The inevitable has happened – clothing is the number one ecommerce category by sales according to ComScore.
As we all know I’m sure, Consumer Electronics has long been the King among stuff sold online, in part because of the early adopters of the Internet where more inclined to buy this stuff (read: geeks). Nevertheless, what’s perhaps more surprising is how long clothing has taken to surpass electronics.
There are three reasons for this I believe. The first is the aforementioned change in the makeup of consumers aka now everyone buys online, not just those geeks. Secondly, the smartphone has both consumed the entire electronics category – the PC, Laptop, Home Audio, TV, Camera, Camcorder and other devices are now largely mobile devices. Lastly, retailers are finally accepting folks want to buy clothes wherever – at home, in the office and not all in store anymore.
This is profound change and as always there will be winners and losers. Free shipping and returns – a standard for clothes where people often try before they buy – will put further pressure on bricks and mortar retailers. Brands will also begin participating in more direct to consumer stuff i.e why give a retailer margin when you can sell direct?
All in all, the brands stand to win and off course consumers will win. But what about both offline and online merchants? They have to suck it up.
I’ve seen the question over and over again; what should I sell? and how much of it?
In ecommerce (and commerce of any kind) you have to find a product that people want to buy. Quite simple sure but in a free market where anyone can do exactly the same, finding a profitable product is more tricky.
My advice? I refer to a post by Chris Jones:
But if I had started my ecommerce business five years ago, my Thing would have been running marathons. It doesn’t matter what your Thing is; what matters is that you have something that wakes you up in the morning, gets you excited, and that you find yourself thinking about all the time.
Think about what matters to you, and to the world. At the end of the day, in business, you can’t win if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. It’s that simple.
Prominent VC BIll Gurley comments on the future of ecommerce at the Sailthru conference. In their words:
In this chat, Bill examines the future of ecommerce and provides his perspective on the future of the unicorn market, how “funnel reversal” is impacting marketer’s focus on google, and why retention is critical to profitability over acquisition’s hold on growth.
Worth watching this video if you’re thinking about your site, third party marketplaces and so-on.
An interesting post this morning from Marc Lore, a co-founder of Diapers.com, gives us more details on his plans for Jet.com. Lore founded parent company Quidsi – housing a string of other ecommerce websites – all of which were notable for innovative user experiences and back-end systems including use of Kiva Systems robots. Lore notes on his blog:
In retail, e-commerce brands have fundamentally altered the way people shop – putting more power in consumers’ hands through democratizing tools like price comparisons, ratings and reviews. But there is still more work to be done if we are to truly to live up to our stated ideals of greater transparency and customer empowerment. We have to ask ourselves: What are the hidden costs in e-commerce? Are there aspects of e-commerce that don’t make sense? And most importantly, how do we expose these inefficiencies and empower customers to eliminate them?
Some interesting questions and no doubt Jet will probably not be your typical desktop type ecommerce site given the calibre of the folks they have plus how much ecommerce has moved on since Diapers.com was founded.
The question, and the elephant in the room is off course Amazon, who after-all purchased Quidsi after intense competition against the company. Jet will be up against it, especially as we learnt this week that Amazon is outspending everyone when it comes to search advertising. Maybe Jet can compete in different ways? If you were starting an ecommerce business today, how would you compete?