The past year has been exceptionally busy for me and anyone else involved in digital commerce. Like my tennis racket, my blog has gone un-touched for almost a year. But I have 2 questions for you.

E-commerce – Omnichannel – Shopping

  1. Which of these three categories does your job fall into?
  2. Which of these do you take care of on the weekends or on the way home from work?

My unplanned “silent period” has come at a time of great change in retail and in marketing. All these changes seem to point us to one observation: How your organization refers to buying something online probably speaks volumes about how aligned they are with today’s consumer.

Consumers don’t “do e-commerce” or “run an omnichannel”. They go shopping.

Both retailers and brands are channel-focused. Consumers aren’t. Retailers are accustomed to being in control of a shopping trip once the consumer is inside the store. Smartphones and pervasive connectivity have taken that control away. Brands have enjoyed being a step or two removed from the consumer, operating as product and/or service providers and purveyors of the “big idea” that drives consumer loyalty. Social media and the voice of other consumers have all but extinguished the brand’s voice.

When a consumer wants to buy something for whatever reason, the consumer has the option of buying it right then and there, and then choosing how to receive it. Pricing in the online world is algorithmically driven, so the notion of one retailer always having the lowest price is, by definition, not true. And there was no need for an expensive ad campaign to tell people about it; the pure-plays just started doing it, and consumers caught on.

Globally, whether in Tier 1, tier 2 or tier 3 markets, consumer behavior is driven by a smartphone. Which markets fall into which tiers really doesn’t matter; since all phones are approximately the same size, are touch-screen activated and have approximately the same capabilities (camera, social apps, one or more SMS/IM apps, location awareness, a search app, a web browser, and don’t forget the actual telephone) consumer behavior across all markets is becoming homogenized.

It is no longer the retailer or the brand that trains the consumer. It is the consumer who trains another consumer by sharing an opinion, a link, a discount code, an image. It’s no longer about the brand or retailer getting the right channel strategy, and nobody can afford to view a media buy as being a solution.

The question becomes: Are retailers and brands open to being trained by consumers?

My argument is that, for today’s consumer, it’s not e-commerce, or mCommerce, or omnichannel. It’s just shopping. Brands and retailers together have everything they need to meet the consumer head on and to not only be relevant, but to be active in the consumer journey.

The next three blog posts will explore this theme by looking at ways brands and retailers need to evolve to remain relevant to consumers today. It’s meant to invite input and a polite, relevant exchange.

I’m really looking forward to it.