Most of us would agree that the internet is biased towards social connection, yet many e-commerce or f-commerce experiences are not. In the olden days, bazaars weren’t only about consuming “stuff,” but were a social space to meet up with friends and exchange information.
Today, instead of a peer-to-peer economy, we have relationships with our brands. We don’t learn what’s happening in our world, but instead learn how much smaller the new iPad is.
The mom blogosphere in particular has risen to fill that void, up to a point. Bloggers and readers exchange ideas, rumors and facts that matter to them, but companies quickly co-opt the majority of well-intentioned blogs to sell more stuff instead of creating more social value. Ultimately, such actions have degraded blogs to what we have today: a list of product features and giveaways.
Companies do this because of their inability to embrace nuance, being solely dedicated to the dollar. You can see this play out in how companies structure themselves. Many companies create an e-commerce site that is simply an inventory list with no social value whatsoever. This means that many other companies can then take advantage of those sites because they don’t offer anything except a price on a product. So those other companies rise up another level of abstraction and become a search engine or aggregator, which creates even less value than before.
What we’re seeing now, as a result of the recession, is that you can’t just keep abstracting how you make money at a higher and higher level. Indeed, each time we distance ourselves from the most basic of human interactions – that is, a face-to-face conversation – the more dangerous it is for our economy.
Take a look at Appaloosa, a hedge fund that employs 250 people and Apple, a company that employs about 35,000 people and earned around $6 billion in 2009. “Appaloosa, the hedge fund, earned about as much as Apple in 2009 by speculating on… well, we don’t really know,” argues Jeffrey Hollender.
And many would argue it was just that kind of speculation – or abstraction – that got us into all of our financial problems in the first place.
For e-commerce and f-commerce, this means an opportunity to pivot to new models by combining commerce with community to replicate the peer-to-peer economy, where value isn’t limited to dollars and point of sale, but expands to include the concept of sharing and access just as it would in real life.
Ultimately, that is what every e-commerce site should be doing – not attempting a relationship between brand and customer, but enabling connections and conversations between customers.
Which even in this age of social media, very few companies do successfully.