At its inception, modern commerce began with small, physical stores and there was no concept of off or online shopping. With the advent of the internet, websites started a whole new digital purchasing revolution, where people were able to buy from the comfort of their own home; and the term ‘eCommerce’ (electronic commerce) was born. The concept behind offline and online was never connected and most people still treat them as two separate ideas.
Online vs offline
For the first quarter of 2016, eCommerce accounted for only 7.8% of all retail sales in the U.S. Although higher than previous years, this figure suggests the more traditional, offline purchasing is still king.
However what people don’t generally realize is that buying in a physical store is now a very much connected experience and what people class as ‘eCommerce’ is as important (if not more so), than a company’s offline presence. The line between the digital and physical world is becoming more and more blurred.
Do you check social media for ideas before making a purchase? Check online to see if you can buy the item cheaper? Or view a product on an eCommerce store before going into a physical shop to check it out ‘in real life’? These are all obvious ways of connecting online and offline but in actual fact, the idea goes far beyond this.
Connecting the ‘real’ and digital world
Our world is connected beyond belief, almost every software system in commerce is connected to large-scale networks.
The vast majority of products and purchases are tracked at some point by connected systems. Systems that tag, collate, collect, remember, announce and remind hundreds of points of data relating to physical items you’ve purchased. These systems update stock, remove inventory, purchase more inventory and transfer funds without you even knowing about it.
And not forgetting data on you, the customer, are also being tracked constantly. The idea that personalization is key to engaging with consumers and create brand loyalty has been around for a couple of years but as time progresses, what this actually means is becoming more and more complex and insightful. Your demographics, purchase history, when you’re most likely to purchase and where is all being collected without you even thinking about it. Any metadata that a company can collect about you is used to enhance your experience with the brand.
You walk into stores and the phone in your pocket connects to an iBeacon - store workers know who you are so they can provide product recommendations and give you a personalized shopping experience. You may feel like you’re offline as you’re stood in a bricks-and-mortar store but in actual fact, everything relating to your experience is definitely online.
‘eCommerce’ really is dead
You’ll probably think that what I’ve written so far really suggests the opposite but actually, all commerce is now electronic and there’s nothing separating commerce and eCommerce, so the ‘e’ is no longer needed.
APIs are the way forward
As more and more brands are realizing the connection between all commerce, they’re all looking at how to link their offline and online worlds, engage with their customers on a more personal level and grow as a business. Their answer to this lies with APIs. They are the underlying tool to make this connection happen seamlessly, across all devices, platforms, and services.
Looking to the future
We’re on the cusp of a new era with technologies like Augmented Reality. We can see brands pushing for both in-store and at home augmented reality experiences, allowing consumers to visualize how products would look in their own homes before making a purchase. Pokemon Go has proved what a powerful idea this is, bringing the concept to the masses and providing a global understanding of what’s possible. There is so much to say about AR though it deserves its own post!
Here at Elastic Path, we’re constantly working hard to deliver the tools necessary for connected commerce to more people. By making your store data available everywhere, we’re trying to further remove the boundaries between physical and non-physical stores so you can connect with your customers when and wherever they are.
eCommerce is dead, long live commerce.