Hang on to your CVV, because e-commerce is about to transform rapidly.
By 2025, global e-commerce sales are expected to reach nearly $7.4 trillion, driven by a burgeoning middle class and growing internet and smartphone penetration (Figure 1, below). This growth will take the proportion of online sales from 15% today to a third of all retail sales worldwide.
Figure 1: Global e-commerce sales (2019 – 2025)
Unsurprisingly, Chinese consumers will be the largest contributors to this shift, with $3.2 billion in e-commerce sales expected by 2025 (40% of the total), followed by the United States with $2 billion. and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) with $1 billion.
Although social media, marketplaces and online communities will continue to play a central role in the growth of e-commerce over the next decade (and beyond), it is the rapid change of Web 3.0 innovation which is the biggest revolution in the way we, as consumers, buy. , and how traders sell. Prepare for big changes.
From Web 2.0 to Web 3.0
In a Web 2.0 world, the world of online communities and marketplaces, a handful of global and regional leaders have dominated the e-commerce market.
Amazon and Alibaba, in particular, have leveraged significant first-mover advantage and built top-notch physical infrastructure, payment systems and software, to create a proverbial E-moat around their marketplaces.
Social media platforms have also been a key driver and enabler of e-commerce, especially in Western markets with platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest and Snap; while in China, e-commerce is amplified by WeChat (owned by Tencent) and Douyin (the localized TikTok).
But looking to the future, however, in a Web 3.0 world, our experiences with brands and merchants will illuminate three innovations to revolutionize this space, as e-commerce becomes smart, ubiquitous and, in many cases, decentralized. . What do we mean by that?
Smart: E-commerce experiences will be highly personalized, with advanced machine learning ensuring that we see (and receive) the products and services that interest us. Anyone who has ever searched for a product to see it on multiple online feeds will have an idea, but soon an AI will know our style preferences (patterns, color, cut), budget, size, brands, origin, carbon footprint – you name it. . Imagine walking through a mall and receiving notifications (probably in your smart glasses) of a new pair of Nikes on sale 10 meters away, which are exactly the pair you were looking for (even if you didn’t). weren’t consciously aware of it) ).
Omnipresent: Our shopping experiences will not only be limited to the store and online, but will be present in all the interactions we have every day. Smart refrigerators and trash cans, for example, will automatically reorganize basic household products, and washing machines will notify us of wear and tear. Imagine being able to make purchases in Amazon Prime Video, i.e. pressing the shop button during James Bond to buy the Tom Ford sunglasses or the Omega watch. Wherever you are – at home, in the cinema, in a game or in a restaurant, e-commerce will be there, amplified by machine learning and big data.
Decentralized: In a decentralized environment, first, we will have more control over our data (size, preferences, age, expenses) and can choose the experience we want. We will be able to browse a completely personalized metaverse environment (perhaps a shopping space that only sells what concerns us) or enter a metaverse shopping mall much like the shopping malls we have today. Second, decentralization will mean instant payments using digital currency, which will lead to reduced working capital and credit risk for the merchant. Finally, we will see a move towards a more decentralized e-commerce infrastructure and fewer touchpoints, which ultimately will empower those who own much of that infrastructure, like Amazon, Alibaba, JD .com and Shopify.
Over the next decade, some of the world’s leading conglomerates will continue to make waves by adapting and innovating their solutions around e-commerce. For example, Shopify and Amazon are investing heavily in their distribution network and aligned technologies like robotics. Meta is gradually building its vision of a metaverse, as semiconductor leaders like Nvidia continue to develop cutting-edge technology to enable e-commerce across the entire value chain.
But beyond the majors, we’re keeping tabs on a cohort of highly sophisticated emerging tech companies, many of which give us insight into what to expect from e-commerce in a Web 3.0 world.
Innovator #1: Wiliot
Wiliot, which has attracted investment from AWS, Pepsi and Samsung, is developing semiconductor technology that can be incorporated into a range of products including medicines, clothing, packaging and groceries. These devices (hidden in product labels) will be able to automatically detect the expiration date, usage and temperature of products, ensuring that essential items like medication are automatically re-ordered. It is one of the best current examples of integrating pervasive computing across the entire e-commerce supply chain.
Innovator #2: Niantic
Niantic, developers of the hugely popular AR game Pokémon Go, have opened up their AR platform to brands, to enable location-based AR experiences in the real world. By collaborating with hardware developers like Snap, which are rolling out 4th Gen glasses, it’s easy to imagine an environment where a real shopping experience is enhanced to provide instructions, product recommendations, sizes and offers specials. We’re also likely to see leaders like Meta, Microsoft, and Apple boost their ad revenue by offering unique and targeted advertising opportunities. Right now, Snap has developed (and continues to develop) opportunities for its customers (Gucci, for example) to sell directly through the app through custom AR lenses, allowing customers to “try on” virtually a pair of shoes before buying. . Similar tools already exist for sunglasses brands and will become the new normal for the number of consumers who interact with a brand in the future.
Innovator #3: Lilium & Beta Technologies
While not directly a Web 3.0 innovation, rapid advances in transportation technology will catalyze even greater efficiencies in delivery times (an important part of the ubiquitous, instantaneous environment in a Web 3.0 world). Advances in electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) technology – which allows aircraft to hover, take off and land vertically, such as that developed by Beta Technologies and Lilium, will enable organizations like UPS and FedEx ( and likely Amazon and Shopify) develop custom fulfillment solutions to ensure delivery in less than two days, regardless of location. In congested megacities like Sao Paulo or Mexico City, it is difficult to make timely deliveries, and delivery to the regions is also difficult. But just watch eVTOLs solve many of the execution headaches in these places.
Now, although Wiliot and Niantic are private companies for now, there are still ways for investors to benefit from the great innovation in this space. Holon’s Photon Fund has incredible exposure to this sector through holdings in Amazon, Shopify, Alibaba, Tencent, Alphabet, and Block (to name a few). All of these companies are very innovative in the field of e-commerce, both globally and regionally, and continue to expand into new streams of products and services today (within Web 2.0) and in the future (Web 3.0).
Of course, there are many who say that we can never completely lose the physical points of sale and that nothing will completely replace the touch and feel of a product. As with print and now remote work – how well the buying public adapts – or endures – will be fascinating to watch unfold. The innovators are certainly ready to continue bringing e-commerce into a whole new era.