It has certainly taken e-Commerce a while to get going. It was back in the 1990s when people first started to talk about the e-commerce revolution. Amazon and eBay were the first big players in the industry sector.
Eventually, e-commerce started to filter down to other online businesses. Companies such as Shopify and Etsy sprang up and became part of the e-commerce revolution. But, it was not really until the coronavirus pandemic we can truly say that e-commerce has started to dominate the way we shop.
How Do You Define E-Commerce?
E-Commerce is a concept that is hard to define. Many of us think that e-commerce is all about shopping online. To be honest, online retail is only a smart part of it. Look closer and you will find that e-commerce is popping up everywhere. You can even say that your relationship with your bank is now mainly based on e-commerce. How many of us visit banks anymore?
It has crept in almost everywhere. To my surprise, when I dined out recently, I found myself in what can only be called an e-commerce restaurant. When visiting Spain not so very long ago, I decided to have a Chinese meal. Eating out in Madrid is surprisingly expensive. However, Chinese restaurants are not only known for their good service but also offer excellent value for money. You can have a 3-course menu with wine for €9.95 ($12).
My E-Commerce Dining Out Experience
Instead of handing me a menu, the waitress handed me a tablet. She explained that everything on the menu was listed. All I had to do was to decide what I wanted as a starter, main course, and dessert. The only thing she asked me to order with her was my choice of beverage. I picked half a bottle of red wine included in the menu.
When the wine was brought to my table, I was still going through the menu. All you had to do order was to put a tick in a box next to the dish you wanted to order. The menu was beautifully presented with photos of the food.
The cost of the meal was finalized and I had an option to pay. Before I got to the check-out screen, I got a message telling me the restaurant had a special offer on chop suey. It looked delicious so I decided to order it. I paid the bill with my credit card but you could also check out using Paypal.
I had to admit that I was surprised. The meal was brought to me along with a ticket with a barcode. On my way out, all I had to do was to scan the ticket on the scanner installed on the door.
In the US, it is not uncommon for restaurants to ask diners to order using their phone. But, these guys had taken it a step further. I loved the idea of a special offer before you checked out. A great way of upselling without making it feel like a sale.
Did it feel like a self-service restaurant? No, it did not. You still got a great personal experience and you could still leave a tip on the tablet or in cash.
Frictionless Transactions Without Cards
Well, we are already there. The other night, I was sitting on the sofa going through my wish list for my product photography studio.
I picked up my iPad and decided to head on over to my favorite photographic online retailers. In a few clicks and after having logged into my account, I had filled my shopping basket with exactly what I needed. I noticed that I qualified for free shipping so I went ahead with the order.
In a matter of minutes, I had checked out with Apple Pay. If a retailer does not have Apple Pay or Google Pay, they often offer other payment options. Most of the time, you don’t have to get off the sofa to get your credit card.
Shopping Using Apps
You don’t have to have a tablet or laptop to shop online. Many leading e-commerce retailers such as Ali Express have developed their own apps.
Ordering goods from China has never been easier. All you have to do is to log in to their app and order what you need.
I have tried shopping using Ali Express myself and find that it worked very well. Perhaps not as seamless as Amazon and eBay, but it was still a very good shopping experience. My order was placed quickly and it was not long before I received an email confirming the delivery date.
Ali Express are good at what they do. They often have high-quality product photographs and easy-to-follow information. Having both is super important when you want to make your e-commerce store a success story.
Apps are probably going to be the future as far as shopping with our favorite online stores is concerned. Accessing online shopping opportunities will be easier than before.
Of course, there is a downside to all of this. Online retailers will have more and more information about you and will target market you more often. For some of us, it is going to feel invasive while others won’t mind.
What About Grocery Shopping?
Shopping for groceries is probably changing faster in Europe than it is in the US.
If you want to take a look at an excellent grocery store set-up online, you should check out British supermarket Waitrose. There is little wonder they are the leading grocery online retailer in the UK.
Not only do they make booking delivery slots easy, but they also make grocery shopping online tempting.
As far as shopping goes, they have everything you need. On their site, you can order everything from dog food to grocery hampers. That is not all. These guys even have their own online garden center! You can buy almost anything at the same time you do your grocery shopping.
When the Holiday season comes around, all you have to do is to order what you need for your party from their online delicatessen counter. Amazing!
There’s one thing that the team behind Waitrose is particularly good at and that is temptation. They have put together mouthwatering recipes that are easy to follow. The dishes have been photographed in such as way that you can almost taste them.
A fantastic PODcast is the killer blow. What Waitrose has grasped is that the customer wants to interact with what they buy. They do that by excellent imagery and using all of the latest technical innovations. You don’t only buy what they have to offer, you buy a lifestyle.
Lifestyle Imagery and Shopping
That brings us to the next point.
Lifestyle imagery is important when it comes to e-commerce. It is not that easy to achieve and many online stores have not mastered it.
As a matter of fact, I am not sure that all online stores and retailers will realize the importance of lifestyle images until it is too late.
It is easy to make a website or an e-commerce site appear too clinical. Of course, there are products that are all about the facts.
But, most of the shopping we do online is still based on emotional buying. We see a product that we like and we want. It creates a need and a desire in us to own that product.
In order to achieve that, we need to create an entirely new online e-commerce experience. Photography is an essential part of that. As potential customers can’t interact with the product online in the same way they do in a physical store.
It is very much like buying a new home. Unless we have toured the new home, we can’t see ourselves in it.
Getting A Kick Out of Shopping
Ask any woman and she will tell you that she gets a kick out of shopping in a store.
Do women get a kick out of shopping online?
Most women say that they don’t. What does that tell us? That tells us if e-commerce is going to take over the way we shop, we need to keep on innovating.
Leading skincare manufacturers are working on new ideas all of the time. They are setting up clubs and you can collect award points towards your next purchase. Great, but women are still saying that it is not cutting it.
Let’s turn back to the UK again. A UK manufacturer of skincare, Elemis, may have come up with a solution. They promote both their skincare products online and day spas. Needless to say, you can book an appointment in their day spas directly on their website.
Are they onto something? It is that personal shopping experience again. They are staying in touch with the customer by offering something physical and digital at the same time. While you are on their site shopping for products, you may as well book an appointment in their day spa.
Exercising using Apps
Since the coronavirus hit, gyms are less busy. Instead, we have seen an upsurge in exercise apps. You can now subscribe to apps featuring many of your favorite personal trainers and instructors.
When it all comes down to it, that is yet another form of e-commerce.
My Final Thoughts
E-commerce is here to stay – that is a fact. In the future, it will turn up in all sorts of places and come in many different guises. Apps are going to be a big part of the e-commerce revolution.
Retailers are going to have to rethink how they sell their products and how they are perceived.
More than likely, we are going to see less text and more images. Photographs will need to be flexible so that they can be used across a broad range of media.
Video photography for exercise apps and product presentations is a big part of the picture.
The spoken and written word is not a thing of the past as yet. But, looking at e-commerce, our world is becoming increasingly visual. When we want to stay in business, it is important to understand that images are truly the one universal language that we can all understand. And yes, e-commerce in whatever way it finds us is now the new normal.