WSJ: lessons from ancient commerce

A recently published article by Deloitte in the Wall Street Journal discusses the new buyer-seller relationship, and how the positives of traditional commerce have been lost in translation with the rise of digital.

Here are some highlights I found particularly interesting:

A clear path becomes muddled

“In the early days of commerce…nothing stood between buyers and sellers. Transactions took place in open-air markets, and customers could ask for exactly what they wanted, advocating for themselves as necessary. Over a few millennia, however, the exchange of goods and services became more complicated. The public knowledge and sharing found within a traditional open-air marketplace slowly disappeared, and customers became increasingly distanced from the original craftspeople and their products.”

The no frills relationship between the buyer and seller gave consumers a clear path to who they ask for product recommendations and questions. Now, with the advent of technology and plethora of sources available to consumers, that path has become completely lost, and consumers struggle to find answers to their questions at the point of purchase.

The rise of social media

Not only has technology increased the resources available to consumers, it has created a platform for them to “broadcast their satisfaction — or their displeasure — in a global forum enabled by social media.”

Deloitte argues that the brands who are adapting to this new way of shopping are using “time-honored strategies that date back to the days of ancient commerce.”

“In the past two decades, with the rise of digital, these silos have been torn down to expose business behaviors, decisions, and interactions in a globally transparent way. The mass adoption of social media and digital commerce means that customer service and business practices have public exposure again. Customers have gained a strong voice and power over the products they purchase. Buyers interact with their peers and their favorite brands in the same social channels and expect openness and communication to be reciprocated. There is also a strong demand for mass personalization, making customer knowledge and experience all the more important to a company’s business model.”

How brands can use ancient commerce

Going back to basics means bringing the two-person relationship back to shopping: getting consumers to engage with the sellers directly, with no outside noise. They outline three ways to do this:

  1. “Encourage consumers to engage.”
    Give consumers a clear way to communicate with an expert versus a generalist. By engaging via private channels, consumers will have less reason to express their dissatisfaction on open channels.
  2. “Provide answers and solve problems openly in the digital ecosystem.”
    Social media monitoring can be effective, but mining the real conversations happening gives more accurate insight into consumers. Leverage customer service representatives from the manufacturers, who already have the in-depth product expertise consumers need.
  3. “Personalize products and the customer experience.”
    While technology can personalize the products, people buy from people — it’s always a personal experience. By facilitating a personal conversation, they can get the experience associated with ancient commerce online.

These are all less-than-ideal strategies using existing technologies. These solutions don’t provide a way for brands to be there for customers whenever and wherever they shop — only the channels over which they have control.

There is a better way…

To actively engage, provide knowledge and customize the shopper’s experience, brands need to be available for consumers to interact with no matter where they shop.

Welcome makes that possible — we are the only solution that puts brands and dealers in a single conversation with the consumer across every touchpoint, regardless of the technology in place, tailoring the solution to your existing environment.

Our solutions enable deep product guidance to be available in real-time, at the pivotal decision-making moment, whether that is online, in-store or on-the-go.