This question comes to me from a long-time blog reader who strongly believes that e-commerce and mobile are the same thing.
Question: Kevin, you believe that mobile and e-commerce are separate. They are not separate. They are the same thing. Mobile is just the next evolution in computing, from desktop to laptop to mobile. Nothing changes. And I don't understand why you feel differently. Why do you think mobile is going to disrupt e-commerce?
I want to show how e-commerce displaced cataloging, and then I will show you the difference in a mobile-centric business displacing e-commerce.
Let's look at the home page of a classic cataloger ... FootSmart.
Now let's compare the home page to Zappos, a classic e-commerce brand.
The differences are subtle. Catalogers are far more text-oriented than are e-commerce businesses, and for good reason - catalogers have a strong text-centric selling history. From a lifestyle standpoint, FootSmart caters to the core catalog customer ... dedicating home page real estate on Foot Health.
The cataloger cannot help but be text-centric, it's in the DNA of the business model. The cataloger cannot help but offer "Foot Health", because the DNA of the customer is much older, given the appeal of the catalog marketing medium to Baby Boomers.
These differences in creative strategy result in Zappos having a dominant online business, and result in FootSmart having a dominant catalog business. Both are successful. But the approaches are different, and the customers are different. E-commerce splits away from cataloging, even though catalogers utilize e-commerce. The two business models are fundamentally different.
Now to e-commerce vs. mobile. Let's look at the landing pages for t-shirts at Aeropostale and Brandy Melville. First, Aeropostale, utilizing classic e-commerce.
Now look at Brandy Melville, looking at Graphic T's.
Do you see a difference? The Aeropostale presentation is classic e-commerce ... it looks a lot like Zappos. Links and a story and a sale message.
The Brandy Melville experience is borrowed from mobile, isn't it? Yes, it's e-commerce we're looking at, but this is mobile inspired, it's social inspired (Instagram).
To be fair to Aeropostale, when you drill down to graphic t's, you get a similar presentation style.
But you have to travel a significant difference at Aeropostale to get to the same place Brandy Melville takes you to, right off the bat. This presentation style is not natural to Aeropostale.
Do you understand the migration from FootSmart to Zappos / Aeropostale to Brandy Melville?
FootSmart is aligned with the catalog heritage and Baby Boomer (Judy) preference.
Zappos / Aeropostale is aligned with their e-commerce success ... the past decade shapes and forms their experience, and as a result, attracts a certain customer.
Brandy Melville is aligned with a social/mobile (younger) shopper who has expectations. Brandy Melville is going to better meet these expectations than will other businesses. These expectations are driven by mobile/social/lifestyle.
In this way, then, mobile will carve out the bottom of the e-commerce customer file. Customers will align around demographic preferences, and as a result, will prefer certain presentation styles.
All four of the companies illustrated here sell via e-commerce. But their styles, and customers, are very, very different. The FootSmart customer is not going to buy from Brandy Melville, and vice versa. In this way, mobile is going to slowly wipe out e-commerce.