eCommerce is dead. Long live eCommerce.

by Guest Contributor Lee Kirkpatrick Smith | January 22, 2020

Author: Lee Kirkpatrick  Smith

Lee Kirkpatrick Smith
Global Head of Commerce

Recently I read that physical retail is not dead: only boring physical retail is.  I would take that a step further: in digital retail, too, gone are the days of slapping together a .com with a checkout and declaring ‘job done’

But what defines boring?  Not exciting, not beautiful, not engaging, not colourful?  Frankly, Amazon could be accused of being boring, but half the Western world still shops there.  And my local supermarket doesn’t exactly blow my mind. 

Perhaps boring isn’t the right term. Perhaps the real issue is retail that is struggling to understand what people actually want. In order to learn what people truly want, all retail needs to adopt a shopper-centric mindset, and this is particularly true of eCommerce.  For years now, bricks & mortar stores have considered shopping missions, suitable pack sizes, occasion-based pricing, adjacencies and store formats, while eCommerce has paid minimal attention to these fundamentals, sailing along under the ‘we’re digital’ flag.  But actually, being digital makes shopper or consumer centricity all the more important. 


Understanding that shoppers have many reasons for shopping online is key to winning in eCommerce: the same shopper will buy the same category online in various ways.  Different shopping missions and occasions not only determine which online retailer the shopper selects, but also what matters most to them on that purchase: saving money, quick delivery or perhaps enjoyment or reduced stress. 

These different shopper priorities are often referred to as ‘shopper currencies’, and the way in which people prioritise and spend the currencies varies by category and mission. For example, when stocking up on cat food from an online pet care specialist, a buyer may be willing to accept a longer delivery time in exchange for lower prices.  That same person won’t even look at the price when adding a bag of kitty treats to their weekly online grocery shop, and then will separately do an extensive search for cat toys on Amazon. 

For suppliers and manufacturers, shopper currencies offer a powerful lens for determining which SKUs to list on different retail platforms. eCommerce platforms may have lots of shopper data, but they need help understanding the nuances of each category, whether it be electronics or exotic tea.  For pet care in Germany, for example, shopper currency insights from our eCommerce ON study clearly highlight that shoppers at one retailer are seeking high-quality products, while for another retailer the strategy should be a wide variety of SKUs at competitive prices.

Sustainable innovation in eCommerce is always a combination of technology and shopper centricity.  As Jeff Bezos says, “If you’re competitor-focused, you have to wait until there is a competitor doing something.  Being customer-focused allows you to be more pioneering”.  Shopper centricity allows you to get the basics right today, and pioneer for tomorrow.

Do you agree? Please share your thoughts.

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