Omnichannel, multichannel, cross-channel, etc. are modern synonyms shoved endlessly around by marketing and the various channels are interlinked functionally and can hardly be differentiated in their significance. Furthermore, since even brick and mortar retail stores embraced the digitalization and integrated mobile concepts, a distinction between channels, online and offline world, actually no longer makes any sense. Shopping is nowadays possible not only (almost) everywhere, but also almost at any time, which is why it is better called "everywhere and all the time commerce”.
Since new technologies have made the consumer behavior more dynamic, allowing people for the first time to decide when, where and more often even how they shop, the possibilities are almost unlimited as trade is about to become an always available process. Hence, the new reality is called Omni-Commerce.
Is eCommerce a phase-out model?
You might ask what this means for eCommerce as a channel, industry and technology, considering the constant digital change? Well, there are two things to take into account, namely the average age of the population in connection to typical human persistence on the one hand, and the development capacity of eCommerce on the other.
While studies tend to show that online is less likely to happen with increasing age, the difference between the younger and older generation is actually quite narrow. But it’s true that the older we get, the less willing we are to embark on new things. So, whoever declares eCommerce to be dead today, in the sense of a traditional online trade via web shops, claiming the market is too dynamic, forgets that the market participants are also sometimes lethargic. For the latest transaction models, such as the Amazon Dash Button, curated shopping à la modomoto, YouTube’s Click-to-Shop, supervised shopping via enjoy.com or operator.com, as well as shareconomy like Uber, not everybody is yet up for.
eCommerce equals evolution
At the very least, these technologies and concepts are on the market and satisfy the requirements of certain target groups. Presumably, some of these concepts will disappear again because their deployment currently costs more than they earn, as the target groups are not yet sufficiently large. But when the market is mature, they are picked up again by the "late movers" and it doesn’t even matter how the individual offers develop.
Certain is that consumer behavior will continue to change with the increasing variety of digital offers and business models. We can already see today that the convergence of the channels, the simultaneity of information and transaction possibilities, is growing ever further. But there is still nothing concrete to say about the nature, extent and milestones of change. This is where the greatest strength of eCommerce surfaces, namely its versatility.
All sales models mentioned above require a platform that transacts the processes, a user interface that represents the customer, and experts who develop and manage the platform and processes. And in almost all cases it is the eCommerce, as a technology and an industry, that provides the needed versatility. Some of the eCommerce platforms are so highly customizable that the result has nothing to do with a traditional shop front end, shopping cart and checkout, but is already much, much more.
Behind the scenes
Currently, mainly B2B eCommerce is showing the high maturity and efficiency of the eCommerce technologies, as well as the agencies that integrate it into business processes. Deeply and comprehensively they are integrated into the IT landscape of the companies. They interact with ERP, CRM and PIM systems, enable the connection of various third-party services via web services, allow the presentation and processing of complex customer-specific pricing models, automatically transfer order lists that have been created according to customer-specific requirements into a format that can be processed by the provider system to name a few. Hence, B2B eCommerce obviously already allows for far-reaching personalization, a topic that the digital retail business just started to discover.
Point of interest will be Point of Sale
We have just arrived at the development stage of Omnichannel on the way to an Omni-Commerce in the B2C industry. Although the customer can obtain services through a variety of more or less well interlinked channels, omni-commerce is in contrast to omnichannel not a strategic sales model, which extends some of the central sales channels through digital services for special usage scenarios. Rather it integrates the online shop through a click-to-shop button into YouTube videos or other platforms. Omni-commerce is more an understanding of customer interaction: If a dealer wants to approach customers, he has to play according to their rules and meet their individual expectations.
Thanks to online trading and smartphones, the customer has always the opportunity to find an offer and lives in the certainty that once the desire to purchase is awakened, it can also be satisfied. The point of interest is at the same time the point of sale. Consequently, if the customer’s expectations get disappointed he knows how to find the competition that is only a few clicks away.
Efficient eCommerce is the future
Omni-commerce understands all aspects such as procurement, logistics, presentation, ordering, shipping, returns, and the like, as a service to the customer and should therefore be geared towards them.
The goal is to oblige the customer as far as possible and save them time. Economically, however, such a concept can only be implemented if an individual set of touchpoints and services can be easily assembled and changed at any time.
Modern eCommerce platforms are nowadays able to play out the "content" for a wide range of channels and touchpoints (shops, mobile devices, POS systems, sales desks, media) and vice versa process the triggered transactions, such as ERP, CRM, payment and so on, without difficulty. The only thing that is still missing is the willingness of "front-end providers", such as publishers, social media platforms or even the industry, wherever customers are active to allow shopping functions. Because, from the eCommerce’s point of view, it does not matter whether there is shopping via a shop frontend, a YouTube video, or one of the last advertising pillars.
As an industry, we are confronted with the task of understanding the potential of eCommerce as a central platform for all trading processes, adapting our mindset accordingly, and making it clear to our customers that there is no longer a decision between the online and the offline world in the medium term.
eCommerce is gaining momentum and becomes omnipresent, driven by its growing omniscience it seems to become almost omnipotent.
By Daniela La Marca