In my previous post on eCommerce Predictions for 2014, I decided only to focus on what I believed would be the most impactful eCommerce trends over the next year. Of course, there are more than a handful of things that will develop as the year progresses, including one that will represent a completely different way of looking at eCommerce for the individual.
As the title of this post indicates, eCommerce is becoming more personal, but not in the way that we typically think of personalization. Rather, eCommerce is becoming personal in that solutions are emerging that will allow individual sellers to “trade” in what Thomas Friedman has called the “sharing economy”.
AirBNB, the world’s largest community hospitality company, is cited as the first participant in the online sharing economy, and currently rivals major hotel chains in the number of rooms. It’s quite a success story, but one that has not been free of obstacles, the least of which has been the trust issue. What’s exciting is that this sharing economy is proving that more people can be trusted than not, which if you read/watch any major media, may come as a complete surprise.
Following AirBNB’s lead are companies like Tradesy and Sold (recently sold to Dropbox) that act as intermediaries to facilitate peer-to-peer eCommerce. The companies simplify things like payment, returns, and logistics for individuals that simply want to clean out a closet, workshop, or some collection that’s been doing nothing more than collecting dust.
So why am I writing about this? Because models like this will ultimately change the way a consumer thinks about eCommerce. These models make it easier for individuals to consider themselves sellers instead of consumers As pointed out in Friedman’s article, consumers purchases will become “temporal objects to enjoy rather than as ‘belongings'”. As consumers begin to take advantage of these opportunities spurred on by the difficult economy in particular, larger eCommerce providers should take note and consider integrating the ability for facilitated peer-to-peer marketplace functionality.
In the current scenario, a shopper may purchase an expensive brand name dress for a once-in-a-lifetime event. After the event, that item may be listed on Tradesy for sale. However, who better to list the dress than the brand’s eCommerce site? Perhaps this isn’t right for some brands, but if you want to attract buyers looking for a specific brand at a reduced price, why not capture them where it makes senses, on the brand site? Or perhaps partner with a provider like Tradesy to get more expensive brand merchandise into the hands of consumers that don’t want to pay full retail?
Surely, this is different model, but as consumer behavior evolves, the eCommerce presence will have to evolve as well. This year will certainly see convergence of models on many levels whether that’s facilitated peer-to-peer commerce, brand manufacturers exploring new approaches in direct to consumer markets, or integrating enterprise information with mobile through indoor positioning. Should be an interesting year!