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Tim Peter

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August 21, 2012

Is E-commerce Destined to Win?

August 21, 2012 | By | 2 Comments

Why E-commerce is destined to winI’ve long suggested that “it’s all e-commerce,” meaning that consumers’ use of the Internet informs every part of their purchase decision. I make the same point when I talk about “the transparent web” and its effect on pricing.

Now, Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, underscores that point in his recap of his recent car-buying experience:

“I played the part of the husband who insists on doing endless research, thus providing the dealership with no hope of closing the sale today. I said, “I want to spend some time doing research and then I can give you an offer. Maybe I can get that done by tomorrow.”

Sales people hate two things: Informed customers and postponement. This was the worst case scenario for the dealership, and my ploy was designed to make the general manager “negotiate with himself,” as the saying goes. In other words, we wanted him to keep offering lower prices before we made our first offer. That brings down the ceiling price and prevents us from accidentally offering more than he would have asked for.” [Emphasis mine.]

E-commerce isn’t a thing anymore. People don’t “go online.” They are online. Every minute of every day. I was shopping for a sofa this past weekend. And, in just about every store I was floored by how much they depend on their customers’ stupidity. This despite the fact that I was carrying an iPhone and an iPad to compare alternatives (yes, I’m that guy — but I’m not alone).

As much as videos like the one below like to make fun of the online shopping/buying experience (and rightfully so), they ignore exactly how difficult it is for consumers to find and buy what they want offline, too.

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The simple fact remains that it’s neither an offline world nor an online world… exclusively. While it’s a truism that most customers consistently prefer particular channels, the next generation of customers takes mobile — and the “fully informed” worldview it creates — for granted (with, as Kevin Hillstrom notes, real challenges for retailers).

Bear in mind that this is as much a demographic trend as anything else. There are roughly 80-85 million Boomers in the US. But they ain’t getting any younger. Meanwhile, the second-largest demographic, Millennials, are starting to come on strong. As I noted a moment ago, they take “hyperconnectivity” for granted.

In the long run, your customers will use e-commerce channels to research and learn, no matter where they buy. They’ll know more about your products, pricing and perception in the marketplace than many of your employees. And, what they don’t know, they’re able to find out at any time.

I hold these things to be true: The web begets transparency. And it’s all e-commerce. The real question for you is this: What are you prepared to do about it?


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