead. Not the actual act of purchasing goods and services online, mind you. That is stronger than ever. But ecommerce as a concept, a term, as a singular experience – is dead. As we emerge from the pandemic, the idea of ecommerce as a separate economic activity won’t survive – and this is coming from a guy who founded eCommerce Canada (memo to self: consider changing name soon).
Look, we have spent 25 years trying to define what kind of businesses we run. Brick and mortar? An e-tailer? Perhaps a hybrid of some sort? That effort is not only unnecessary today – it is somewhat silly.
Your current and potential customers have been erasing lines for years now: lines between home and office, lines between our online and offline selves, lines between commerce and ecommerce. It’s all the same to them.
Your customers have moved on. They no longer care about where the economic activities take place. They only care about convenience – getting the right thing at the right time.
Despite the increased competition in the space, the must-have attributes of winning businesses are still the same – those who possess a key differentiator protect profit margins and reach new markets, win. To me, top of the funnel marketing is the greatest concern right now. Your customers (and potential customers) are awash in noise.
It’s not that there is a lack of interest in your product. It’s that there are too many retailers – and none of them have the proficiency or the cash to completely cut through the noise. This virtual shopping mall is chock-full of storefronts. Who wins?
There is a totally net new economy taking shape under our feet – one not rooted in the bricks and mortar of the physical world, but in emerging digital spaces where economic exchanges are for the benefit and enjoyment of our virtual selves
Our virtual selves are a net new marketplace. There is a cohort of people for whom the physical world no longer holds the same appeal as acquiring goods for their virtual selves. Don’t know what I am talking about? Think about everything from kids buying Fortnite character skins to celebrities investing in digital art on blockchain to everything in between.
What percentage of our dollars will that command? How much of your current spend will be spent there? We don’t know yet.
But while your competitors are scrambling to win the day, you have a chance to cast your eyes to tomorrow. There are a number of emerging technologies and virtual spaces that offer concrete opportunities to drive growth in unexpected and creative ways.
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3 opportunities for tomorrow
So, where are those opportunities? Here are 3 places to look today for an edge on tomorrow:
Remember when the world went crazy for tulips – so much so that the frenzy created the world’s first speculative investment bubble that nearly collapsed the Dutch economy? OK, maybe you don’t remember – that was 1634. But it happened – and it is happening again today, sort of, with the budding market for NFTs.
I know. The mere mention of that abbreviation (standing for non-fungible tokens) is enough to draw eye rolls from many. But for others, NFTs represent one of the biggest opportunities in ecommerce. These virtual assets provide options for makers to produce artifacts on the blockchain that appeal to affinity-minded consumers.
In addition to physical merchandise, NFTs offer the ability to expand your product offering at minimal cost and also control distribution. This ensures product scarcity and offers a host of new revenue opportunities. Articles like collectibles, digital assets, works of art, exclusives and personalized content are all potential product channels, but the technology is so new we’re only beginning to explore the potential.
The metaverse offers the next “blue ocean” of ecommerce opportunities, as we develop an entirely new economy to service this new demand. We’re essentially becoming people with 2 “selves” – our physical (or real world) self and our digital self. Both of these are consumers in their own right. Given the of metaverse communities, they’re driven by 2 forces: social interaction and commercial activity. The metaverse is, by nature, almost entirely a commercial environment.
This will signal the biggest shift away from our familiar “catalogue websites” (which we may fondly refer to as “your grandfather’s ecommerce store”) into a universe of “on-demand” shopping that will definitely have a significant impact on consumer expectation. In the metaverse, we can purchase whatever we want simply by imagining our need for it.
The tokenomics of things:
Tokenomics combines the words “crypto tokens” and “economics” to describe the supply and demand of cryptocurrencies. As cryptocurrencies are rapidly evolving and creating their own market influence, methods for measurement and liquidity need to evolve around them.
It’s a concept that also needs to be applied to the nebulous world of digital artifacts. Without enough history to support conventional methods of valuation, we can expect to see the emergence of various marketplaces, applications and communities that guide consumers through the buy/sell process of digital assets.
How cryptocurrency contributes to all of this is fairly uncertain, despite the fact they are becoming far more mainstream. We still can’t be certain about their liquidity and whether or not regulation is on the horizon – but crypto will certainly grow as a payment option in the digital economy.
Problems to solve
These opportunities are not without risks – there remain a lot of unknowns. How do we place value on these things when there isn’t enough history to go on? How do we build environments to sell these goods? How do the physical and meta worlds interact, and what data points can be used to connect customer experiences? How will product data as we currently know it need to adapt to be useful in new tech environments?
My 16-year-old son and I watched a movie from the 1980s recently. As the opening credits rolled (and rolled and rolled and rolled), he turned to me bewildered. “Dad, what is going on?” It occurred to me he may have never seen such a monotonous start to a film; I could see he was trying to wrap his head around the inconvenience of it all. This is no different than the literal “Sears catalogue-style” websites that we’ve created to enable ecommerce. Tomorrow’s customer will want everything on demand, backed by behavioural data that offer us what we want before we even know it ourselves. And you know what? The internet may be better for it.
So, with a sentimental nod and a celebration of a life well lived, let’s say our goodbyes to our old friend ecommerce and embark on a new way of doing things. Perhaps we will call it “MEcommerce” because it’s all about frictionless experiences and merging digital and physical channels into one.
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