C-Commerce Calling

Europe and Australia are already well down the track. The U.S. is still lagging behind, but probably only for a short while. What am I referring to? I am talking about WAP (wireless application protocol), the next generation to follow the Internet.

WAP will probably change everything we thought we knew yet again! And the new trend is likely to be called c-commerce, standing for “cell commerce.”

C-commerce is set to become a new discipline for promoting, communicating, transacting and branding products via a mobile device. One of the biggest challenges c-commerce will face is that of branding via a pure text display. In many ways this situation reflects that of the Internet before its adaptation to the World Wide Web.

So let’s try to be a bit visionary and figure out how c-commerce is likely to operate within just two to three years.

Besides the graphic handicap, a range of other challenges and opportunities are likely to appear for c-commerce, adding a new dimension to the word “branding.” Imagine, for example, walking down the supermarket aisle and passing by the CD rack. What CD should you buy? Let the cell phone decide. Scan a CD’s barcode and the cell phone will match the CD profile with your own consumer profile. Basing its analysis on your own and thousands of other people’s profiles, and matching your musical taste to consumer profiles, the system could make a recommendation as to whether you should buy the CD or not.

The next concept would be that every product you pass in the store is available on auction. So any product you choose will have been surveyed on the Net, making it possible for you to verify its price on the Net and ensure you’re aware of the lowest possible price.

Now imagine you have just dropped a pack of pasta in your basket. You might then receive a message on your WAP phone informing you of some special offer. (Buy another pasta product and get pasta sauce for half-price, for example.)

C-commerce will be instant commerce. It will give marketers a new means of getting hold of the consumer, right at the most crucial time in the shopping continuum the very second the consumer is considering whether to buy or not to buy a certain product rather than long before such a decision or after it’s a dead issue.

C-commerce will require more than massive databases. It will need individual digital marketing programs wrapped around each brand and each product under that brand’s umbrella, ensuring that the product can learn from and talk, listen, and react to each consumer. This will be like a real-life version of Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story” in which every product has a life of its own.

What will this mean for marketing plans? Well, first of all, it will mean that a marketing plan will need an off- and an online component. If current indicators are to be relied upon and the forecasts for the c-commerce trend see fruition, it is likely that a separate c-commerce strategy will also have to be developed for every product.

The strategy will have to tie every product to a massive consumer database and to information about related products each consumer shares a history with. The key function in the strategy will be to expose the consumer’s choices at the very second he or she makes a product purchase.

This strategy will ignite a brand chain reaction that, in the old days, we called “up-selling” or “cross-selling.” Cross-selling referred to the strategy required to encourage a consumer to suddenly decide to buy much more that he or she had intended. This marketing discipline was a difficult one to manage in the past, as it required knowledgeable store staff and/or really effective point-of-sale materials. Now, “I just called to say…” may come to signify a new marketing onslaught.

C-commerce will change our shopping experience. It’s also likely to be one of the most effective branding tools we will ever have had at our disposal. Why? Because it invites and allows the marketer’s response to the consumer’s shopping behavior right in the midst of the purchase situation for better and for worse.

If you are like me and habitually forget to buy half of the groceries you need every time you go to the store, this could be a welcome marketing move. But for the rest of the world, this might well become a challenge. That is, a challenge for both the consumer and the marketer. The mutual challenge lies in what is potentially a dream tool for both the former and the latter: a tool that has unlimited power, as well as unlimited capacity to be ignored.

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