Looking into the online future is a dangerous thing to do.
But sometimes I feel the need to stick my neck out and open my big mouth.
So here’s my rash prediction of the day.
I think this is the last Christmas season in which we’ll see ‘traditional’ online retailers dominating the online marketplace.
By traditional online retailers, I mean web sites that pursue a model based on: we’ll stock it, promote it and sell it at a great price determined by us.
Amazon.com falls into this ‘traditional’ category. They present the items of their choosing at a particular price set by them.
As a customer, I can take it or leave it – but I can’t change it or significantly influence it.
This is the same retailer/customer experience I have in my local high street. I go to a store, check out the prices they have set and decide whether to part with my money or not on that basis.
It’s pretty black and white.
But this isn’t the way that the online retailer/customer relationship has to be. There are numerous newer online models that are offering me some very interesting alternatives.
I can buy at auction through eBay.com.
I can name my price at Priceline.com.
I can haggle at HaggleZone.com.
I can tell the ‘market’ what I want and wait for its best offers at Imandi.com.
I can buy below cost at Buy.com.
I can check prices from my browser interface with RUSure.com.
All these different models offer me ways to buy that are outside of my regular, offline experience as a shopper.
In addition to these alternative ways to buy, there are also plenty of ways in which I can now share my views both with fellow buyers and the retailers who want my money.
I can tell thousands of people what I think about a particular product or company at Deja.com or Epinions.com.
I can rant at Ugripe.com.
In short, the technology of the Internet enables me to have a great deal more influence over both my purchasing decisions and the retail environment.
Online, I have a power that just isn’t available to me offline.
And that, I think, is what is going to change the face of ecommerce.
A shift in power.
Buyers are slowly waking up to the fact that they don’t have to play by the retailers’ rules any more.
Heck, as a buyer I can influence those rules. Hang on, I can actually make my own rules.
It’s all about power and how that power is shifting from the retailer to the consumer.
As a critical mass of customers recognize this, a great deal will change.
So here’s my prediction.
Ecommerce sites that attempt to keep hold of all the power within the retailer/customer relationship will begin to lose.
And those folks who figure out how to make money by handing the power over to their customers will win.