My 10-year-old daughter doesn’t think twice about commerce and how it works. Why should she? She already knows that she can easily take her allowance, or birthday money from Nene (her grandmother), and use it to buy the latest Lego Friends kit, or get an upgrade for her Snap Circuits. She even knows how to comparison shop using Google and Amazon — using our tablet, her mother’s iPhone, or the browser on our laptop.
But it wasn’t always like this.
We created an infographic that shows just how much things have changed since we started walking upright.
In the early days of commerce, neither the buyer nor the seller had a lot of market power. And the only “technology” they had was the five senses they were born with (or came with their character in their life simulation). Products, and product information, were pretty much WYSIWYG. Maybe the smart cave-dwelling merchant used some marketing to differentiate, such as “Hey Grog – this freshly caught rainbow trout will pair well with the berries you just picked!”
But a few 100,000 years later, marketplaces emerged and significantly upped the shopping experience for both buyer and seller. Now there were many factors at play. The consumer had a lot more product options and could compare products, prices, and quality. Alas, documented product information was inconsistent and the best “source of truth” was WYSIWYG. However, the growth of society and an urban center enabled easier exchange of informal information on product and vendor quality and reputation. As well, precious metal currency was used for more precise pricing and an easier exchange for goods and services. Lastly, the marketplaces created destinations where you could, conceivably, get all your shopping done at once.
After the birth of the marketplace, commerce was slow to evolve. Sure, we got AC, and credit cards, and an Orange Julius, but basically people had to “go to the market” to get what they needed. Then came the internet (thanks, Al Gore!). And with the internet came the opportunity to raise the bar on commerce. Innovators like Amazon showed the world what a beautiful thing it is to shop wearing pajamas.
BAM! Omnichannel is born.
But seriously, the ’90s were when commerce shifted into a higher gear. Consumers could browse and buy from home or the store. Soon, the lines between the two disappeared and consumers started “showrooming” — doing their research in the store, but buying the products online due to better pricing or availability. And overnight (or at least what seems like it), the number of products you could buy, and the quantities of product information available were massive. The only problem was that products and the quality of information about them were widely varying. It wasn’t always clear whether the product you saw online was the same product you found in-store (and vice versa). It was like two different dialects of the same product information language were being spoken.
After only two decades of omnichannel, we are now getting ever closer to Pervasive Commerce. Structured product information connected to advanced technologies like machine learning, mobile devices, virtual reality, drones and so much more, are creating a reality where people can get the right product, at the right time, at the right price, from the right location. The Internet of Things (IoT) changes how products are marketed, and product attributes, reviews, and even virtual reality experiences are available everywhere and shared between buyers and sellers.
It’s a great time to be a commerce innovator!