There’s no doubt that the world of e-commerce is rapidly growing. Not only are current retailers going online; new companies are now emerging in a purely digital sense, ones that wouldn’t have been able to survive as physical stores. But when you take a step back and look at the online storefront model something funny happens — it starts to look an awful lot like the brick and mortar stores that we see everyday. Instead of a store entrance you now have a homepage. Rather than looking up and down aisles and shelves, you can scan through categories and drop down menus. The days of waiting in line for a cashier may be long gone, but the fact remains that your items are still added to a “Shopping Cart” waiting for you to “Check Out.”
At first glance the physical model may seem to be working in the digital world, but is it really the best way?
You need two things to successfully sell a product: consumers and a place to set up shop. The benefit of the physical storefront is foot traffic; it provides exposure to a large audience thus increasing your chance of attracting customers. The benefit of selling online is lower overhead costs; you don’t pay for a highly valued store location or retail staff. So how can you get the best of both worlds?
One way that is starting to gain traction is the use of street-front displays to direct people online, such as Well.ca’s attempt earlier this year. Products are displayed on small projection screens or posters in high traffic areas and include a QR code that when scanned, takes viewers to an online site where they can then buy the product. The displays still benefit from the high traffic volume of physical storefronts, while operating at a fraction of the cost by selling online.
But what if there was a way to eliminate the need for a physical presence altogether? Not all retailers live in a high traffic area and certainly they can’t all advertise in the same space.
Is there a place online that provides more traffic than a physical storefront does? A place where millions of people go everyday to consume? I can think of more than just one – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest.
Social networks are a game changer when it comes to the way we create, discover and share content. When you look at the types of media we consume — be it pictures, videos, articles or stories — you begin to notice a trend. This information is coming to us, through sites like Facebook and Twitter, rather than us going out to find it. The advent of social feeds has caused media to become decentralized.
If media can find us this easily, then why can’t products? Right now, product images are embedded into websites as advertisements. When someone sees a product the like, they click on the ad and are directed away from the webpage they are on in order to buy it. Compare this to the way we now watch videos - when you click on a video, it begins to play in place. If a YouTube video can be easily embedded into a blog and watched on that webpage, then why can’t we do this for selling a product?
It’s time to turn the standard model of e-commerce on its head. Gone are the days of the online storefront modeling its physical counterpart. It’s time to embrace this decentralized model and start applying it to the way we sell online. People shouldn’t be directed away from webpages to buy; they should be able to purchase products as easily as they can watch videos.
In a world where content is coming to the user, e-commerce is lagging behind by forcing people away from their experiences to buy. If e-commerce wants to continue to grow it needs to catch up and start being more social.
Of course this post wouldn’t be complete without a firsthand example of what the future of e-commerce should look like, so here it is:
I decided to write this post for everyone out there who has a product they want to sell but isn’t sure if they are ready. Maybe you have been debating selling your homemade jam, or one-of-a-kind jewelry, but you just aren’t sure where to start…so you haven’t yet. To all of you out there who can relate, I want to share a secret - it isn’t that scary, so get out there and do it, and if you need a bit more convincing check out my reasons below :)
You have a great product and now you are thinking of selling online. So why haven’t you?
Many people make the mistake of waiting far too long before they feel ready to start selling. The reality is - there will be no magic moment when everything falls into place and all of a sudden you feel ready for people to start buying your product(s). There will always be an excuse to wait a little longer; whether it is because you think you need to make a small tweak to the product, or add a new feature. Rather than delaying things, you should start out by selling as soon as you have a minimal viable product, monitor feedback and iterate from there.
Here are some important reasons why you should stop waiting and start selling:
If you wait for too long, you are inviting competitors to enter into your space. This could result in customers that should have been yours, going with someone else’s solution. Don’t give someone else the opportunity to steal potential customers from you, start selling as soon as you have a product you think people will like.
If you keep your idea locked up for too long, what was once an amazing solution could end up becoming obsolete. The market is always changing and evolving, if you have identified a need right now, help solve it before that need might shift. By getting your product out there faster you can grow and change with the market. By having an active customer base, you will also be better position to adapt to changes that might occur.
A big concern people have is that their product might not be exactly perfect. The best way to see if your product will be popular is to offer it out to the market and watch for feedback. Ask your early customers what they think of your product, monitor feedback on Twitter or Facebook. You might discover a few small changes you could make that will help drive up user satisfaction and result in more sales.
The more time you spend working on your product the more time you are spending not making money. If you have something you think people will buy, sell it to them and start making money!
Many people tend to think that selling online starts with creating an online presence and attracting a fan base that you can then sell to.
The idea of having to generate a huge buzz before you even launch your product can be a scary thought and deter many people from wanting to start selling. Luckily, it gets easier when you approach things backwards.
Start by getting your product out to the market. From there, use this as a way to get people excited and attract fans. By selling your product, you now have something to talk about and engage with people on.
The point being - if you have a product, get it out to market. If people like it, they will talk about it and your fan base will grow. Now, instead of having to spend time trying to figure out how to attract fans, your product can do the introduction for you and you can build from there.