5 questions about the near future of e-commerce

Amazon is both a blessing and a curse: experts see some challenges for business.

The experts Butrus Said, Mark Steier and Felix Beilharz give us an outlook on the future of e-commerce.
The experts Butrus Said, Mark Steier and Felix Beilharz give us an outlook on the future of e-commerce.

They are well-known names in e-commerce and on the relevant platforms: Mark Steier, Butrus Said and Felix Beilharz. Together they have numerous years of experience. And they are all more than attentive observers of the market. This is reason enough to look at the near future of e-commerce together with the experts. After all, the market is in a state of flux, not least due to Amazon.

“This is because Amazon collects a massive amount of customer data and individualizes fine-tuned customer profiles on the site. This provides each customer with individual offers and they don’t have to be bothered with irrelevant product recommendations,” says Butrus Said. Felix Beilharz explains in a bit more depth: “Amazon is of course unbeatable in terms of range, possibilities and effectiveness. No one can compete with that, and so far no German competitor has shown itself to be a suitable substitute for Amazon.” Mark Steier disagrees to a certain extent and his sights are set on Asia: “Technologically, China is far ahead. Even though European traders cannot yet profit directly from the platforms there, I see the Alibaba ecosystem and the mobile app WeChat from Tencent right at the top. Alibaba and WeChat implemented the mobile first approach and stationary connectedness much earlier.”

These were the questions we asked the three experts:

  • Which platforms do you currently see at the technological cutting edge of e-commerce?
  • What is needed to significantly advance one’s business in e-commerce today?
  • Are meaningful AI applications for e-commerce already foreseeable?
  • Will Amazon become a better Google? What does the future hold?
  • The advertising options that Amazon recently introduced are changing the landscape. Is this a curse or a blessing?

Steier is also clear when it comes to what it takes to bring significantly advance one’s own business in e-commerce: “I would like to answer this question from the perspective of SME retailers. Above all, a correct attitude towards technological offers and solutions is required. Existing SME retailers in particular have a hard time with professionalization and thus remain stuck in a growth rut.” Felix Beilharz is also extremely clear on this issue: “If you want to be ahead of the game, you have to be well positioned with standard topics (SEO, SEA, tracking, attribution, etc.), implement current developments (such as Instagram Shopping or the constantly evolving possibilities of Facebook Ads) and have the big trends on your radar (such as Voice Commerce or Visual Search).” But Beilharz is also very straightforward: “This overtaxes many smaller suppliers in particular, who then retreat into their snail shells and hope that the trends will simply disappear again.” Butrus Said voices a similar sentiment: “Digital brand strategies and above all an Amazon strategy! The share of e-commerce sales in some company groups is still low at just 5 to 10 percent.”

All three experts agree on what useful AI applications in e-commerce are. Not yet here, but visible on the distant horizon. And they pretty much agree when it comes to whether Amazon is now the better Google. As many international experts have stated, many users start searching for products on Amazon. Mark Steier, however, differentiates here: “In my opinion Amazon is often overrated, especially when one looks at the ecosystem in international comparison. Amazon’s asset is the product data and especially the product reviews.” And then he directly criticizes the US retail platform: “But it is precisely this asset that the platform is handling irresponsibly. A strange ecosystem has developed around the reviews. You could even call it a review mafia.”

Both a curse and a blessing

Felix Beilharz is diplomatic when it comes to Amazon’s new advertising options. We had asked whether the recently launched product targeting is a curse or a blessing. “Every change is both a curse and a blessing. But it doesn’t help to stick your head in the sand. Advertising opportunities, reach, features, channels: everything is subject to constant change. That’s why it’s so important to stay up to date and keep on learning. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind faster than you can say MySpace.”

Mark Steier replies drastically again: “A curse! Clearly. If you listen to the experts, it quickly becomes clear that the advertising possibilities have not been fully thought through. If we look just take a look at the reporting, for example, many remain blind to the skewed representation of the ACoS. Quite a few supposed experts wrongly focus on this value and thus arrive at the wrong conclusions.”

The bottom line:

E-commerce remains an exciting journey into the future. But it also bears great challenges, which retailers need to face head on. It is important for everyone to maintain a clear overview and weigh the possibilities. However, it is also necessary to take calculated risks and step into the future with a good bit of courage. Information and regular exchange are extremely valuable in this case. This also goes to show once again the importance of taking a positive approach to constant change. You have to want it and accept it. Otherwise, success will elude you.

The three experts' answers to all our questions are available in compact form and summarized in this paper for free download.

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