I’ve been an angel investor now for about a year and a half. And since I primarily focus on fashion tech and retail, I tend to see a lot of startups that are attacking the next big thing in commerce, particularly in fashion e-commerce. I’ve seen a variety of pitches that have different takes on how commerce will evolve. Some recent examples:
- “social is the new commerce” (e.g., let’s make social media more e-commerce friendly)
- “content is the new commerce” (e.g., influencers are key to driving commerce)
- “mobile is the new commerce” (e.g., m-commerce will eventually outstrip other channels)
- “search is the new commerce” (e.g., image or contextual search is critical to e-commerce)
- “discovery is the new commerce” (e.g., discovery tools are needed to narrow product choice)
And on and on. So who’s right? Clearly, social media and friend’s recommendations impact e-commerce as well as bricks & mortar shopping. Content (particularly that of style influencers, bloggers and celebrities) does help shoppers to make choices about what to buy and what trends are important – and we’re seeing more and more of these influencers develop their own product to sell, as well as curate from existing product. And more and more shopping is done via mobile, so I think everyone would agree that mobile is big. Lastly, with the Internet allowing proliferation of products and brands, it’s hard shoppers to find what they’re looking for – so increasingly sophisticated and targeted search and discovery tools will be needed.
But maybe it’s more than those things. Maybe it’s about shoppers who become sellers as well. I read about Poshmark today – the company is now seeing about 20% of their users turn into legitimate sellers (selling more than the items from their own closet). Or maybe it’s about the maker movement – a trend that uses advances in technology to allow everyone to create new products – which creates new retailers at the same time. Or maybe most commerce goes away and it all becomes about the sharing economy.
We don’t know yet how this will all shake out – or which startups and segments will ultimately win, and for which segments of the population (well, at least I don’t know). But in an increasingly commerce-obsessed startup world, I think for now, I’m going to say that everything is (or could become) the new commerce.