Technology and the Coming E-Commerce Wave

Written by Alexander Gray, Chairman of IMA Canada

“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?” – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Just in time for the Holidays, Star Wars: The Force Awakens zooms into theaters smashing box office records…but that’s not all!  Retailers are clearing their shelves to make way for all the toys, games and merchandise as their “New Hope” is placed on increasing sales over the 2015/2016 Holiday Season.

When we think about retailers, we tend to think about physically situated big box chains, such as Walmart and Target. Although they have elaborate marketing budgets, and draw crowds to their stores in droves, there are also smaller online retailers – armies of one – who have learned what seems to be “Force-like” powers when they transform their laptops into cash registers.

The era of DIY E-Commerce is upon us, and now the “little guy” can drum up massive campaigns with huge profits – some costing as little as $10/day.  Of course there is a lot of experimentation and tons of e-learning that goes on before one can consider themselves an “E-Commerce Jedi”, but it’s never been easier to leverage technology and build an “E-Commerce Empire”

In the era of apps and mobile tech, there are some great tools that are available, ones that I have personally used to build my own storefronts. Like the Resistance, I take on the First Order…just not so dramatically…

Starting with convergence devices, such as Microsoft’s Surface Book, online retailers can add immense power and flexibility on the go.  The Surface Book is a powerhouse which can quickly detach it’s screen into what Microsoft calls a “clip board”.  All that power in a tablet form allows for an indispensable way to access full desktop apps on the go.  Plus the new Surface Pen has been improved to give a greater experience on Windows 10 and the myriad of Windows apps that grow in their store every day.

For the storefront itself, it used to be common to have to hire a designer or take the time to learn WordPress and create an E-Commerce store from scratch – usually very expensively and with a heavy need for security monitoring. Although I still have stores that run on WordPress, I have made the switch to Shopify.  Why?  Because Shopify understands that people need a blank canvas to work from, but the functionality is bolstered by 3rd party apps – very similar to a mobile apps store that you’d find from Apple or Google.  When you have developer support, the functionality can rival that of professionally programmed storefronts that you’d see with retailers like Toys R Us and Best Buy.  It takes some work, but it can be done.

Speaking of e-commerce apps, you’ll also find the mobile field a lot friendlier now that so many common sites that online retailers use now have their own apps.  Amazon, AliExpress, Alibaba, Jet, Ebay, Shopify, Paypal and so many more all give users even more flexibility on the go.  I use these apps regularly on my Galaxy Note, I hope to see mobile phones become less “phone” and more “workstation” oriented as the phablet craze continues.  Hopefully we won’t have a stagnation in technology where devices are nothing more than flat slabs of glass and plastic.  I look forward to attending CES this year and seeing the advancements of AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) and how those devices can help shape the e-commerce buying experience.  I imagine one day we’ll see entire 3D shopping malls where shoppers can instantly try on clothes, connect socially and even get a better sense for what they are purchasing, instead of relying on flat 2D images – all powered by the very phone they carry in their pocket.

This era of E-Commerce is very much like the Wild West.  Even though the online economy is already worth an estimated $1.5 trillion, it’s still in it’s infancy as technology empowers people to make their stores visible and pleasant experiences for their customers.  Social media is another form of technology which forms the backbone of today’s e-commerce data metrics, but that topic so huge, it’s worth it’s own article.  If you venture down that road – May the Force be with you.


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