Commerce 3.0

Amazon is one of four immeasurable giants of the internet age, existing amongst Google, Apple and Facebook in a real-world game of thrones. As an early-mover in e-commerce, Amazon’s speed of implementation is unprecedented.

Amazon knows what the world is purchasing and Amazon knows why. Amazon has substantial influence over the way we discover, purchase and receive products. Amazon can locate product gaps and offer lower-priced, private-label alternatives to brands. Simply put, Amazon dominates, and if brands can’t beat ‘em, they join ‘em.

The crowned head of e-commerce controls the online-retail market in many countries – an internet dictatorship that introduced hyper-scaleable thinking to a ‘winner-takes-all’ market. But is disruption totally dead? Can an organisation leverage its assets to catch a piece of the retail pie?

On March 19th, Facebook launched Instagram’s in-app shopping feature. It was announced that Instagram’s users will be able to shop, check-out and manage orders within the platform itself – an efficient disintermediated alternative to traditional e-commerce… Or perhaps, Amazon… Although we’re experiencing the very early stages of ‘social commerce’, the impacts are intriguing.

WeChat was introduced to China in 2011 and has since accumulated 850 million active users. WeChat has essentially built a mobile lifestyle from a single, integrated app. As a result, it has become an indispensable part of everyday Chinese lives. Its users can message, share, follow, play, pay, order, transfer, find, read and meet. So why would they want to move elsewhere?

Perhaps Facebook is taking a similar approach. After all, social media is the wave of the future. What if new worlds of commercial socialisation trumped traditional e-commerce? It may seem difficult to imagine a future without Amazon. Industrial parks turned wastelands, ‘fulfillment’ centres abandoned, endless corridors of empty shelves with the words “work hard, have fun, make history” emblazoned above them.

Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Google have long co-existed as internet marvels, dominating the world of tech. Amazon continues to acquire smaller companies with a significant market share in targeted verticals. Google and Apple are forever in a tight race to swallow up the most promising AI startups. But, are these all-powerful internet kingdoms beginning to invade each other?

What if Facebook did not merge with Amazon’s services, but instead replaced them? What if social-commerce naturally took over, and e-commerce ceased to exist? Brands could operate entirely in-app, neglecting the Amazon middle-man – a whole sales funnel reduced to a single platform.

Social media has no doubt woven itself into the fabric of our lives – we conduct our personal, everyday life there. It therefore seems easier to imagine a commercialised social media than a socialised e-commerce. We are seeing checkouts on Instagram, but a lack of personal profiles on Amazon. But we must ask ourselves – how much power do we owe a single entity? Do we trust a Facebook oligarchy? We will give up more of our privacy so willingly to just one man?

Facebook knows every message you’ve ever sent or been sent. Facebook knows every file you’ve ever sent or been sent. Facebook knows all the contacts in your phone. Facebook stores everything down to your login location. But, what if Facebook became a leader in collecting, storing, processing our purchase information? Facebook may begin to influence our entire lives.

In a sense, commercialising humanity.