When I saw the above, amazing video from the awesome Intenetstiftelsen, it was hard not to nod. Partly because Televerket's (or Telia's as they are called today) vision was that the Internet as a whole would always have their logo in the corner. But also because in 1994 they managed to draw up the basic functionality most e-retailers today rely on - almost 30 years later. And this basically while the browser was invented. It's quite mindblowing if you think about it.
To begin with: Telia obviously had some sharp brains employed in the early nineties - this team would probably have been popular to recruit on the job market today. But the video also raises an unpleasant question. If a project group that sat down and brainstormed could figure out how your e-commerce would work when there were hardly even computers connected to the Internet on the market, the question arises as to how far we have really come since then?
Do not misunderstand me. Of course, I am not saying that today's e-commerce platforms are disappointing. On the contrary, they are a marvel of technical solutions, design and qualitative sub-functions in, for example, logistics and payments. Star Republic works with these systems every day, and of course we believe that we deliver the sharpest in digital commerce today, otherwise we would have done something different. That is a fact. But I still think it is relevant to, a little self-critically, ask the question where the visions went. If today we have implemented the visions of 1994, where are the visions for 2021 that will be in place by 2046?
I do not claim to have the answers, but the question is in any case whether tomorrow's innovative business concept is really about us continuing to optimize the 1994 solution. Most of you are probably well familiar with the discussions going on during in the recent years. "Does a different color on the buy button give higher conversion?" or "We want to say the word "running shoe" at least 82 times in this text due to SEO". And absolutely, this is important. We have seen many examples of when extreme success has come from "attention to detail". That you find that little technical detail that the competitors lacked. Obviously, Micro Management pays off when we do it really well - but when do we devote ourselves and our time to Macro Management?
What is "the new black"?
A paradigm shift often takes place through a revolutionary product, regardless of whether it is a question of software or hardware. Where would the internet be today without the browser, or for that matter your mobile e-commerce without the iPhone?
I can not say that I see any great revolution on the near horizon. Every time someone starts throwing out claims about AR, VR or IoT, I am transported 7-8 years back in time when I worked at another digital agency in Gothenburg. There was certainly nothing wrong with the creative brains. We had both managed to get some AR campaigns out and bought Google Glasses (yes, they were just as incomprehensible then). And we of course tried out air swords in the Oculus Rift. And yet - today none of the mentioned technologies have succeeded to any great extent, we are still talking about the color of our "buy buttons" or how to best tweak Google Analytics, just like then. A bit like the comedian who had grown up with the Jetsons on TV and was disappointed to find that as an adult he still had to drive a Volvo.
The answer to what "the new black" is will of course depend on who you ask. A developer will give you a technical answer, a business developer will have an exciting warehouse solution. For me, who works primarily with communication, the answer is still that it is about who manages to bridge the distance between the seller and the buyer in new ways. To improve the interaction, in a human way. To convince the consumer that your product, your brand, is what you should buy both now and in the future. Where your product is stocked or what technology enables your purchase is completely irrelevant if it does not improve the customer experience.
I used to work in a sports shop myself alongside my studies during the early 2000s. And I remember all the theories that exists about how to work in a physical store in order to convince a visitor to make a purchase. When and how you say hello to the customer, how you in a nice way sneak into (and try to influence) their thoughts about what to buy. I remember taking the opportunity to sell as a personal challenge, to get that middle-aged man who said "I'm not much of a skier" to leave the store with a pair of skis that cost twice as much as he himself had imagined. And I did it with a clear conscience because I knew I was doing us both a favor. The shop I worked in got a better daily cash register, my motivation to do my job grew, and the customer turned out to be a much better skier than he himself had thought. And it is this type of interaction with our digital customers that we must seek.
There is nothing wrong with trying to get the customer to buy a pair of extra socks at an extra price at checkout or to consider whether the logo should be sticky on the mobile but not on the desktop. But what should occupy our time more than anything else is how we can be able to offer a service or experience that others cannot, and look beyond the basic level that many e-commerce sites are on today. That level was set at a time when petrol cost SEK 5 a liter and our famous Swedish singer "Lill-Babs" received a medal from the king.
The interesting question is how we can take the next step. Is the answer a bigger investment in video, or some visual and interactive tool? Or chatbots that use AI to create more sales? At this point, you realize that this article does not contain a gold nugget at the end of the article, but really just a big question mark. Because it is your opinion I would like to hear.
Feel free to contact us and talk about how you "get through to your customers" and how you provide them with your best advice in a unique way.
Competence Lead Content & Strategic Project Manager
Star Republic, SQLI Group