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What's the Future of E-commerce? Look to the Past to Find Out

Shopping cart image smallConsider this: according to the Guardian, the first “e-commerce” transaction… was a pot deal. As the article notes:

“In 1971 or 1972, Stanford students using Arpanet accounts at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory engaged in a commercial transaction with their counterparts at Massachussetts Institute of Technology. Before Amazon, before eBay, the seminal act of e-commerce was a drug deal. The students used the network to quietly arrange the sale of an undetermined amount of marijuana.”

Now, think about these 5 sites:

  1. eBay
  2. Etsy
  3. TripAdvisor
  4. Yelp
  5. Angie’s List

Notice anything in common?

To talk about “social commerce,” as if it’s a new thing, is patently absurd. The ‘Net facilitates communication, conversation, and, yes, commerce. Always has. Always will.

And your customers are going to use these connections to find out the answers to their questions. Even if the product that interests them is, um, questionable. For example, I recently stumbled upon a site that gives people all the details they could possibly want about a product that isn’t even legal in most states (for obvious reasons, I’m neither linking to it, nor naming it):

Consumer choice

If that ain’t social commerce, I don’t know what is.

Your customers talk about your products, at least when they need them (not your brand, necessarily, but your products). They ask their friends, whether on Twitter or in their town square. They find reviews. They dig. They read. They ask.

I’ve repeatedly noted that “all marketing is social.” I’ve also noted that “it’s all e-commerce.” And it logically follows that all commerce is social, too.

It doesn’t matter whether your customers use exchanges like eBay and Etsy, review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Angie’s List, custom sites like the others mentioned above, or simply walk into your store. They’re connecting with the information they want/need/must have to make a purchase decision. Always have. Always will.

So, the question for you is this: Are you making it easy for your customers to get the answers they need, no matter the channel, no matter the site? Because they’re going to find what they need to know.

And it’s up to you to help them get there.

Or expect the sale to go to your competition.

Want more? Sign up for our free newsletter to get more information on how to build your social, local, mobile marketing strategy. You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of e-commerce, including:

  • 4 Fundamental Truths About the Future of E-commerce
  • And 4 E-commerce Changes Worth Watching
  • The Future of E-commerce
  • The Future of Real-World Mobile Commerce
  • Is E-commerce Destined to Win?
  • Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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