The Future of Commerce


“Online commerce currently accounts for only about 6 percent of all commerce in the United States. We still buy more than 90 percent of everything we purchase offline, often by handing over money or swiping a credit card in exchange for the goods we want.”

Last Week The New York Times wrote a great piece about EBay, Amazon and the future of commerce: EBay’s Strategy for Taking on Amazon.  It provides a good tour of the current state of online vs traditional commerce and the approaches that different players (Walmart, Amazon, EBay, etc) are taking.

The most interesting question for me is whether traditional brick-and-mortar companies can capitalize on their existing local infrastructure in two ways:

  1. Provide buyers a nearby physical location to view and purchase an item right now.
  2. Provide buyers the ability to order an item online an receive it in a couple of hours.

Both of these satisfy an immediacy that consumers are willing to pay a premium for.  Many retailers (online and offline) are trying to cater to these desires:

“In select cities, eBay has also recently introduced eBay Now, an app that allows you to order goods from participating local vendors and have them delivered to your door in about an hour for a $5 fee. The company is betting its future on the idea that its interactive technology can turn shopping into a kind of entertainment, or at least make commerce something more than simply working through price-plus-shipping calculations. If eBay can get enough people into Dick’s Sporting Goods to try out a new set of golf clubs and then get them to buy those clubs in the store, instead of from Amazon, there’s a business model there.”

Just this morning I reserved online and visited my local Barnes and Noble because I decided I wanted “The Launch Pad” and I was willing to pay $16 instead of $11.99 for the privilege of starting the book today.  There’s a ton of consumer surplus in the value of books, and if a retailer want to capture a little bit more of it and satisfy my desire for immediate gratification – power to them!


About brendansterne

Sr Director, Product Incubator
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