Commerce, Commerce, Anywhere, Anytime

There’s a revolution going on – can you hear it? It is everywhere… but who’s revolutionizing what? Now that’s a good question! One of the major trends in commerce (and you’ll notice I am using the term ‘commerce’ and not ‘e-commerce’), because the online and offline worlds are colliding ever more, is multi-channel selling.

This trend is moving fast, very fast, and if you’re selling something to someone online, you should be moving quickly to keep up with it.

In this column, I want to take a closer look at one particular aspect of this trend: the path to purchase (or better said, the journey to purchase online).

There are two sides to this aspect. As users/shoppers, when we want to buy something today, we typically go to Google first to search for a specific item and/or category, find the best deal in the most reliable shop, open an account there if we do not have one, and hit the Buy Now button to complete the purchase.

An alternative would be simply to look it up in Amazon or eBay where we have an open account and then complete the purchase there. As marketers, our job is to generate demand in the most cost-efficient media, then send traffic back home to complete the purchase.

With e-commerce sales estimated to become 10 percent of the total commerce sales in the U.S. by 2017, media companies want to jump on this bandwagon and generate fresh revenue streams in a new playground, while revolutionizing the way we buy online directly from the media sites.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is called commerce anywhere, and some call it contextual shopping.

The Paradox

Traditionally, most advertising and remarketing went naturally to Google. The strategy of having organic and paid traffic with the same vendor made sense both in terms of cost, traffic and the sheer volume of users. But with users now moving into social media, advertising in Google has proved to be less effective (deteriorating conversions) and more costly, and advertisers are moving budgets to Facebook, which still offers reasonable costs, a huge user base and good conversions.

Facebook’s introduction of the Buy buttons paves a much shorter route to purchase. The user is being targeted; they click a Buy button, enter their details (for the next time) and c’est tout!

From the user standpoint, there’s no need to go to your online shop and complete the lengthy process of adding stuff to the cart, entering personal details and finally checking out.

Paradox #1: you’re getting faster purchases, but increasing the dependency on this channel, and with that, the exposure to your brand suffers.

Twitter and Domino’s Pizza recently joined forces, and by connecting their Twitter and Domino’s Pizza accounts, users can now order pizzas in the U.S. by sending an Emoji of, well…a pizza!

Furthermore, Twitter is also experimenting with companies like Burberry to enable direct purchases from tweets in a pop-up window in Twitter.

They also partnered with Amazon and now allow users to add products to their basket if they hashtag it in their feed.

Paradox #2: Google. Do you really think Google is going to miss this party and just watch Facebook celebrating? Definitely not.

Google is rumored to be developing a Buy button directly from the products search, which also serves as a payment gateway. It means that the entire purchase will be done on Google’s side without sending any traffic to the advertiser.

What’s the paradox? The biggest advertiser in Google is Amazon!

I bet that it will annoy Amazon, who wants users to search for products directly on its site and to complete the purchase there.

Will it impact the budget it spends on Google? Time will tell. It is now setting up both companies as direct competitors. 

A testament to Google’s desire to move into this space is the announcement of Google Wallet with partnerships in offline shops and an infrastructure that allows you to use credit cards.

In addition, YouTube launched a Click-to-shop button that sends the user to the advertiser’s shop.

My bet is that they are building an appetite for this, and a big one.

Wayfair tested this with YouTube and said that using the new button tripled its revenue per impression  

And where is Apple in the revolution? Apple has probably more credit cards registered than PayPal itself, since users are forced to use one to open their iTunes accounts.

With the ApplePay platform, the partnership with retailers, and with AppleWatch mobility, Apple clearly also wants to have a big slice of this pie.

There are many other examples from around the world where companies are pushed to be more creative in order to survive, like the recent development in Walmart Shenzhen that allows shoppers to pay at the cash register with their Alipay account, or Amazon’s release of the physical buttons that allow you to click and order.

But Will the Users Like It?

Media companies aim to increase the trust between users and advertisers, and provide simplification to the purchase journey, and a real contextualized shopping experience. But the big question is: will users like it?

How would you react if you posted a photo of your new-born baby and Facebook immediately added a Buy button on your post to buy baby products? Does this feel like great service…or intrusion?

My personal thoughts, as a marketer, are that this is a great development. But at the same time I will make sure that while I am ‘multi-channel selling’, I will not be dependent on one channel and will ensure that my brand has direct exposure to my audience in all the right places.

Until next time, stay tuned.

*Image via Shutterstock

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