E-commerce is Dead

Everything has balance, albeit temporarily. Never again will it be the case that all commerce will take place in building made of bricks and mortar, or on markets with wooden stalls. It’s impossible to imagine shopping without the online variety. At the same time, it will not be the case that one day all purchases will be made online. We human beings will always manage to find each other and shops. If only to be able to feel a silk veil between your fingers, to play with the buttons on sound equipment. Books will never disappear, but neither will the e-book. LP’s are fighting their way back from the verge of extinction.


The question is, just where is the balancing point? Half online, half offline? Naturally, this too will depend on the product. The sale of music takes place almost entirely digitally. The same will soon apply to films. Policies, bank statements – all products that can be digitalised – will score higher on the online ladder than do molecular products.

Global E-commerce Summit

Here in Barcelona, at the start of June the Global E-commerce Summit is being held. Lectures are being given, there are lots of small meetings, prizes are being awarded for the best European Webshop, networking is going on, there is a lot of nightclubbing, and lots of backs are being patted. When two people meet one another, they look not at one another’s faces, but at the badges dangling from their neck on a key-cord.

Many lectures are about the search for balance between online and offline trade. Not a single shop can avoid opening up a webshop on the Internet, but conversely, players who can only be found online cannot avoid becoming more tangible.

Cross-channel. Multichannel. Omnichannel. I dare say. Fact is that the greatest success will be for whoever uses all the nooks and crannies of both the online and the offline field; at least this is what’s being said in Barcelona. Jean Emil Rosenblum of Pixmania – the French company that used to sell only cameras and purely as an internet player – expects that in the future 4 out of 5 purchases will still be completed in shops. 80% in the shopping mall! So it is only logical that Pixmania is going to open some shops. Even supposing the man is wrong, half is still more than what the trendy digi-yups and stray professors are currently claiming.

Forget the ‘e’!

Or look at it differently. The actual addition of the ‘e’ is pointless. E-commerce is an anachronism, a pleonasm and a contradiction all at once. An anachronism because it will soon be hopelessly old-fashioned to talk about e-commerce (just as it is to talk about new media). A pleonasm (wet water), because there will be an online component to every transaction, and a contradiction (plastic tin) because all commerce has consequences, even offline.

A sales assistant wants to sell, it doesn’t matter how, as long as it is from him. With an iPad in a shop, purchased in the shop and taken home, purchased mobile and then set aside, separate parking places for those who are only picking purchases up. Looking, purchasing, paying, delivering: every online–offline combination will soon be possible. E-commerce is dead: this was the message in Barcelona. Commerce used to be via bartering, then via currencies, and now we just have commerce. Forget e-commerce. Commerce.

by Joost Steins Bisschop