Walmart figured out how to drive out all the inefficiencies of big box retail. Amazon built the digital version of big box retail and beat Walmart at its own game online. EBay made shopping online more fun for some buyers with auctions and community appeal. But none of them took the time to re-imagine the future of ecommerce without the need of a storefront at all. This could be the very point of disruption that helps you leapfrog your competition.

In my interview with Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce, I realized something that I had heard earlier this year at Shoptalk (see related article), but hadn't yet fully grasped the implication of what I'd heard. In the future, you don't need a storefront at all. I'll do my best to break down this insight into laymen's terms, but if you want the more sophisticated explanation, I urge you to hear it directly from Brent Bellm:

Ecommerce Disruption Happens When You're Focused on the Wrong Things
Walmart, Amazon and eBay are all obsessing over the wrong thing. It's like Oracle working so hard to build the best end-to-end in-house server infrastructure while SalesForce.com comes along and makes all that hard work irrelevant with its brand new SaaS ("Software as a Service") model. Think "Commerce as a Service" and you get closer to the truth of what Brent Bellm is advocating. Who needs a storefront when you can just buy through a Facebook Messenger post or Pinterest pin? Let's run through a few specific scenarios and see if this new approach to online shopping becomes clear.

Social Commerce
If you've attended one of Trepoint's free monthly Influencer Marketing webinars, then you've seen the research. Today's consumers don't want to hear from brands. Instead, they want to learn about products and services from their peers. What BigCommerce has done is make it easy to take the next step and actually buy from your peers. Imagine you're having a chat with your buddy on Facebook Messenger and he happens to mention a new pair of shoes he just bought.

Rather than clicking over to Amazon to do a search, find the product, put it in your shopping cart and check out, what if you could just click buy right from Facebook Messenger? Well you can. Facebook has all your data. The first time you'll need to confirm your payment (i.e. credit card, debit card, PayPal, etc.) and delivery preferences, but then you skip leaving the Facebook platform altogether. How cool is that?

Pinterest is doing the same thing. You can browse for just about anything on Pinterest. They have become the digital equivalent of the Sears Catalog. And now, you no longer have to click to go to Amazon or your own ecommerce website - you can just click and buy directly from Pinterest.

While this may seem like the natural progression of the way we will buy (and it is), the departure form an ecommerce perspective is that you're allowing people to buy when they are highly engaged on their preferred social platform rather than forcing them out of their social experience and into a check-out process. A few years from now, we'll wonder why we ever did it the old way.

Google Search Results: "Link To" versus "Sell From"
Let's take a look at another scenario. Right now when you search for a specific product or service on Google, you get all sorts of options to click over to website so that you can "shop". But in the not-so-distant future, you're simply going to buy from Google. As long as you're confident that you've got the best price (think Walmart's "Always Low Prices" guarantee), do you really care who puts it in a box and ships it to you? Perhaps today you care about Amazon Prime defraying the cost of shipping, but what if Google offered the same thing or better? Better could be that they have someone drive over to your home or office and drop off what you want within an hour of purchasing it (which they have already tested in a number of markets).

Since Google is the starting point for people on a mission to buy, it stands to reason that they will benefit the most from a change in buying behavior. And BigCommerce has built the APIs (Application Program Interface software code) to do just that.

How You Can Disrupt Your Competitors
The disruption formula is in the idea that you no longer need to drive people to your own robust ecommerce website or one that you created via Amazon. It's about allowing your customer to buy from you wherever it's most convenient for them.

Moreover, why pay for a robust back-end ecommerce platform that you have to pay to maintain when you can simply "pay as you go" and only buy what you need. BigCommerce has created a very straight-forward subscription model that allows you to build a storefront if you still feel you need one, and is also highly focused on allowing you to integrate your offering through social channels such as Facebook Messenger and Pinterest. As more social platforms open up and prioritize their ecommerce focus, you're going to see this trend grow. Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit and so many others are prime candidates to move from content browsing to commerce purchasing. BigCommerce is well positioned to maintain its lead in this area and disrupt the more established players.

You can take advantage of this change by skipping all the infrastructure headaches and just putting your products and services into the hands of your ideal customers via their preferred social channels. While I'll never count out Amazon, Walmart or eBay from their ability to drive substantial transactions, it does appear that a shift has occurred and more nimble players such as BigCommerce and Shopify have capitalized on this shift. In business, you constantly need to be disrupting yourself or you risk someone else doing it for you. We've seen the likes of Uber and Airbnb use this kind of "time collapse" strategy to their benefit. Now you can too when it comes to ecommerce.

Published on: Sep 15, 2016