commercetools' Kelly Goetsch Discusses Digital Gatekeepers
According to Forrester, today, consumers spend most of their time on smartphones using apps, and 88% of the time the average US smartphone owner spends is actually with just five apps; Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Gmail, and FB Messenger. What do those findings mean for the online retailers and the future of digital commerce? To find that out, CMS-Connected reached out to Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer at commercetools, who recently hosted a webinar featuring Thomas Husson, VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester on the emerging new touchpoints between retailers and consumers.
First things first, Kelly told Laura a little bit about the webinar: “The webinar was about an interesting trend we are seeing in e-commerce whereby end retailers are owning less and less of the pane of glass with their end-customers. What that means is that experiences today with customers are often mediated through the third parties such as a social media platform. It is increasingly rare for end-customers to download a retailer’s application and have that serviced the primary interaction point with the retailer as it is typically through something else now.”
Whichever platform mediating the experience between a retailer and customers is, is considered a gatekeeper, and Kelly stated that they see social media platforms as the new primary digital gatekeepers as simply, social media is really where the eyeballs are.
In fact, Facebook continues to grow its lead as the dominant social commerce platform as it accounts for 50% of total social referrals and 64% of total social revenue. Snapchat and Instagram are up-and-coming social commerce players, and brands are using them for influencer marketing. As Kelly also touched upon during the interview, today, social shoppers are able to purchase the items featured by a celebrity in an Instagram post just through a click.
On the other hand, social media is not the only gatekeeper, as electronics consumer devices to major e-commerce apps can all act as a mediator between retailers and consumers, and this is where application programming interfaces (APIs) come into play. Therefore, building an API strategy that will power organizations’ digital business transformation is becoming more crucial. Here’s what Kelly had to say when it comes to the role of APIs in this new digital ecosystem:
“These days, every electronic consumer device has some type of an interface and an application environment that you can bold applications for. All of those consumed APIs as the lowest common denominator. It is not very likely that you build an app specifically for each one of these thousand different small fragmented platforms but instead, the new approach is to build in expose APIs and publish those catalogs of any organization can then build an interface that a social media or any electronic device can consume those APIs.”
As an example of connected electronic devices, Amazon’s Echo Alexa, which represents the beacon of today’s smart home, allows consumers to order the ‘usual’ pizza or purchase more Tide dish detergent from a local delivery company. This IoT-connected, voice-activated, convenient and efficient household assistant is capable of ‘doing’ commerce with a simple vocal command and turning off lights to save energy at the same time.
When it comes to apps, I am, personally, amazed by the success of China’s voice-powered mobile app WeChat as it has taken off to the tune of 800 million active users every month. The platform can hail a taxi, order takeout, buy movie tickets, and even customize a retail purchase according to your needs. Over 10 million businesses in China have WeChat accounts. WeChat includes ten million third-party apps. Almost any brands from media companies, banks, celebrities, brands, to startups can make an app on WeChat. Individuals with accounts can access APIs for features like direct messaging, voice messaging, payments, and location. Andreessen Horowitz's Connie Chan says: “WeChat accounts have become so popular, some startups even test their apps by launching on WeChat before creating a standalone app.” More importantly, one in five WeChat users purchase products or services from any official account in WeChat's app by sharing their banking information or credit card number.
In addition, there are so many emerging mobile commerce technologies that businesses can adopt to unlock new revenue streams. Mobile Image Recognition Technology is one of them and it is a virtual words equivalent to window shopping in the real word, as users can take a photo of a product on the go and upload that image on an MIR-driven app and voila, all the online offerings from different e-retailers at their fingertips. Augmented reality applications are another cool technology and are expected to be the next influential evolution for enterprises and consumer brands alike. Augmented Reality can be a game changer in the mCommerce industry as using this technology, an online shopper can virtually experience the product. For instance, at present, if someone has to buy a pair of sunglasses online, a niche portal will provide an ability to upload his/her picture and use a basic tool to see how they will look on them.
There’s been plenty of progress in getting chatbots up to speed in processing and responding to contextual awareness. "It's technology that's inevitable," Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella has said and referred to the development of chatbots as a way to create “conversation as a platform.”
Another way of generating new interactions with shoppers is shoppable videos which blur the line between moments of inspiration and actually buying, as consumers are able to click on the product that appears in the video to purchase it right away. Some social media platforms such as YouTube have already started adopting the trend. Facebook is also rumored to be exploring shoppable video ads. “When you’re searching videos on your phone, it’s relevant to what you’re doing at that time,” said Mabel McLean, research and advisory associate at L2. “It’s a huge influence driver: one click to find out exactly what a product is, how much it costs and where to find it. M-commerce, in that format, isn’t at the forefront.”
To leapfrog the competition, organizations have to expand their digital ecosystems by using social media platforms or connected devices. Retailers who harness the unique power of mobile stand a chance to set their businesses up to remain with or ahead of the curve over the next 5 to 10 years. However, it all boils down to delivering frictionless contextual experiences through all channels and devices, meaning that organizations should go beyond the web to deliver content and create new touchpoints. To do so, they need to take advantage of the combination of a flexible repository and open APIs as APIs are considered as arguably the most critical technology in an expansion of digital ecosystem.