Jack Ma is regarded by many as the E-commerce mogul. When he started the online shopping conglomerate Alibaba 18 years ago, there was no shopping platform, regulations, logistics or trust on the World Wide Web. In his trip to Canada for Gateway 2017 to promote business with China, Jack Ma made a brilliant speech to Canadian small business. He gave a message of great and untapped opportunities in e-commerce. At one point, he said:
“Today, there are 1.8 Billion people connected to the Internet on a daily basis. Say 800 Million people are shopping online. Last year, we (Alibaba) were able to realize a transactions volume of 550 Billion USD. We believe, in the next 20 years, [there will be] 3 Billion people online. 60% of people will be shopping online. So for e-commerce, this is just the beginning.”
Collected data seems to corroborate his “prophecy” and statistics based on actual and offset data helped develop the following chart. And it’s nothing short of a revelation.
The uptrend is clear, and the wisdom of numbers is rather fascinating. The graph shows that an increasingly big market is taking shape: a 4.5 Billion USD one. As a matter of fact, technology advances in Smartphones, Artificial intelligence, and crypto-currencies are fueling it. Let’s dig deeper.
Smartphones to begin with
As of today, e-commerce has partially evolved into mobile commerce or m-commerce, one that harnesses the capabilities and usefulness of smartphones. Companies that are apprehensive about shifting their focus towards m-commerce will invariably come second to enterprises that operate on the mobile platform. Market predictions paint a bright picture for m-commerce’s future. According to Forrester Research, by 2020, the global e-commerce market will see 5% of transactions from phones and 33% from tablets.
Furthermore, the increased Internet connectivity from 3G to 4G, and recently to LTE is playing a crucial role in the conversion from retail to online retail, and specifically to m-commerce. Add pay services like iPhone Pay, Samsung Pay, and Google Pay, and transactions will only need instantaneous biometric fingerprint verification.
AI driving the future of the online shopping experience
In this digital era, AI and robotics are driving the wheels of modern life behind the scenes, e-commerce included. For instance, an AI startup called iFuture Robotics has partnered with hyper-shopping sites such as Big Basket to enhance its warehouse operations. The robots are smart enough to read products tags, and, through customers, unique ID, are able to know when an online filled cart is ready for dispatch. Such customer-enhanced experience will save a considerable amount of productivity time from a customer and retailer standpoint. The list of examples goes on, an AI, fuelled by cutting-edge technologies like ML (machine learning) and VR (virtual reality) are reshaping the e-commerce experience for all parties involved.
When Cryptocurrencies weigh in
Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple … you’ve probably heard of cryprocurrencies and their ability to disrupt the financial status quo. While this is not to argue whether or not Bitcoin is a financial bubble, the Blockchain, which is the technology underlying most digital coins is by all means revolutionary.
So, “Bitcoin” is the up and coming form of peer-to-peer electronic cash. It’s fair to reiterate that it emerged in 2009 as an open-source software, and took a decade to mature and crystallize. The Bitcoin software enabled a “digital currency that could be used without any governing authority”. This means that currency could pass from person to person without the need for a financial intermediary.
There are no physical coins or notes in cryptocurrencies. It lives natively on the internet. There are also no third-party fees, and the transactions are increasingly fast and ultimately secure. Thus, their potential of disrupting the e-commerce industry.
In fact, there are thousands of outlets that accept cryptocurrency payments. This will help get a handle on this new technology. Like Overstock, Expedia, eGifter, Shopify, Dish and even KFC Canada, cryptocurencies are going mainstream and might be the coins of e-commerce in the future, one that is nearer than ever. Maybe down the line, we will brag to our grandkids about witnessing the birth of crypto. With travel agents, gaming stores, even pizza and fried drumsticks, there’s something for everyone. Just like Jack Ma said, it’s only the beginning.