A blog on eCommerce, Social Commerce, Comparative Shopping Engines & Business

By Hendrik Laubscher

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15 thoughts about ecommerce from 2015

It is the time of year when summaries are written about what happened during the year past. 2015 was a fascinating year full of intrigue. I cant remember any year in which fluctuations occurred in a specific market. To summarise ecommerce in a few thoughts is very difficult as the industry is large but through observations, conversations I have come to the following 15 points:

tldr; Amazon was dominant, Alibaba wrote a lot of checques and ecommerce made a dent in global percentage of retail.

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Is ecommerce a social event?

noun: social; plural noun: socials

The last few months has provided me with a question that I have been thinking about – “Is ecommerce a social event?”.  As an ecommerce executive when planning is done for new features, the social aspect of shopping will get a mention. However – I feel that referral marketing is being seen as social commerce. Share a product via a facebook post, a tweet or an Instagram post. In some cases it will lead to a discussion on the respective product but it will not lead to a discussion over a possible sale..

Social commerce is a subset of electronic commerce that involves social media, online media that supports social interaction, and user contributions to assist online buying and selling of products and services. More succinctly, social commerce is the use of social network(s) in the context of e-commerce transactions. (Wikipedia)

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Classifieds, Marketplaces and Comparison Shopping – The models

Last week Tren Griffin did a tweetstorm on a topic that fascinates me – Marketplaces. Marketplaces are beginning to take over from pure play ecommerce businesses. A marketplace is ultimately a network effect in a form of a platform that provides customers with large selection due to suppliers. Without either part of the equation the marketplace wont gain traction and make any headway.

“Network effects” is a frequently used term and it is sometimes confused with having a large customer base.  Network effects is more than just a large number of users – they kick in when the value of a product depends on how many other users there are.

When a new user/member is added to the network, it increases the value of the product or service to all other users. This increased value can be in the form of cost reduction (in user acquisition as an example), higher liquidity (in a marketplace), stronger community or deeper relationships (in social networks), etc. (Versionone.vc)

However marketplaces can also be seen as a solution to an offline inefficiency with technology (mobile). Once the marketplace reaches critical mass the virtuous cycle starts. Uber has now reached that stage and am able to do things that dont necessarily scale – offering loans to drivers etc.

One of the most important things you can do is identify and double down on the things that work in your marketplace. As your marketplace starts scaling, there will be many matches and transactions between buyers and sellers. But not all matches are created equal. Identify where things are really clicking (on both the supply and demand side) – this could be in certain geographies, audience segments, price points, and user behavior. (Versionone.vc)

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Marketplace challenges – reviews and counterfeit products

Over the last 3 months I have been looking at marketplaces in-depth. They deeply fascinate me and at the moment is the most dominant part of ecommerce retailing. There are still more intricate differences between the various different dominant marketplaces. Amazon, Alibaba, JD.com, Konga and Souq are just a few of these 2 sided marketplaces that are creating network effects for both the platform and the sellers.

However, if you look closely there are some challenges for these software platforms emerging that should have their founding companies concerned. Untruthful reviews and counterfeit products are becoming problems that provide start ups with opportunities to be acquisition targets.

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Flipkart is an outlier

Outlier – “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.”


A week ago ZDNet broke the news that Flipkart was removing its mobile website and requiring users to use their apps to make purchases. The news actually started 2 weeks ago when Myntra (Flipkart’s first acquisition) announced that they and Flipkart would be turning off their mobile websites.

There are a few things that need to be mentioned before we delve into this decision. Flipkart is an outlier and to be quite honest unlike anything I have seen in ecommerce. They have raised an enormous amount of funding from a lot of investors. To be precise they have raised  $2.5 Billion in 11 rounds from 16 investors.

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