Last month at Shoptalk, I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of Magento, Mark Lavelle. After establishing independence from eBay last year Magento rose to the number one commerce platform with 29.8% market share among the 30 most popular eCommerce platforms. It's safe to say that Magento has its finger on the pulse of the eCommerce marketplace and it was a fascinating conversation with Mr. Lavelle. Here's what he recommends to anyone looking to increase their eCommerce sales in 2016 and beyond.

Control the Customer Experience Despite How it All Evolves
"Today you need to own the front-end to differentiate yourself," Mr. Lavelle said. "Your content and your commerce are coming together around an experience, whether you are a B2B or B2C company. Today's eCommerce is more expert and knowledge driven. The digital experience engenders loyalty."

And more and more frequently, these experiences are happening outside your traditional eCommerce channels. This is the idea of distributed commerce, which means your content is living outside of your website and even your commerce is becoming distributed through buy buttons and links on Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube.

"Your job in digital commerce today is about removing friction and building a clean path to order," Mr. Lavelle explained. "This requires fast response and a flexible digital platform to work from. Where are your customers spending their time? You need to get your CRM, your catalog and your inventory aligned so that as a marketer you can bring your store to your customers no matter what evolves over the next five years."

Building Your Shopping Experiences Around Customer Engagements
The traditional way of shopping online has evolved and will continue to evolve at a rapid clip. No longer is it enough to focus on how you take your customers through a typical eCommerce funnel. Abandonment rates and check-outs are the basics that must already be mastered. Today the focus is on how you engage with customers, create an incredible experience and understand how they want to shop with you. Often this is outside your own web or mobile store funnel. Today the goal is to create the shopping experience around customer engagements--whenever and wherever that may be.

"The cycle used to be: (1) Get a customer to your webstore, (2) Get them onto a product detail page, (3) Get them into a shopping cart, (4) Get a transaction done, and (5) Send them an email to drive them back to your homepage to buy something else and get the cycle to continue," Mr. Lavelle explained. "Now you may rather have your customer follow you on Instagram or Messenger than hitting them with an email because that's where your customers are spending their time. Wherever your customers are spending time, you want to be there. You want to be spending upwards of 20% of your marketing time understanding where your customers are spending time--be that Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. -- and how to engage with them all along the funnel. And it might not be that you're selling them something. It might just be that you're talking to them and showing them a context of what your brand experience is, or providing basic customer service. Your goal is to engage with them and be present wherever your customers are spending their time."

Building Your Brand on Instagram
One of the companies Mr. Lavelle is impressed with is Carved. This is a company that has grown their business exponentially on Instagram. At the time of this article, they have over 27,200 followers and a simple link to driving the bulk of their eCommerce business.

A few years ago marketers were looking for ways to leverage Instagram to build their brands. Today you can run your entire eCommerce business on any of these social media platforms provided that you have the back-end support you need.

"Today, companies can post an image on Instagram and get thousands of likes and collect comments" Mr. Lavelle said. "They can then convert this to a sale by giving these prospects a link back to your shopping experience featuring the same image. This enables you to close out custom orders directly from the Instagram experience."

Selling Healthy Snacks via Subscription to College Kids
Or perhaps you've heard of Graze? This company started in the UK selling healthy snacks to college kids. "Graze took the time to ask the important questions such as 'What do you want to see in a snack?' and 'What would you like to see next?'" Mr. Lavelle explained. "The result is that they created demand for specific snacks which ended up in retail stores such as 7-11. What they ended up doing was creating demand for new products via a subscription serve into physical retail stores. So while Graze started out as a subscription snack company, they ended up building demand for and launching new products into physical retail."

This all started with a social idea of getting people to buy snacks from a subscription model and ended up with what is really a traditional retail business.

Real-Time Mobile Shopping at the Frankfurt Airport
"We did this project in the Frankfurt airport with AOE, one of our systems integrators out of Germany," Mr. Lavelle explained. "Frankfurt airport has over 300 retailers and is one of the largest airports in Europe. They have millions of people flying through this airport every day. They push the app to you while you're on your phone and you can buy anything from any of these hundreds of retailers. They will then package what you bought and have it waiting for you at your gate. If your gate changes, they will move your purchased items to your new gate."

This is a massive order management challenge that was accomplished with Magento Order Management software. The flying public in Germany is looking to have a positive experience while in the airport. The point being that you're no longer driving people into your store, but rather looking for new and interesting ways to engage customers well before they walk into your store.

"Because mobile smartphones are so ubiquitous, anyone who aggregates buyers--from farmers markets to Time Square--now needs to be considered as an opportunity to engage customers with a retail experience that can be just as powerful as being on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest," Mr. Lavelle said. "All these new things are possible because the software today is very flexible, mobile devices, Internet connectivity are ubiquitous, and you can connect with customers in ways you never previously thought possible."

Content & Commerce Coming Together Around Experiences
The bottom line from Magento CEO, Mark Lavelle, is that everywhere you look, content and commerce are coming together around experiences. Where it used to be about driving prospects into your eCommerce funnel, today you are engaging prospects where they already are (online and in real life). Today it's becoming less and less about your shopping cart experience (as this is now table stakes) and it's more expertise and knowledge driven. Your company engenders loyalty through being relevant in the places where your customers hang out. This isn't always a "buy now" message, but rather coming up with experiences that keep you relevant.

In this way, you get your brands to express the passion of what you're doing. Those shared passions lead to highly engaged customers who are much more willing to buy from you when the need arises. Staying engaged and creating experiences online and in real life is where eCommerce has migrated. Today it's not just about driving people into your store. Today it's about bringing the store to your customers. That's the power of distributed commerce.

For more on this topic, see how Under Armour is leveraging distributed commerce to fuel their growth.