E-Commerce Is Broken

We agree with Founder and CEO of Helix Men Sindhya Valloppillil. Today’s e-commerce is broken. Sindhya explains why many online stores could be better in a must-read post on Business Insider:

Consumer marketing is an art AND a science. It’s something that the founders of many consumer-facing e-commerce companies and their investors don’t understand. The Science Lab in LA, which launched DSC, and the DSC management team and their investors clearly don’t comprehend it. That’s why consumer-facing e-commerce is broken.

“Consumer marketing is an ART and a SCIENCE,” explains why many online stores are broke.  Easy to create websites with too much science and engineering. Also easy to create “arty” sites that make conversions difficult.  There is a handful who can tune a site to earn money as we shared in Win Hearts, Minds & Loyalty Online.

Investors ask the wrong question in the wrong ways as Ms. Valloppillil:

Clearly, many VCs don’t really understand which founders to fund, and they don’t really understand consumer-facing ecommerce. Entrepreneurs shouldn’t look to these VCs for validation especially if these VCs are funding founders without plans. Some common threads with these flawed startups include having founders who do not understand:

  1. Business
  2. Retail
  3. Digital Marketing
  4. Branding

Many founders and VCs think marketing and branding aren’t that important and can be outsourced. Without a great brand experience, you’re just another product.

We suggest tattooing, “Without a great brand experience, you’re just another product,” on your forehead. It’s that important.

Branding Is Bullshit, But Important BS

Control is a misleading term online. When Leave It To Beaver was on television brands could elbow their way into consumers minds. Spend enough money on the three or four stations available and the illusion of control looked real, repeatable, and within your marketing control. Not so much anymore.

Giving up any belief in or desire for “control” is a good place to start your branding. Today you must win customer hearts, minds, and loyalty in a crowded, noisy, and “always on” world. Technology is putting power where it always was – with consumers. E-commerce 2.0 is about finding ways to collaborate, communicate and listen to your customers.

The Content – Commerce Rubicon

Inside of the “art” of online commerce are passion, emotion, and love. Science and engineering matter too. Art and science should seesaw into balance in a web design. You need to hear customer voices, ask for help, and respond as customers share. E-com 3.0 will see valuable and fun collaborations between buyers and sellers.  customers.

Loving your customers is another Sindhya recommendation for e-commerce success. Somewhere between art and science is the love, inclusion, and confirmation every human seeks. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was right, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

Few online merchants embrace de Chardin’s implications such as:

  • Sales – while important no one JOINS a brand only to save money or not for long
  • Emotion & Logic – we BUY with emotion, and we JUSTIFY with logic
  • Inclusion & Belonging – customers want to be part of something bigger than themselves
  • Collaboration – no one passively consumes anything anymore
  • Love – We love brands who love us back

Most Brands Don’t Get It Yet

Go to your favorite brand’s Twitter page. How many followers are they following? If your favorite follows back 50% or more, then they understand the conversational nature of today’s digital marketing. If they follow more than fifty, we bet they are a “clean slate” brand (i.e. new to the game). Do you have brands who understand digital marketing? Please share your favorite websites and brands in comments. We’ll add your suggestions to this post and the book we’re writing.

Marketing is conversational, collaborative and focused on creating a community now. Talking to yourself about yourself isn’t going to work as we noted in our It’s The Conversation, Stupid Haiku Deck.

Social Media: It’s The conversation, stupid – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires