eCommerce Has Been Democratized — How Can Big Brands Set Themselves Apart?
As it becomes easier and easier for anyone with a credit card and some spare time to start an eCommerce channel, legacy players need to refine their marketing strategies to keep up.
The ongoing struggles of brick-and-mortar retailers in the United States are well-documented. According to Moody’s, the number of entrants on its Distressed Retail and Apparel Companies registry has tripled over the last six years. Currently, the nineteen companies with the dubious honor of qualifying for the list collectively carry over $5 billion of debt, 40% of which will come due by the end of next year.
eCommerce giants like Amazon have certainly played a significant role in the rapid decline of the American shopping mall, but brick-and-mortar retailers are also facing an increasing amount of pressure as a result of a completely separate development: the democratization of eCommerce. Indeed, building an eCommerce presence has become so easy that even major online retailers like Amazon have had to adjust their approach.
The E Stands for “Easy”
Until very recently, the high cost of manufacturing and distributing goods was a huge barrier to entry. Manufacturing goods domestically tends to be prohibitively expensive for small companies, and while manufacturing goods overseas is cheaper, it requires the coordination of huge supply chains that can quickly become too complex for small entrepreneurial teams to manage.
Along the same lines, it wasn’t all that long ago that managing and fine-tuning a brand required marketing outlays that for the most part excluded small companies from establishing any sort of foothold in their target market. Yet Google AdWords, Facebook, and other social advertising platforms have given smaller companies a much easier line of communication with the customers to whom larger companies used to have sole access. (That said, big brands still enjoy a considerable advantage in terms of budget and reach.)
This change is all happening rather quickly. Platforms like Squarespace have empowered just about anyone to get a well-functioning, aesthetically pleasing eCommerce site up in the span of an afternoon. Companies like Fiverr and DesignCrowd make logo creation and packaging design equally simple and remarkably cost-effective. What’s more, if even these greatly reduced overhead costs prove to be too much for a small eCommerce company to handle, crowdfunding platforms like KickStarter and IndieGogo have made the mechanics of venture capitalism accessible to all.
Using Individualized Digital Experiences to Stay Relevant
In light of this democratization of the world of eCommerce, the pressing question for industry stalwarts has become, “What can we do to maintain our competitive advantage?” For B2C companies, the answer is to provide a uniquely engaging and truly individualized digital experience.
The primary advantage of being a smaller, nimbler eCommerce company is that you are able to cater to the specific needs of each consumer. While any company can sell products on the web, few can provide consumers with an online experience that drives them to purchase again and again. This kind of experience has traditionally been incredibly difficult to create for wide audiences — luckily, artificial intelligence (AI) tools like Albert™, the world’s first fully autonomous marketing platform, are quickly changing that.
Albert uses data drawn from consumer behavior across a variety of devices and channels to pilot thousands of micro-campaigns at once, scaling up variations that work and abandoning those that don’t. Unlike even the most efficient marketers, Albert can optimize consumer targeting in real-time, 24/7, gaining insights from his past decisions and incorporating them into future micro-campaigns.
In a world where big data has started to overwhelm human marketers, a tool like Albert helps companies deliver perfectly targeted, highly individualized digital experiences to each and every one of its customers. This allows larger, more established brands to drive online sales much like an agile startup would — only at a far greater scale. Everybody has an eCommerce platform nowadays, but with near-1:1 consumer targeting powered by AI, you have the opportunity to drive more people than ever to yours.