Where eCommerce Fails + 14 Ways To Unleash Its Potential
Plus: Canva & Adobe With Major Updates, Why Data Ignorance Is Not Business Bliss, & Wall Street Switches Up Its Dress Code
Greetings everyone. If you read nothing else, go to the very end of this newsletter. Thank you, now let’s get into it.
Editorial: Where eCommerce Fails + 14 Ways To Unleash Its Potential
The Latest: Canva & Adobe With Some AI Magic For The Masses
BX: Differentiation Is Your Weapon. Attention Is Your Target
MX: “How I Designed A LinkedIn Thought Leadership Content Creation System”
UX: Show Products Next To The Problem They Solve
CX: How AI Is Transforming Fraud Prevention In eCommerce
EX: Wall Street Switches Up Its Dress Code
DX: Why Data Ignorance Is Not Business Bliss with Mark Powell
Let’s jump in, shall we?
Where eCommerce Fails + 14 Ways To Unleash Its Potential
Markets are fickle creatures. Consumers know what they want, and it's tough for merchants to meet those expectations. Yet, regardless of how well they adapt, businesses need sales today, or they risk going under tomorrow.
So what's the problem with the current commercial model, particularly for eCommerce? It's far too focused on one thing: the transaction.
Well, technology shapes culture, and always has. Every generation is defined by the technology they grow up with. And since technology has biases (because humans do), our current eCommerce model, created by someone with the best tech available at the time, reflects those biases.
But here's the kicker: the current eCommerce model is outdated. Isn't it ridiculous that a measly 5% conversion rate is considered "great" in the current landscape?
The problem with this numbers-focused, transactional approach is not just its limitations—it's potentially harmful in the long run. The constant sales and discount culture kills brands, the fading connections with customers, and the looming "death of third-party cookies" are all symptoms of a system in dire need of an overhaul—a revolution, even.
The transactional era of eCommerce is on its last legs—and for good reason.
Perhaps this is the era of Relational Commerce.
In the coming weeks, I'll dive deeper into this topic, but here's the bottom line: we need a new commerce model that serves both short-term revenue goals and long-term customer relationships (lifetime value).
The existing 'convert-at-all-costs' mentality of transactional commerce is unsustainable. It's not that anyone's to blame for adopting it; they're simply walking down the well-trodden path laid before them.
Systems thinking tells us that structure influences behavior; we're naturally inclined to take the path of least resistance.
“Oh! This is how you build an eCommerce store. Great!” And there we go. Following everyone else to sub-optimal results.
There’s a better way. Here are 14 things to consider:
Built to Transact, Not Interact: Most eCommerce platforms are designed to get people to the checkout as quickly as possible. But what happens after that? A thank-you email? Maybe a discount code for the next purchase? That's not relationship-building; that's a one-night stand.
Third-Party Relationships are Over: The era of relying solely on third-party data and platforms lays on its death bed (and still won’t die). First and zero-party data are the new currency, and you get those by having direct relationships with your customers.
Light Buyers as The New Growth Engine: In the era of transactional commerce, it's tempting to zero in on your high-spending customers. But according to Byron Sharp's research, it's the light buyers who ironically hold the keys to brand growth. The key is to convert more 'window-shoppers' into light buyers and then into long-term, loyal customers. Your 'ideal customer' isn't just the one who spends the most today, but also the one who could become a brand advocate tomorrow.
AI Is This Generation’s Relational Tool: AI isn't just about automating tasks; it's about enhancing the customer experience. It's the digital concierge that knows you by name, remembers your last purchase, and can recommend products based on your browsing history. It's not just a tool; it's a relationship builder.
Shifting Expectations: Today's consumers want more than a transaction. They want experiences, stories, and authenticity—elements often overlooked in traditional eCommerce models.
Data as Actionable Insight, Not Just Numbers: Traditional eCommerce hoards data without maximizing its potential. All those ‘clicks’, ‘time spent on page’, and ‘purchase history’ deserves much more than a meaningless dashboard. Relational commerce uses this data for holistic understanding, converting insights into actionable in-the-moment events and interactions.
