e-commerce’s Final Frontier — Be More Brick and Mortar!

Consumers still enjoy interacting with people and products. Because this isn’t possible online, brands are turning to innovative ways to bridge the gap between our physical and digital worlds.

The Final Frontier

Even with three decades of leading-edge evolution and significant, global growth, e-commerce still accounts for less than 20% of global retail sales and most online conversion rates are five to ten times lower than in-person rates.

Is the key for e-commerce to be more, “brick and mortar?”

The short answer is YES. Consumers still enjoy interacting with people and products. Because this isn’t possible online, brands are turning to innovative ways to bridge the gap between our physical and digital worlds.

Livestream Shopping is closing that gap and generally used in four, livestream-based channels: Live Commerce, Social Commerce, Conversational Commerce and Concierge Commerce.

By adding "shopping" to a "livestream," technology has given us the ability to finally add the missing human element to the convenience of online shopping.

These advancements in livestream shopping will play a crucial role in increasing e-commerce’s share of total global retail sales. The question that remains for most online retailers is how to leverage this technology:

  • Use a third-party livestream shopping platform that runs directly on the retailer’s e-commerce system
  • Use a third-party livestream shopping platform, upload products to it, and checkout through that platform’s e-commerce system
  • Use existing strategies to redirect customers from LIVE platforms to retailer’s e-commerce system
  • Use “online LIVE marketplaces” like Amazon Live.
  • Develop (and maintain) their own proprietary, livestream shopping platform or strategy

Here's a quick overview of four livestream-based sales channels:

LIVE Commerce – Alibaba Taobao Live pioneered the use of a livestream broadcast with an e-commerce store in 2016 allowing shoppers to watch and shop at the same time. Shoppers watch the broadcast and interact only through chat and emotion functions. Taobao has proven this new sales channel and in 2020, its famous Single’s Day event generated billions of dollars in its first 30 minutes. LIVE Commerce is the orchestration of online entertainment and shopping leading many to describe it as, “shoptainment.”

Social Commerce – Social Commerce is different from Live Commerce because it occurs on existing social media platforms like Facebook Live, Instagram Live, TikTok and Pinterest. Social commerce is popular because consumers are already on these apps and already interacting with their Live broadcasts and posts. One of the challenges of Social Commerce is that you must use the social media’s company e-commerce system which adds a level of complexity for today’s online retailers. Many online retailers bypass this in a variety of ways like by posting hyperlinks, but that adds transactional friction which decreases conversion rates.

Conversational Commerce – Conversational Commerce is a term associated with a piece published by Chris Messina in 2015 where he described the trend toward shoppers interacting with businesses through messaging apps. As the use of those apps evolved, so did the technologies necessary to facilitate more personalized, human or human-like conversations. Advances in technologies such as voice biometrics, natural language processing (NLP), speech recognition and AI have all helped consumers chat more easily and naturally with company representatives to get support, ask questions, get personalized recommendations and facilitate purchasing at POP (point of purchase).

Concierge Commerce – While livestreaming has opened the door for shoppers to connect to communities of creators, influencers, associates and fellow shoppers, other technologies are offering to create more personal, curated and intimate one-to-one or one-to-few experiences. Assisted shopping or concierge shopping, connects online shoppers or small groups of shoppers with a sales associate, influencer or SME (subject matter expert). The more intimate and personal sessions occur over video conferencing platforms. And the more advanced forms of Concierge Commerce, like Bloo Kanoo’s bkLIVE, occur on platforms that run directly on a retailer’s own web sites allowing shoppers to add items directly to their carts from the videoconference by just clicking “Add To Cart.” Direct Sellers are using this technology on their distributor sites to finally blur the line between their online and offline product and opportunity demos.

So, is this finally the end for Brick and Mortar?

The introduction of a metaverse or multiple, digital universes will further blur the line between digital and IRL (in-real life). Gamers of all ages are already engaging in digital universes and it’s not difficult to extrapolate that “virtual reality” to a larger, broader user base (just ask Meta-Facebook or watch Ready Player One). The ability to humanize the online experience across ecommerce with livestream shopping and the impending realization of easily accessible digital world would certainly appear to be the strongest indication that the end of Brick and Mortar is finally here.

At Bloo Kanoo we don’t believe that that the end of Brick and Mortar is eminent. In fact, if our recent experience is any indication, Brick and Mortar is alive and well, and an important element in the omnichannel strategies of many successful brands and retailers. It is easier to see a world where people slip in and out of virtual and real worlds to optimize their overall experiences than it is to see a world without the convenience and human connection of brick and mortar. In other words, we expect e-commerce to continue to grow and increase its share of Global Retail Sales but we don’t expect e-commerce to completely replace brick and mortar.

Today’s successful online retailers are adept at creating seamless, omnichannel experiences; tomorrow’s successful online retailers may need to master both omnichannel and omniverse strategies which will include IRL experiences as well as digital ones.