A16Z’s Benedict Evans
wrote a blog that sticks with me every day. In it, he expounded on an earlier tweet: Amazon is Google for products, but we have no Facebook for products. He went on to write:
Amazon in particular and eCommerce in general is good at search. Amazon, very obviously, is Google for products. It's good at giving you the best-seller you've heard of or the water filter for your fridge (the long tail). It's not so good at the things in the middle. Amazon is great at selling you what's on the table in the front of the bookshop, and at selling one copy a year of a million or so obscure titles, but it's not very good at showing you what's on the shelves at the back of the bookshop.
At 2017’s Shoptalk
, the future of eCommerce is the height of the conversation and the question remains. In an economy where eCommerce site builds have been commoditized by Big Commerce, Shopify, and Demandware and SEO is cheaper than ever, what comes after commerce by search?
The answer is discovery. The internet is optimized for direct-response advertising and search engine marketing but as those tools became commonplace, their returns diminished. Discovery-equipped eCommerce sites will play a major role in the future of online retail. Whereas Amazon is great for shopping for what you *know* that you want, we have no “Facebook for eCommerce.”
In my recent conversation with Erica Matthews, Alibaba’s Head of Corporate Relations, and Liyan Chen
, we discussed what most American consumers don’t yet understand about the shopping vs. buying contrasts. Alibaba continues to eclipse impossibility in the east by digitizing the sensational social experience of shopping.
So while Benedict Evans is correct in his assessment that America doesn’t have a Facebook of eCommerce, Alibaba has served that role well, for China, from their Hangzhou headquarters.
Some of the smartest young, eCommerce companies
are enabling consumer discovery, aiming to own the sales funnel from start to finish. Stateside, that race is not a foregone conclusion. But it would be smart to look east if you want to know how it's done.