August 21, 2014

E-Commerce Is Bleeding Out Into Mobile

Yesterday, I talked about how retail is bleeding out into e-commerce. I see it in so many projects. I observe customers who are pure retail customers who spend increasing amounts within e-commerce in the next year ... when measured over time, you can clearly see why retail comps are struggling. And did you read this article (click here) about Dick's Sporting Goods? Read the comments about profitability. Think carefully about what that means for the in-store experience.

Well, the same thing is happening as a customer shifts from using a desktop/laptop to using tablets, then from using tablets to mobile devices, then from mobile devices to apps. When you unbundle e-commerce (and you need to unbundle it, folks, or you are like the catalogers of 2003 who thought that their business was multi-channel and that you analyzed it as one unit), you quickly see that the tablet is the gateway to a mobile phone, that the mobile phone is the gateway to an app, and once the customer is using the app, the customer begins to pull away from the desktop/laptop experience.

There are three cases where you'll never observe this phenomenon.
  1. You won't see this if you measure conversion rates - you will be blind to ecosystem changes.
  2. You won't see this if your customer is older than 45 years old.
  3. You won't see this if you believe that e-commerce is a sum of old-school e-commerce and modern smart phones using apps as the portal to your business.
Analyze customers longitudinally. You'll see that e-commerce is gaining sales from old-school channels (catalog, retail, mostly retail these days), and that e-commerce is bleeding out into mobile. In other words, e-commerce is being torn in half. And when mobile (smart phones, not tablets, tablets behave too much like desktop/laptop) and younger customers take over, look out, folks.

The data I see in mobile looks the same as the data I saw 10+ years ago when analyzing the transition from catalogs to e-commerce. Study what happened during that era of channel shift, if you want a preview of what mobile is going to do to e-commerce.