eBay held its X.commerce launch event this week, describing its new platform as an "operating system for commerce" where e-commerce blends with traditional brick and mortar retail. The idea is that "e"-commerce has now been replaced by "x"-commerce. What used to be two separate worlds, Web and physical store retail, are now driving each other and the line between the two is definitely being blurred.
For example, Smartphones such as the iPhone and Android are enabling people to shop in a retail store, price check online simply by scanning a barcode, and either travel to another local store for a better price or alternatively order on the spot from an online retailer.
Discounts on Twitter and Groupon deals are now driving foot traffic to physical retail locations. Traditional retail is investing more and more in online presence such as Facebook pages. PayPal, now processing $4.7B annually in payments (3x what they were doing five years ago), is expanding from email-based payments to mobile payments and even supporting payments in the physical world, with much here still to come.
eBay is investing heavily in this concept of physical and Web commerce blending. If you look at their acquisitions, you can see that they have been laying the groundwork for this for quite some time. They purchased Magento, an open-source Web application development environment fine-tuned for e-commerce sites, over the Summer. They acquired GSI Commerce in a major investment for $2.4B a few months back as well, a company that helps build online shopping sites for brick-and-mortar retailers. In the past year they have also acquired RedLaser (smartphone-driven barcode price comparison), Milo (a database of traditional retail locations' products and their prices), and Where.com (location-based advertising).
Piece by piece, they are pulling together components of an entire commerce supply chain, or a "full commerce stack" so to speak, and are delivering it in a one-stop retail shop now known as X.commerce. The idea is to develop one's site using the Magento platform, use PayPal as the payment mechanism, and then automate the entire process of delivering inventory to all of the various marketplaces eBay drives. This includes its own commerce sites, the RedLaser database, Where.com, Milo, and within what other acquisitions or partnerships that will come in the future.
For StrikeIron, e-commerce and point-of-sale have always been some of our more prevalent use cases. Our customers integrate and use Cloud-based solutions from us such as real-time sales tax calculation services, customer data quality solutions for better data at the point of capture, shipping address verification, email address validation, phone number validation, foreign currency rates for price localization, and even mobile messaging for shipment notifications and ongoing opt-in marketing campaigns.
Integration to these Web services in the Cloud help our customers optimize their commerce transactions with very little complexity. So it was very refreshing to hear eBay CEO John Donahoe mention that data, in many different forms, was the most important asset a retailer had and needed to apply to remain competitive in the new world of X.commerce. The idea of reducing the Wild West of commerce components into a standard, full-stack platform will significantly make things easier for our customers, as will a focus on high quality and complete data as part of the process.