To view an ecosystem as large and complex as ecommerce, one is well advised to deploy multiple lenses
Most readers would view ecommerce as an industry, but that would be selling it short. Much like how intercontinental shipping is more an ecosystem (ships, planes, trucks, bikes and footsteps) than an industry, ecommerce can easily be dubbed to be one of the fastest growing ecosystems that’s infinitely ever-expanding. The growth of the ecosystem and its user experience, needless to say, has been meteoric.
To view an ecosystem as large and complex as ecommerce, one is well advised to deploy multiple lenses. I prefer to view the ecosystem using its three most important lenses — buyers, brands and businesses. Buyers want choice, convenience and speed. Brands want salience, preference and selection. Businesses want access, growth and efficiencies. Every move the ecosystem has made has been in service of bettering the above KPIs.
In the last 100 years, the world has seen two major economic cycles at play - the military-industrial complex which expanded mass production and TV industrial complex which expanded mass consumption. What we are currently witnessing is a third industrial complex - the data industrial complex which is expanding personalised consumption. Brands have always grown utilising two key levers: mental availability (salience) and physical availability (convenience). Ecommerce has massively influenced and rejigged both. Ever wondered how you logged in, to buy a particular brand but came off purchasing another. That’s an active evaluation at play. Contextual brand presence needs to be at every stage of the consumer journey and not just at a few touch-points. When it comes to physical availability though, on ecommerce platforms especially, you live on page one and die on page two. Endless aisles on these platforms have largely been overrated.
While it might seem like the script of the ecommerce ecosystem movie has been written, I would still bet my last dollar that this is just chapter one. We aren’t even at intermission as yet. While we still see ecommerce enablement as a destination, the next wave of growth will come from integrating ecommerce as a ‘feature’. There will be a resurgence, albeit at a smaller scale, of DTC (direct to consumer) brands. This will happen when existing digital platforms and channels would be able to seamlessly integrate purchase interest and purchase within the same touchpoint. Imagine watching a movie on YouTube, you tap and hold on to a product that comes on the screen and purchase directly from the brand without needing to ever leave the YouTube app. No intermediaries, no logins, no forms. This is currently the reality on WeChat in China, an ecosystem unto itself.
For the ecommerce ecosystem to grow, there needs to be a confluence of three key ingredients — access, enablement and behaviour change. Mukesh Ambani with Jio has accelerated the solution for the access problem. With over half a billion users in India having access to high-speed internet, ecommerce now has a massive reach. The next problem to solve is enablement.
While a new wave of third-party logistics firms has solved for last-mile connectivity in the country’s top 100 cities, we’re seeing the advent of new well-funded startups solving for the rest. Behaviour shift, the last ingredient can sometimes take decades to form. Tectonic shifts in the last five years on the back of demonetisation and the pandemic have seen the progress of decades happen in a matter of weeks. The bridges have been built, the roads are getting laid, we just need to inspire and incentivise users to use them.
The author is Preetham Venkky, President - 22 Feet Tribal WW & Chief Digital Officer, DDB Mudra Group
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