The Brave New World of Experiential Commerce

E-commerce experiences are no longer confined to the desktop — and haven’t been since 2007, when Apple introduced the iPhone and made the Internet come alive in our pockets. Since then, mobile has become the single most important platform for brands to leverage. For it’s mobile, along with advances in wireless technology, that has made the Internet of Things (IoT) possible, in turn creating countless opportunities for brands that simply didn’t exist before.

To be sure, the traditional web experience still plays an important role in ecommerce, but it’s no longer the starting point for ecommerce-minded brands. For, consumers are migrating to mobile in droves — so much so that, this year, according to Google, mobile searches have surpassed desktop queries for the first time, which is a profound development. Much has been written on this topic already, so this post doesn’t go into the why’s, but, frankly, if the why’s aren’t immediately obvious to you, then you should probably stop reading now — because you likely don’t get it.

In past posts, I’ve often talked about how brands should be providing their consumers “utility.” But what does that really mean? While I’m sure the notion of utility is different for every brand, one thing is true across them all: utility means giving the one thing back to consumers they value most — TIME. Advertising used to be a game of interruption, a noisy and aggressive attempt to grab and keep our attention. Now, consumers are challenging advertisers by turning to technology to separate the noise (advertising) from the signal (the content/experiences we value). For instance, we’ll DVR our favorite TV shows so that we can watch them when we want to — commercial-free (hello, Netflix). And as ad blockers come of age, marketers will lose the ability to interrupt us. This poses an interesting challenge for marketers: how will they manage to sell to us? The challenge is real, but the opportunity is huge if brands figure out how to use the new normal to their advantage.

Forward-thinking brands are doing precisely this. Take the Amazon Dash Button, for example. Amazon has come up with a novel way for consumers to buy from its marketplace. The experience isn’t driven by a browser, but by a small Wi-Fi-connected device that can be placed throughout the home, allowing customers to reorder household products and groceries like laundry detergent and soft drinks with the push of the button. Indeed, Amazon understood that the “moment of need” was likely to occur when one was actually doing laundry or grabbing that last soda from the fridge. By putting the buying interface right where you need it, when you need it, Amazon has eliminated any transactional friction and provided their customers precious utility, or TIME.

Uber has done the same thing. Yes, they have reinvented the way we commute, but why have they been so successful? Same reason as Amazon: Uber has removed the friction from the entire transaction. No need to pick up the phone and call for a car or, heaven forbid, hail a cab from the street in the middle of the night. And once the ride is over, the customer simply jumps out and goes. Gone are the days of waiting for the taxi driver to pull out his antiquated POS system, boot it up, swipe your card, and print a receipt. The Uber experience gives us back our time and for that we are not only grateful, but willing to pay a premium.

So if brands as diverse as Amazon and Uber can provide these types of commerce experiences, why can’t all brands? The truth is, they can (and this is true for both B2C and B2B). Brands need to think differently and accept that the new normal doesn’t include interrupting us for our attention (which likely hurts more than it helps anyway). Capturing consumers’ attention is not harder today; it’s just different. The old rules no longer apply. And the sooner brands use technology in new and creative ways to get their customers’ attention, the quicker they can parlay that attention into sales.

Originally posted on Linkedin here.