The future of social, local and international e-commerce.

ChannelAdvisor held their annual EU Catalyst conference in London this week. At this event they always review the current state of e-commerce as well as looking at the areas of growth for the next year. This year the overriding themes were Local, Social, Mobile and Internationalisation.

Ecommerce is changing and the boundaries between online and off line are converging. Retailers are already adopting strategies such as order online, collect in store, but this is just the start of linking up the Internet with the high street.

Online/offline mix

In the future when you’re purchasing a product it’s highly likely that you’ll research the product online. If it’s an urgent purchase, you’ll then locate a local store for same day collection.

E-commerce will be mobile driven. The current mobile shopping experience is but a pale shadow of the future. Google demonstrated Google Goggles – a mobile app that allows you to take a picture of a landmark¬† or product and identifies it for you. If this is a landmark or piece of artwork you’ll be presented with informative results. However, if it’s a product, you’ll be connected to Google shopping to make an online purchase.

“eBay’s future aim is for their shopping app to identify the handbag and find the same or similar products on eBay that you can purchase immediately”

eBay also talked about their vision for the future. They gave the example of seeing a woman in the street carrying a hand bag. If you took a picture of her, eBay’s aim is for their shopping app to identify the handbag and find the same one for sale on eBay. The smartphone will be a tool for shopping. We will use it to shop in new ways. Browsing for products will be “old fashioned”.

Local shopping will become more important and mobile apps will be the link between on and offline. An example would be if you arrived at a conference to find you’d forgotten your mobile phone charger. Voice search on your smartphone would trigger a search to locate a local retailer with the product in stock. You’d then use your phone to reserve a charger. GPS map on your smartphone would then guide you to the retailer where you could complete the purchase. In order for this to work, retailers will need to add more attributes to their shopping feeds to include stock availability and location information in addition to product details and prices.

Local shopping via mobile will be great for emergency purchases, but shopping is a social experience. People often go shopping in groups, and social networks aim to replicate this experience online. Many sites already allow you to log in with Facebook Connect and have “Like” buttons so you can share products with friends. Google have recently introduced a similar “+1” button which is essentially a copy of the Facebook Like button.

Social

Friends can discuss products by sharing them through social networks. Most powerful of all, when your friends make a purchase it will appear in their news feed as a recommendation. Whilst today many retailers are unsure how to get started with social networks simply connecting with them is the way to start. Make sure you have a business page on Facebook and a Twitter account. Frootion can help you set up a feed on Facebook to display products from your website or eBay shop. Facebook users can then share your products and you can engage with them by offering discounts for actions such as “Liking” your page.

The easier you make it for your customers to share and talk about your products and services with their social media network the wider your circle of influence will spread.

Finally the remaining topic at the conference was International commerce. Currently 20% of all eBay transactions are cross border and the size of the International market is growing rapidly. Amazon announced that they’d be adding a marketplace to Amazon Italy, which was opened in November 2010. The UK, France Germany and Italy represent 69% of the entire European market so these are the four countries that online retailers should concentrate on first.

Internationalisation is more than just adding shipping methods. Listing on overseas marketplaces in the buyers language and local currencies is the easiest way to sell internationally, but full localising your own website with foreign language versions and local URLs should be your next step.