As Jon Collins points out in this article, “Online and mobile are no longer new; they just ‘are’. And thinking about them as separate makes as much sense as making coleslaw without mayonnaise.”
As consumers jump from social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) to messaging platforms (WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook Messenger) to applications they use at work (Slack, email), they are finding that they can get product information and make shopping decisions on all of these “channels”. There are so many channels, an infinite number of channels in fact and in that light, the notion of a channel becomes meaningless. New approaches to commerce, such as conversational commerce and intelligent shopping bots are continuously emerging and businesses need to keep up and adapt to the changing scenario. Product information is seeking consumers out and presenting itself rather than the other way around.
Commerce is becoming pervasive because information is becoming pervasive and trying to shoehorn it into a finite set of distinct channels is a thankless job. Consumers are becoming channel-agnostic, so thinking of channels in terms of brick-and-mortar, online, mobile, etc. is not fruitful anymore. Consumers only care about the product information, wherever it may be that they access it.
At the NRF Big Show earlier this year, the discussions were focused on innovation and implementing the right technology, rather than the insistence on being omnichannel. We need a new way for businesses to think about commerce. The article mentioned above offers one approach, centered around the customer and calls it unified commerce. A customer-centric approach is always best. The short term challenges are the consumer’s privacy – unified commerce assumes the consumer is willing to be tracked across all their information sources.
A more immediate approach to Pervasive Commerce, while the privacy issues are being tackled, may be around the standardization and flexibility of data exchange across multiple information streams so that product information can be readily and easily presented to consumers, without added cost to the businesses.
In the end, the next generation of commerce is going to be data-driven, not channel-driven. It will be driven based on the consumer’s profile data, product information and data about the businesses that make and sell products.