Technology is permeating every sector, with commerce being no exception. Today, geographical borders are blurred.
Gone are the days when merchants were limited to localised shops with restricted business hours. Today’s global marketplace is 24/7, providing opportunities if brands know how to take advantage of the technology available.
Mobile phones are leading the way in many markets. With more than five billion devices used across the globe, half of which are smartphones, this is not surprising.
Increased functionality and mobile-friendly eCommerce sites make it possible for consumers to search for, choose and order goods using their mobile phones. This is made even easier by mobile checkouts and e-wallets. As technology advances, eCommerce merchants are overcoming issues with cross-border payments, language barriers and shipping delays.
With the likelihood of a cashless society becoming increasingly certain, mobile payment systems are sure to become more commonplace, greatly assisting in cross-border transactions. It is now vital that brands begin adopting an omnichannel approach – offering products online, in-store and on their devices.
As the functionality of new technologies continues to rise, so too does the amount of money eCommerce leaders are spending on it. Amazon, for example, is investing $20 billion per year on technology, while Walmart is following suit with over $5 billion spent on eCommerce and technology.
These facts highlight the kind of money that established players are happy to spend in order to stay ahead of the curve. But where does all this money go?
Many companies are putting their faith in emerging technologies like voice, virtual assistants and natural language processing. We can see Amazon, for example, investing heavily into artificial intelligence, developing its Alexa assistant and buying up start-ups.
With the amount of money spent on eCommerce exceeding the turnover of entire sectors, it is clear that companies are placing more value in technology than ever before. While certain retailers have gone out of their way to make all channels deliver everything, others are adopting a more strategic approach in what they are offering customers.
The rise of blockchain and cryptocurrencies stands to greatly facilitate global payments between merchants, consumers and payment companies alike.
When these new technologies are brought to the mass market, we will be on the cusp of a new phase of global eCommerce.
The established players know this and have been jumping at the opportunity to act. For example, we are seeing Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) platforms arise with Amazon Managed Blockchain. Meanwhile, Facebook is in discussions with myriad financial firms and eCommerce companies to support a cryptocurrency payment service which is in development.
One of the most significant trends in eCommerce has been eliminating the middlemen. The likes of Amazon, eBay, Yandex and JD.com, have provided brands with new opportunities to reach global audiences with their products.
By bringing products to numerous marketplaces, companies can reach a consumer base spread across the world. Currently, these online marketplaces account for 50% of retail sales worldwide. However, this figure could rise to two-thirds within a few years as the likes of Alibaba take advantage of new opportunities abroad.
After all, it is through these marketplaces that many shoppers begin searching for their products. Together, they can give brands valuable insights on their global audience and act as a trial for international expansion rather than jumping in head-first.
In order to protect themselves, brands should focus on creating a unique brand image and storytelling to make their products difficult to replicate on the market. If their proposition is a commodity, it won’t last long.
A shrinking world
In a global marketplace, the barriers to starting an eCommerce brand are crumbling.
New technology makes cross-border simpler and means more can create online storefronts to drive sales. Additionally, the logistical challenges usually associated with starting a global business have steadily diminished. This means smaller businesses, which otherwise would have been locked out from the market, begin to flourish abroad.
The fourth wave of eCommerce has brought all manner of new opportunities to the table, creating a brave and exciting new world for businesses of all sizes. Expect to see more emerging brand challenging those at the top for commerce supremacy.
About the Author
Elliott Jacobs, EMEA Commerce Consulting Director at LiveArea. An experienced Global eCommerce and multi channel retail professional. MBA educated with appetite for complex and business critical transformational challenges. Thrives on thinking strategically and acting tactically, always with pace, passion and customer focus. Dedicated to continuously improving teams, processes and results.
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