Communities as Relationship Incubators: Brands can create deeper relationships by building communities around their products or services. Let's say you're an eCommerce merchant selling specialized mountain biking gear. Your customer base likely consists of mountain biking enthusiasts. Creating a community platform where they can share trails, tips, and even organize meetups could create immense value for them, beyond just the gear you're selling. I know, everyone knows this, but soon this won’t be a luxury, but a necessity.
Transparency and Trust: In an age where data breaches are common, particularly in retail, trust is more important than ever. Transparency in business practices is a cornerstone in building long-term relational commerce.
Omni-channel Consistency: Customer experience must be harmonized across all channels—online, in-app, social media, and even offline. Anything less can cause friction and erode trust. BX and the Xs play a significant role here.
The Two-Way Street Feedback: Open lines of communication invite customers to voice their opinions, ask questions, and offer feedback, turning the traditional one-way eCommerce street into a bustling two-way relationship builder. This capability is available to every business now, but not everyone utilizes it. In the near future, this will be as standard as a website or mobile app.
Micro-Interactions: The instances when consumers turn to their devices for quick answers offer brands a chance for micro-interactions, an understated form of relational commerce. Can you imagine deploying an AI that initiates moments of surprise & delight on behalf of your business? That’s where we’re headed.
Values-Based Shopping: Consumers are choosing brands based on their values and ethics more than ever. And why not? There’s so many choices and so much sameness, something needs to stand out. Relational commerce thrives when you’re clear on what you stand for.
The New Metric is LTV: The days of measuring success by single transactions are over. It's about the long game now. How much value can you provide over time, and how much value can the customer provide you?
The AI Bridge: AI augments human efforts by handling routine tasks, so human staff can do what they do best—create, empathize, and build meaningful relationships.
Obviously, these ideas extend beyond eCommerce, and well into the general commercial universe.
The reactive, transactional commerce model is outdated.
The era of proactive, relational commerce just arrived. And yes, it’s enabled by AI, and really, a new mindset.
And people will be better off for it.
Canva With Some Magic For The Masses
I’m a big fan of Canva. I design all the newsletter assets there, and it’s great for quick designs. So, of course I’m excited about their new AI, er, excuse me, I mean “Magic” drop (taking a cue from Apple there, I see).
Now if they can just fix the color picker and give me more gradient superpowers. Can’t wait to dive into the new features.
Adobe Stardust Preview
Not to be outdone by Canva, Adobe has its own tricks up its sleeve.
Check this out:
We’re going to spoiled in 2024.
Read more from The Verge here.
Differentiation Is Your Weapon. Attention Is Your Target
In David Brier’s Ultimate Guide to Rebranding: Tips from 11 Companies Who Got It Right, he gives great examples of companies that understood why “different” is better than “better”.
Liquid Death is the current poster child for this:
Anyone who says branding isn't important, remind them of this:
Liquid Death raised $125 million.
A brand built on a rebellious attitude, fun, and having an unmistakable voice in the water space.
Then remind them of this:
Liquid Death is just "canned water."
— David Brier | The Brandfather (@davidbrier)
Jan 10, 2023
“Today, what a brand stands for has more value than the product itself.”
Bic pens, a purpose brand? Sure. A lot of great insights and takeaways in this article (even though the background makes it a bit challenging to read).
Brand Purpose: "Writing the Future, Together"
BIC Cello's sustainability program aims to shape a sustainable future by focusing on five key commitments: environmental and societal footprint, climate action, employee safety, responsible supply chain, and education. And attracted a zealous market of Gen Z’ers to boot.
Consumer-Centric Digital Strategy
Bic Cello optimized its digital platforms to offer a seamless online experience, mirroring what consumers would experience in a physical store. This is particularly important in the post-pandemic era where eCommerce has seen a steep incline.
For today’s youth, sustainability is an extremely important influencer. And brands that incorporate sustainability not just in their communication, but also in their business processes are able to leverage the same to create brand preference.
