Linn Academy: The past, present and future of ecommerce

David-BrackinDavid Brackin is a regular contributor to Tamebay and is the co-founder of Stuff U Sell. He has sold over 250,000 different items on eBay.

He was at Linnworks‘ annual Linn Academy conference this week and is reporting on the event for Tamebay:

linnacademyThis year’s Linnworks Conference kicked with Tamebay’s own Chris Dawson providing an overview of the ecommerce landscape. In case you weren’t able to get along, here’s a taster of what Chris had to say.

What is the future going to hold? Thirty years ago, we were using off-white desktop computers and eBay and Amazon were just about to emerge as “AuctionWeb” and a book retailer. For the past 10 years we’ve had smart phones and just for the last five tablets have been ubiquitous. So guessing where we are going next is going to be a hard task, but retailers need to be aware of the possible impacts on ecommerce. One of the most interesting areas will probably a post-mobile world of voice-controlled assistants. All the big players are experimenting with the format – Amazon’s Alexa on Echo, Siri on the iPhone, Microsoft’s desktop assistant and Google Home are all in their early phases. While they are still pretty limited (see Chris’s article on the Echo), they are undoubtedly going to improve.

While these aren’t active commerce engines at this stage, eventually they will drive purchasing behaviour. Voice-controlled shopping will be a natural consequence of these devices and shopping without a photo to look at is going to make structured data more important to help these emergent assistants interpret “the big pink iPhone”, for example, into the right SKU from the shops. Adding in the GTINs (EANs, UPC and ISBNs) to listings at this stage will help future-proof sales for retailers.

Chris turned to Amazon and pointed out the importance of Prime to this marketplace. Prime customers are more loyal and buy more, and like to search for listings which offer the Prime service and that’s only available to marketplace sellers if they are using FBA. FBA will also help sellers to take advantage of the recent slide in the pound by making exporting into Europe much simpler. While UK inventory is suddenly looking cheap to foreign buyers, now is a great time to ensure that you have all your international shipping and cross-border trade options in place.

Finally – in a slightly shorter term future prediction – Christmas is coming. Christmas offers a great opportunity to get sales made in innovative ways. One that is often overlooked is creating gift-sets that encourage buying – a basket of three or four products: such as a bike helmet with bike pump and puncture repair kit – solve a buyer’s gifting questions and increase your basket size. One thing to look out for, however, is the delivery promise. Black Friday can break a lot of reputations so be careful offering expedited shipping options which you (or your courier) might not be able to deliver. If you have a bargain item, you don’t expect premium shipping: mostly it’s about guaranteeing delivery before Christmas rather than next-day.