Because of the digital and technological innovations for the last 10 years, ecommerce has been changed and is still changing fundamentally.
The fundament of ecommerce is a website, app or online platform, where products or services are delivered to customers.
Traditionally you see brick stores or non-ecommerce companies who started the ecommerce transformation. Other companies like bol.com, Wehkamp or Coolblue, also called pure online players, started directly with their ecommerce strategy. Coolblue for example, started with ecommerce as a pure online player and opened several physical stores after that and then made their way to a multi, cross and omnichannel transformation.
In short there have been three phases of development in e-commerce strategy over time:
- Multi channel
- Cross channel
- Omni channel
1. Multi channel
Traditionally in B2C or Retail, but also in B2B, the emerge of offering products or services via a website was the beginning of the so-called multi channel approach of ecommerce. Ecommerce expanded from a physical store with an online sales channel. During the execution of this strategy both channels operate separately. This means that there are separate teams for both channels. Both are responsible for the budget and target for their own part. There is none or limited interaction between both parts of the organisation. This is also called a silo structure. Communication and information could be a problem for the customer who uses both channels. The advantage of this approach that you created an extra sales channel, where you can reach more and different customers.
2. Cross channel
In the emerging of technology and integration of offline and online systems the next phase for ecommerce called the cross channel strategy. Both the physical and the online channel are integrated with each other. There are multi- disciplinary teams who are managing both channels integral. There is a clear integral target and budget formulated. The customer experiences one clear customer journey in both channels. A strategy of integration, where communication and learning are important aspect for getting results with this strategy.
3. Omni channel
The next phase of the development in ecommerce is the so-called Omni channel strategy. Besides the fully integrated and multidisciplinary teams for both online as physical there comes an extra feature to this strategy. Because of the availability of more relevant and smart data of customer data and behavior Omni channel organizations can get a competitive advantage. The development of advanced technology in accessing and obtaining data from customer behavior will be the most important advantage in getting Ecommerce success.
In gathering relevant data of the customers, the organisation can distribute personalized offers to her customers. These offers makes them relevant and unique in the eyes of the loyal customers. And because of this strategy they stay loyal to the organisation. Using all different of technology in gathering information of the customer is easier because of the use of smartphones, tablets and apps.
Also the data obtained from the internet of things (IoT) can give organizations relevant and personalized data. Investing in this data, analyze it and use it in a relevant way towards your customers, is the way this strategy can give competitive advantage and loyal customers. Data analytics and formulating relevant actions with personalized offers to consumers will be the challenge for all the organizations in this phase. Not all the organizations have reached this phase, but because of the availability of technology and data it is less hard to reach it than ever before.
Ecommerce is also developing to the upcoming M-(obile)-commerce and S-(ocial) commerce. In this part both M-commerce as S-commerce will be briefly outlined.
Mobile commerce is the selling of products or services to customers with the availability of all the different mobile devices, like smartphones, tablets or smart watches.
M-commerce is not limited to the selling process, but is also used in the customer journey of the customer till the loyalty process. More and more customers use their mobile device in orienting where and what to buy. With a M-commerce strategy companies will fit their needs during this process, by offering more location based and personalized offers to their customers.
Because of the intense use of social media, where Facebook was the first and founded in 2004, another commerce type has been evolving for the last couple of years, Social-commerce.