The promise of the digital world is global boundlessness. In fact, the e-commerce industry is like the world during the Cold War. The big players like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Alibaba have built their own walled gardens – with individual log-in data, payment methods and user guides. In addition, there are the websites of the manufacturers, the countless smaller marketplaces and, in the future, the IoT devices. Consumerization takes place only within the respective ecosystem – but not overarching. Just like back then: You could easily travel through the Federal Republic of Germany, but at the border to the GDR it was over with fun – or vice versa.
How much better would it be for consumers to be able to put products into their shopping cart across multiple portals and pay for them one-time? That would be consumer centric and a consistently good user experience. What if businesses could easily sell any of their products through any interface at any time through just one interface? Whether on a marketplace like Amazon, through a smart fridge, through shopping portals like Google or in virtual worlds.
Limitless e-commerce thanks to Blockchain
Such a scenario has come within reach thanks to technological developments and would turn the e-commerce market completely to the left: What would be necessary for this is a kind of Universal Shopping Cart, a universal shopping cart containing contact, shipping and payment data of the consumer and works across pages. Every single consumer could put products into his shopping cart across different portals and place an order once at the end.
Only who should develop this universal shopping cart? A marketplace like Otto will hardly use a solution from the competitor Amazon. Google no solution from Alibaba, etc. The Blockchain technology could remedy this situation, since it is perfectly used in markets where several players do not trust each other. A Blockchain technology-based Universal Shopping Cart could individually secure all user data relevant to a cross-page transaction, enabling cross-portal and cross-ecosystem orders-without requiring customers to re-register with each page.
Sounds easy. However, in practice, the infrastructure would change in the market: So far, e-commerce still largely works bilaterally between companies and the respective trading platform – the processing takes place not so seldom via Excel files or pdf documents, about the product information and order quantities are pushed back and forth. The industry still functions much like the online advertising market of ten years ago – before the programmatic revolution broke out.
The hour of Product Content Networks
With the help of Blockchain, e-commerce can now catch up in giant steps. And just as in the online advertising market, technical progress would push a new class of service providers between the companies and their respective sales platforms. In the advertising market, these are the ad exchanges, which bundle the DSPs (advertisers) on the one hand and a large number of SSPs (publishers) on the other. In the e-commerce market, this will be done in the future by so-called product content networks. Similar to ad exchanges, these brands or products will seamlessly connect to the widest range of distribution channels worldwide through a single interface. These new product content networks thus create an infrastructure in which data not only flows in the direction of the marketplace but also in the return channel – especially when orders from customers are routed centrally to the commerce system of the brand. Only in this way will brands be able to establish and maintain direct contact with the customer in the long term.
The product content networks create a new ecosystem – one that seamlessly integrates product data and listings, orders, logistics and consumer CRM data, allowing brands to make their products available on any consumer touchpoint at any time. In addition, the new service providers would take on analysis and reporting functions on the performance of the respective channels and give concrete recommendations for optimizing the sales strategy.
A new intermediary pushing into the e-commerce value chain? Yes, because it ensures greater price transparency, better availability of products and easier handling of assortment control. That means more competition. Brands and consumers benefit from this development. In return, this means that the competition between the individual commerce platforms is getting tougher – whoever offers the best user experience wins.