Learning to dance with eCommerce
After years of dedication to the topic of electronic commerce, having published cases and given tens of conferences in uncountable forums, I have realized that eCommerce has two very different connotations for companies: sometimes it its understood as a savior and a huge opportunity, and sometimes as a threat that is going to cause a cataclysm of unforeseeable consequences. In my opinion, there is reason to think in any of those directions depending on the place one finds himself within an industry.
If eCom was music, we must be aware that it would be totally new. And that’s why we must learn to dance in a different way.
A preliminary thought would be that, although I have verified that electronic commerce awakens considerable interest among executives, it cannot necessarily be considered a reliable variable. After mentioning eCommerce I usually hear three words: “nephew, cheap, and control”. Let me explain. Once the executives recognize their interest or worry regarding the way to evolve in the area of eCommerce, they usually mention a nephew of theirs who is good creating websites, their will to spend as little as possible because they have heard that the Internet is cheap, and their wish to control the on-line space. Therefore, a first conclusion is that the challenges of electronic commerce, many and complex, are not faced with the required professionalism. A different approach is needed.
If eCom was music, we must be aware that it would be totally new. And that’s why we must learn to dance in a different way. That would require understanding at least six steps, which are the keys to take advantage of the benefits offered by this new way of trading. Following with the musical parallelism, these parts would be: The stage in which we dance (the context), the public (the clients), the types of dance (typologies of eCommerce), the technique of dance (the essential steps of the ecom), the djs (board of directors) and the coach (steering committee).
- The context. eCommerce grows at a dizzying speed. For example, in Asia-Pacific it has reached almost 35% in some categories. In the USA, the size of the opportunity is bigger in B2B than B2C (double so according to Forrester).
- The clients. How many languages do you think you need in order to make the most of the potential of eCommerce markets? Well, 3 or 4, because the markets that buy the most per volume are the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and China.
- The typologies of electronic commerce. It is interesting to highlight that it is a confusing environment continuously changing. Meaning that there is not only tabletop PC computer electronic commerce, but mobile as well (cell phones and tablets) and that of Smart TVs, like Samsung TV platform that allows transactions directly through the TV. Beside the device used there is also behavior to take into account, like Social eCommerce -incentivized by social media- currently on the rise, or the so called Sharing Economy, which consist in sharing physical or human assets. We are heading towards a consumer society of 4 C’s (Community that Shares, Communicates, and Contributes to Commerce).
- The necessary techniques of eCommerce. In short, there are four: navigation, information, customer service, and logistics – which includes from packaging and sending to billing. From this four links in the chain, it is basic to understand that you are as good as the weakest link.
- The Board of Directors. According to a recent study published by Harvard, the number of experts in digital environments within Boards of Directors is absolutely minimal. Out of 300 companies analyzed in Asia, Europe, and the USA with over 3.000 directors studied, less than 20 companies had Boards with at least 3 experts on the field (a 6%).
- The Steering Committee. Without a CEO with a vision regarding electronic commerce it is difficult to succeed in eCommerce. The CEO will have to take difficult decisions like joining new areas under a new client leadership organized around the consumer and not functional areas.
eCommerce can be summarized in two dimensions: human factor and technical. But nonetheless all of them require learning how to dance a new music. Do you want to dance? Start practicing the six steps.