In 1997, a small Leamington Spa company called BVR partnered with Barclaycard. It was purchased by Chase Manhattan Bank and changed its name to Intelisys. Then we moved to 55 Water Street, NY. 20 years on (yes, that makes me feel old too), and who would have thought that ecommerce would have evolved into what it is today.
In 1999 at Commerce One I remember thinking “wow, in four years things have gone crazy” but that was still early days and within a few years I thought the phrase ecommerce had had its day or at least been used enough in conversations. And then I sort of forgot about it. Until recently.
I was asked what does the company I am chairman for, E Fundamentals, do for ecommerce? It stumped me. Not because I didn't have the answer but because it made me use the word again and actually wonder what is going on today. I guess in a way we take it for granted whereas back in 1990s it was new and exciting.
So what do we know? Well we do know it's changed. I remember Amazon, Google, Paypal in the late 90s having massive initiatives around the space.
Marketplaces. Sounds obvious but they have evolved, and not just in terms of numbers. Retailers may have an online presence but just look at how Amazon and others have in a short space of time allowed consumers to be able to compare products, pricing, reviews and in one click pay, with products delivered by the next day.
Amazon Prime has a lot to be responsible for not least for the number of over-packaged everyday products that turn up at our home. Let alone the impact on environment but that's a different story.
Mobile. Thinking back to 1997, I had a Nokia 6110 that I could play snake on and make calls from. For me, eCommerce has been the biggest thing to happen to mobile devices.
How I wish I could meet the C Level guy of a very large automotive organisation who said he would never put his credit card online and certainly never buy online. Hmm. I wonder if that same chap still believes that.
The growth of online marketing and advertising. The growth in this space and still the potential growth to happen is massive. Social shopping has exploded.
So what next?
Augmented and virtual reality has to be where to put your money next. Already we have the big retailers playing around with virtual department stores and malls.
I was recently shown a shopping mall experience where I used my sight to view particular categories and products. Not only that but because I am in my own little VR world. Step that into the augmented reality world and suddenly I I can also get layers and layers of information on something I like or interests me.
Imagine that you want to buy a new sofa for your living room? I had this pain only two weeks ago. Taking photo after photo of the sofas that my wife and I couldn't agree on. With AR I will be able to place that sofa into my living room to see how it looks and fits. I find this amazing and a massive opportunity for monetisation.
Also what will happen to convenience in the evolution of ecommerce? I look at the grocery market in particular and think with people becoming more impatient, want less stress in their lives where do we go with Click and Collect? Will the rise in fuel costs and change in car ownership change another aspect of the consumer experience?
Impact of smaller brands and businesses, will this open up their marketplace opportunity more? We had these discussions back in the day and you could probably say the evolution has more than had an impact but also what about the noise it has created in the marketplaces?
Whatever happens in the next 20 years, a quote by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon best sums up how companies should deal with ecommerce: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better”.