If you’re curious about the current and future states of ecommerce, keep reading. Below, I comment on the most interesting things heard at Emarsys Evolution (NYC, 8/3/17) and Connected Commerce (Mohegan Sun, 9/21/17).

Retail is not dead, it’s just more omnichannel.

This thought was presented in different formats by both Allen Nance (CMO, Emarsys) and Brendan Witcher (Principal Analyst, Forrester). Some nuggets:

  • Retail growth is remarkably steady, having grown at 4% for each of the last 7 years.

  • That growth primarily comes from stores (58%), not Amazon. It turns out we still like to touch and feel products before buying them!

  • Amazon actually accounts for only 2.6% of U.S. retail! Ecommerce is 14% of retail and Amazon is 19% of ecommerce (14% of the 19% = 2.6% of all U.S. retail).

  • The growth of omnichannel is not at the expense of retail sales, but it will probably be at the expense of traditional brick-and-mortar merchandising. Increasingly, we’ll find ways to more-efficiently sample goods and trust in data and technology to ensure fit, quality, and convenience. This can be done without sacrificing the physical store, as seen today with Bonobos Guideshops and potentially with the use of VR in the future.

We are moving from mobile first to mobile only!

Nance made this comment, suggesting we will have more businesses that start with the phone and stay there (à la Uber). I remember when our clients’ traffic first became mostly mobile a few years ago, and now it’s not uncommon to have ecommerce clients with over 70% of traffic from mobile. The days of caring about your desktop site first are certainly over. 

Email becomes transactional?

The idea is a brand sends you an email with the product you want, and with one click, you purchase the product – without being on the brand website! Rebel Mail is actually doing this today.

RebelMail in-email shopping.

My biggest concern with this idea is it is asking a lot from the email tech stack. The access required from Google (gmail) and Microsoft (Outlook) is a big ask, and it comes with major security concerns. Email, however, continues to be the highest ROI digital marketing channel, so having transactional email would an amazing tool that I’d love to see evolve. 

Machines can write your content, execute your digital marketing, and even create movie trailors.

Paul Roetzer from PR 20/20 gave a great talk on the pervasiveness of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and mentioned quite a few things worth sharing.

  • Before you have a machine writing all of your content, you can easily start with having one improve it, for free with Grammarly. This is spell check and grammar check “on steroids,” and it’s free! 

  • To crank it up a notch, check out Wordsmith, a natural language generation (NLG) platform by Automated Insights and see all of the things people are no longer writing.

  • 90% of all data was created in the last 2 years! That’s a lot of information from which machines can learn.

  • There are companies that have AI to help ensure songs are hits and movie scripts will be profitable (Epagogix), and last year IBM even used Watson to create a movie trailer for a movie about AI (Morgan)!

  • And now there is digital marketing AI (Albert) that has some companies getting rid of their digital marketing agencies! Albert iterates copy and spend into various channels without human involvement.

  • You can play with the power of Watson on The North Face site, and it’s really good!

The future of ecommerce is all around

Phillip Jackson, ecommerce evangelist at Something Digital, gave a thoughtful chat on the ways we “ecommerce.” My thoughts on his four buckets of commerce:

  • Ambient Commerce – Amazon dash is an example of this commerce on auto-pilot, where you press a button and the rest is taken care of. This strikes me as a first step into a more robust IoT commerce play. I’m envisioning the day when all of my household needs are tracked, bundled, and ordered with the push of a single button.

  • Conversational Commerce – Tacobell’s Tacobot, using Uber in FB messenger are good examples of this commerce outside of the brand context. Seeing how WeChat in China has over 300 million users with bank information conducting all kinds of transactions, it’s not crazy to see the U..S following suit. Facebook messenger does now have on-to-one and group payment methods enabled…

  • On-demand Commerce – The coolest example of this can be seen in the patent filed by Amazon that covers 3d printing of goods within delivery trucks! This would take “Fulfill By Amazon” to a whole new level! I don’t know what else this might cover, but I’ve been dreaming of a replicator, like that from Star Trek’s Enterprise, since my first Next Generation episode. Bring it on Amazon!


Your customers holds the answers.

Witcher (Forrester) had some great thoughts about how to stay competitive in ecommerce. Noting we are in an age of hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment, he said customers expect their next ecommerce experience to be as good as the last best experience they had, regardless of whether that experience was in your vertical or not. This got me thinking that brands have never been more disposable, so your user experience had better be amazing! To this end, Brendan noted brands should compete on experience, not assortment.

To evaluate where you’re stacking up, he advised merchants to evaluate the rate at which customers are leaving, and not just the rate of purchase, which is more frequently watched.

In the realm of actionable data, I loved the Guideboat story around gifting told by Robert Moore of Magento Business Intelligence. He explained that Guideboat looked at old gifting data and targeted those gift recipients that had addresses different from those that sent the gift. This tactic exposed Guideboat to a receptive potential customer base with familiarity with the brand, which resulted in increased conversion rates.     

Those are a few of the topics that stuck out to me. If you’d like to dig into any of these thoughts in more detail, feel free to reach out!

Gary Benerofe

Managing Partner - mediaspa