OK, that’s not strictly true. But when retailers got together at BT Tower recently to discuss the e-commerce journey, they were all in agreement about two things: the term e-commerce just doesn’t do justice to everything that it now incorporates and, although it’s a journey, there’s no final destination to aim for.
1. E-commerce doesn’t cover the half of it
It’s not just e-commerce anymore. In a really short space of time, we’ve gone from e-commerce to multichannel to cross-channel to merged channels to… what? Forrester suggests “agile commerce” as a catch-all for the rest of the alphabet (including, e- m- and F- commerce).
In joining up the channels, it seems e-commerce will exist as a separate discipline in a few years. But what does that actually mean for retailers?
Phil Heaton from relative newcomers Getthelabel.com, talked about creating an online business and building it up to a market leader in just three years.
In that short space of time, he’s been astounded by the changes: “Customer expectations around delivery, for example, have changed dramatically since we began. We had what could be considered an appropriate delivery model for our business at the time, but with 90-minute fulfilment and tailored timeslots around now, we know we have to change to meet current expectations.”
2. We will never get “there”
The two most-used words at the event were e-commerce and journey. But a journey suggests a destination, unless you’re in e-commerce. Sarah Hughes joint MD at BT Fresca set the scene for the day: “We’re on a journey,” she said, “and we’ll never be nearly there.”
Sound a bit daunting? Not according to Nadine Sharara, e-commerce director at Thomas Pink. Echoing the views of many in the audience, Nadine spoke enthusiastically and energetically about the never ending e-commerce journey. “I think about it, not so much as a journey,” she explained, “than as a travel experience.”
Nadine introduced the latest Thomas Pink on-site product videos and explained how these were now driving the in-store experience. And the products featured on the videos are flying off the shelves, both real and virtual, proving that a more engaging e-commerce experience is more than just cool eye candy.
The stats show that retailers who grasp this idea of an ongoing journey do better than those who get everything in place and sit back. “Your e-commerce investment needs tending,” says BT Fresca’s multichannel specialist Jason Shorrock, “you have to feed and water it.”
What else did we learn?
Most innovation in e-commerce is focused on channel integration and fulfilment. So ensuring that web orders can be picked up in store (offering an opportunity to up-sell) and integration with social channels, like Facebook, are essential.
Click and collect has been the kiss of life for the High Street. Almost all retailers have a transactional website. But retailers without a store footprint (even just a couple of flagships) look a little old fashioned. And multichannel retailers are faring better than pureplays in general.
This is a huge opportunity for multichannel retailers to fight back against pure e-commerce providers as they can provide better service, instant gratification and increasingly flexible delivery options. One of the best examples of this is Oasis, which offers a 90-minute delivery from store.
So e-commerce is just the beginning. Mix in a little multimedia, in-store wi-fi and social networking, sprinkle in some smart handheld devices and you’re there. Well, nearly there. For the moment…
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