Why e-commerce, as we know it, will disappear
Can it be toned down a bit? A sandwich with peanut butter is enough.
I still remember the first time I saw the beef jerky section in an American supermarket: there were countless varieties and flavours. Apart from the question of why you’d actually want that, it is also very overwhelming to have to choose from such a gigantic assortment.
This was always something that those ‘crazy’ Americans did, but nowadays we are doing the exact same thing, digitally, in our little country. On Appie’s site, you can choose from a whopping 110 types of bread. Just let that sink in for a moment… 110 choices, just to be able to enjoy a sandwich with peanut butter at breakfast tomorrow. Don’t even get me started on the different types of peanut butter.
Why does Appie offer 110 types of bread in its assortment, and Zalando 3,024 different shirts? The answer is simple. Both want to overcome the limitations inherent to physical shops. Everyone must be able to find what he or she is looking for, online. Without the disappointment of his or her favourite product no longer being available.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this from the perspective of service- and sales objectives. However, so much is available nowadays that it makes us uneasy. Freedom of choice turns into choice-related stress.
What you really need, are relevance and context when you want to buy something. Smart algorithms that predict what you need. This is increasingly evolving in the direction of Artificial Intelligence – software that enables online shops to anticipate your preferences, with an important role reserved for ‘serendipity’: the coincidental discoveries and suggestions that ensure we don’t get bogged down in a web of purchases and preferences from the past.
Today, repeat purchases can already be processed for us relatively easily. There are household appliances that can place orders automatically, such as Amazon Dash in washing machines. Ambient devices, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, also help reduce the choice-related stress. Just a suggestion of what you need suffices for it to be sent to you.
This new world is fast approaching. Everyday affairs are tailored to your preferences. Briefly indicating what you need will be sufficient in the future.
It is almost unimaginable to think, but e-commerce, as we know it, will disappear. I don’t think this will happen very soon, but I do know that we are entering a new phase. A phase in which more no longer equals better.
It involves offering an innovative service experience, in which end customers and their needs are paramount. The parties that currently pre-sort freedom of choice, without the choice-related stress, are the e-commerce champions of the future.