Connectivity: The New Currency
The trend toward an "always on, always connected" lifestyle driven by the use of social networks and mobile technology has, if nothing else, groomed consumers to become demanding in their expectations of the online experience. Unfortunately, the e-commerce experience has changed little since early days and, until recently, continued to be a process more to be endured than enjoyed.
The growing adoption of more open commerce models, however, is resulting in a shift away from clunky, repetitive data entry-oriented commerce models to a more immersive experience that combines the broad catalog of an "app" store with SaaS-based rich-content plugins and an end-to-end payment platform.
Two-thirds of all Internet users have paid to access or download digital content at least once, according to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. With today's children and adolescents growing into voracious consumers of digital content, the trend toward open commerce will only become more pronounced.
As technology advances continue to make it easier to connect via improved broadband and 4G connectivity, accompanied by the continued adoption of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, e-marketers will need to evolve their strategies to fulfill consumers' desires whenever, wherever they want to buy.
Open Commerce Is Social
To be sure, social networking has blurred the lines between where one site ends and another begins, letting consumers jump between experiences without changing applications or scrolling through screens.
Facebook and its hundreds of thousands of apps provide a perfect example of an open commerce platform in which users interact with games and other software owned and distributed by a number of distinct publishers, all embedded within the single experience of the Facebook.com domain.
Many -- if not most -- will simply abandon the purchase when faced with a payment process perceived as too burdensome. The inability of traditional e-commerce systems to provide this level of convenience and to adapt to evolving consumer needs represents a significant barrier to optimizing product revenue potential.
Today's new consumers of digital goods and services experience their online world through the context of social networks, rather than just the search-and-discovery paradigm of search engines. Instead of relying on algorithms to identify the online experiences they want to enjoy, new consumers are searching, sharing and purchasing based on their trusted social graph. This behavioral shift requires that the experience of consuming paid goods and services mirror the path consumers take to find them.
Open commerce offers social media clear advantages compared to traditional models. Indeed, open commerce models are crucial to the social media experience, which strives to provide users real connectivity without any technology hurdles.
With more than 72 percent of the Internet-connected population active on one or more social network, social media will play an increasingly important role -- especially given the fact that the demographic of the heaviest users of the media overlaps nicely with the key purchase demographic of consumers aged 20 to 29 years old.
Social Ties Can Boost Monetization
The adoption of open commerce platforms should improve monetization across the entire spectrum of sites, whether directly tied to social media or not. As pervasive as e-commerce might seem to those of us in the business, less than a quarter of the global population has made any type of purchase online. As Internet access becomes more prevalent worldwide, the purchase of digital goods and services will continue to experience significant market increases.
As the online target expands, the challenge will not be finding the audience, but embracing platforms and techniques that reduce friction in the monetization of digital content via well-integrated open commerce solutions. These sophisticated systems will need to optimize revenue while driving both customer acquisition and retention.
More than ever before, sellers will have the opportunity to tap into this market quickly -- but only if they are able to build an open commerce infrastructure in house, add outside payment functionality to their current systems, or outsource their e-commerce payment solutions to established, third-party global payment platforms.
The emergence of open commerce platforms means that merchants are no longer constrained by a 1990s model, and new licensing models will increasingly become available. As an engagement strategy, frictionless and well-integrated open commerce platforms can be a powerful marketing tool that increases satisfaction for the connected consumer, while driving transactional volume.