“How I Designed A LinkedIn Thought Leadership Content Creation System”
Saw this one on Buffer. It’s a nice breakdown on how to approach your LinkedIn marketing and networking. In fact, Harshala emphasizes this point at the end:
“Remember to optimize for building relationships on LinkedIn.”
Sounds like a great theme. Partners will become a critical function of business operations—not just a “nice to have”.
Show Products Next To The Problem They Solve
Research shows that when a product is physically (or visually in ads) placed near the problem it solves, people perceive it as more effective. For example, people judged a muscle pain reliever to be 21.4% more effective when shown next to a muscle injury in an ad.
Pretty cool, huh? Does that mean show more toilet paper next to toilets? Well, no. Research says:
Position your product close to the problem it solves to make it seem more effective.
This effect is weaker for people already knowledgeable about the product or for products with long-term benefits.
This strategy is widely used by beauty, skincare, and household item brands.
Check out the research from Ariyh here.
How AI Is Transforming Fraud Prevention In eCommerce
The Problem: eCommerce is grappling with a surge in fraud, costing businesses billions and eroding customer trust. Traditional fraud detection methods are falling short.
The Solution: AI-based fraud detection systems are stepping in to offer a more nuanced, real-time approach to identifying fraudulent transactions.
That’s great news, right? As long as you trust you AI system to do the dirty work. Navigating fraud detection means merchants face a double-edged sword: you have to weed out fraudulent transactions, which can be costly, while at the same time, avoid rejecting legitimate ones—choose poorly, and you damage your reputation.
AI to the rescue? Sure, why not.
Read more here from Venture beat.
Wall Street Switches Up Its Dress Code
The move from traditional suits and ties to a more relaxed, business-casual attire just became another perk for those working in finance. But it’s more than that.
This trend also extends to financial districts in other cities and is influenced by the nature of client interactions. Here’s a quote from the article:
"Being in the venture world and tech and healthcare — when you're meeting with a 22-year-old with an exceptional idea, and they're in a ripped T-shirt and jeans, I think your job is to build a rapport in any way, shape, or form you can."
"Sneakers are the new heels, and the fleece jacket is the new blazer."
I think that this style shift is not just a Wall Street thing but reflects a broader cultural change in how professionals dress for work. Look at John Fetterman’s style, the senator from Pennsylvania:
He inspired the senate to ditch their old dress code (to the ire of many, of course).
Why does this matter?
The change in dress code for politics and finance is a sign of broader shifts in professional attire. It's not just about comfort but also about self-expression and authenticity, but most importantly, connection.
Like the VC said, if the next up-and-coming founder wears hoodies (Zuck, you were ahead of your time), then you have to adapt to your market.
I wonder what this means for apparel brands…
Why Data Ignorance Is Not Business Bliss
Mark Powell just published his book (Oct. 5), The Fifth Phase, An Insight Driven Approach To Business Transformation. In it, he talks about the huge missed opportunity and the misuse of business data and analytics.
In this interview, you get a good idea of what he means. Some notable notes & quotes:
Be Value-Driven: Mark suggests starting with the end goal in mind and then working backward to identify the data that can help achieve that goal. This is a complete paradigm shift from hoarding data and then figuring out what to do with it.
I don’t really like the term 'data-driven' as I think it drives the wrong mindset.
"My view is that you have to think in terms of being 'insight-driven, and data-enabled.'"
"The idea that data has intrinsic value is a fallacy that has driven thousands of organizations to spend billions of dollars on 'data programs' which many surveys from Gartner and others have shown nearly always fail to deliver any significant return on investment."
No, data doesn’t hold intrinsic value. Think of the value you want to create first, then consider how data supports those efforts. Mark has a refreshing take, for sure.
It’s been a tough week so far, most of the REP AI team is in Tel Aviv, at the beginning of another war.
The leadership team is seeing that everyone is safe and taken care of. We hope there’s a quick resolution to this and we get some peace in the Middle East.
War and loss of life tends to put things in perspective, doesn’t it? Don’t forget the people you love and the ones who love you.
Be safe, wherever you are in the world ❤️