Ecommerce is getting harder to define every day. I think we can all agree that, at the end of the day, commerce is commerce. But as we marketers try to reach shoppers in an evolving marketplace, we must align our organizations in a way that actually makes sense to both build desire for our brands and get them in front of shoppers. And that’s an increasingly complicated endeavor. Even if we don’t all agree on what ecommerce is (and what it isn’t), it’s important to continuously think about it so that we keep realigning our approaches, actions and organizations in a way that keeps us in touch with our shoppers where they need us to be. The big retailers are working hard to evolve, and we’ll have to evolve with them, even if they might evolve differently. (Case in point: Just look at Target and Walmart.)
I’ll take you through a few examples. As you look at each of these, decide whether you view the example as ecommerce. Does your organization? Is your organization set up appropriately? Some are easy. But some are grey. If you ask a couple of friends or colleagues, you may find yourself in an interesting debate on a few of these.
What is an Amazon product page?
This is about as ecommerce as it gets, right? This is a simple Amazon product purchase with home delivery. I doubt there’s disagreement on this one.
What is Amazon Dash?
This one is also straightforward. Whether you’re using a physical or virtual Dash button, the concept is the same. This is essentially the same as the first example without the need for clicks or taps.
What is Best Buy Store Pickup?
I doubt there’s much disagreement on this one either. This is an ecommerce purchase where you just happen to be receiving the product at a store.
What is Walmart Grocery?
What about online grocery? Whether it’s for delivery or pickup, I think most people will agree that it is also ecommerce, although this does create some new challenges for marketers.
What is Goody Goody?
This one is a little different. Goody Goody is a regional liquor store that has a robust set of products online. But you can’t purchase them. You can check inventory. You can check specials. The product pages are very similar to a typical ecommerce page, so the logistical needs are similar. This can lead directly to a purchase, but it must be made in the store. This could get a brand on or off the list. But is it ecommerce?
What are Neiman Marcus Interactive Tables?
These interactive tables allow you to shop for products that are available both in and out of the store. You can use the table to find that perfect shoe for immediate purchase in the store or have it delivered to your home. Is this ecommerce? Is it only partial ecommerce?
What is Amazon Go?
Here’s a tough one. You don’t make purchases online. But your online account will be fully linked through the shopping and purchase process. Your mobile device is part of the process. And as the largest ecommerce shop around, you know they’ll be leveraging ecommerce best practices as they grow the offering. But is this ecommerce?
What is the Target app?
You can use the Target app to shop for products whether you are inside or out of a store. That’s ecommerce for sure. But you can also check product availability while in the store and see exactly where the product can be found in the store. Is that ecommerce? What if I change my mind and purchase from the app while I’m in the store? Does it suddenly become ecommerce?
What is the Whole Foods app?
The Whole Foods app has come a long way in the last year. You can do many of the things you would expect to be able to do with a grocery app. You can find stores, view specials, access your loyalty card, find recipes and build shopping lists. Is that ecommerce? If you look closely, you can also click a button to turn your list into an Instacart order. If it wasn’t ecommerce before, does it then become ecommerce?
What is Domino’s Anyware?
The point is that shoppers really don’t care. It’s all about engaging with and purchasing brands the way they want, when and where they want. Domino’s works hard at bringing the purchase to any and all platforms. The easy bird gets the worm.
We approach every experience with this mind-set. The full shopper experience has several layers. And they’re constantly changing.
First, you must consider where shoppers will actually experience brands or access the products they purchase. Are they going to brand.com, a retailer (physical store or retailer.com) or a pure ecommerce store?
And that might be different from where they engage with brands or make the actual purchase. If I’m the shopper, I might purchase from my laptop at the office and ship to my house. Or purchase from my office and go pick it up. Or I might buy from my mobile … sitting in the store parking lot. The combinations are almost endless. And my shopping habits are completely different across different categories and retailers.
Ultimately, the shopper decides. And they decide on their terms. They shop where they experience brands in a way that’s right for that purchase. They go where they have the selection they need or the right information to make a purchase decision. Sometimes it’s all about getting the right service. Do they need it today, or is next week fine? Where do they get the best price? Or maybe their needs are different and they just need to find the right price for this purchase.
We all have a complicated task in front of us. But we are also all shoppers, just like the people we’re trying to reach. We must keep asking ourselves if we are set up in a way that helps us identify and focus on our core shoppers’ needs so that we can create the best experiences. And just as important—maybe more so—we must keep asking ourselves if we are set up in a way that keeps us properly aligned with retailers. Are we bringing the right thinking to retailers with the ability to make things happen? If not, it’s time for some changes.