Thanksgiving and Black Fridays have changed - a lot these days! The tradition of waiting in line outside stores, and busting doors are things of the past. Sitting at home with your family and snagging cool online Black Friday deals is the new normal. WSJ reports that online shoppers accounted for nearly 40% of the $52.4 billion shoppers spent during the Black Friday weekend last year, according to the National Retail Federation.
While customers have continued to evolve significantly in the buying behavior (as expected), for more than a decade online storefront formats have evolved incrementally with no revoltionary change. Yes, the graphics are cooler, the website resolution and product displays are crisper, sites are mobile enabled etc. But considering the leaps that technology and tools have made over the same period in changing customer experience, it feels to me as if online customer experience has just stagnated. E-commerce is ripe for disruption- especially on the online store front!
Pick any e-commerce site today, and you still feel like you are shown a catalog of things that you barely might be interested in. The products displayed could be relevant based on what I have bought in the past or what "similar customers" bought or recently viewed items. But it still is a product-centric online world. In some ways, the rise of social networks is responsible for this huge gap. Over the last few years, social mania gripped everyone that $$ went into social enabling sites (liking, sharing, reviewing, crowd sourcing opinions and everything else). Now that the social hype cycle has settled, it is now time to get back to basics.
What we need is a customer-centric online experience. It starts and ends with the customer. Imagine an online store front that is created only for that customer. When they come to the website, they are greeted by an intelligent agent to understand the purpose behind their visit and display the products they are interested, provide information about deals that are relevant, nudge them towards products they should probably look at, listening to feedback and react realtime to their requests.
The key to all of the above and differentiator is the delivery mechanism.For long, we have used webpages. It is not enough - we need a new online delivery solution to make the shopping experience more interactive, real-time and value adding for the customer. Technology solutions of today (software, Big Data, computing environment, analytics etc.) have more than enough to make this a reality. What is missing is a Steve Jobs kind of product genius to craft the next big breakthrough solution.
Happy Thanksgiving to the blog readers!