During the Democratic presidential debate two nights ago, this idea of the fourth industrial revolution came up several times.
The fourth industrial revolution is commonly thought of as the current and developing environment in which disruptive technologies and trends such as e-commerce, the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are changing the way we live and work.
Each of these technologies plays a different, sometimes overlapping part in how our economies and societies have changed and continue to do so. In some minds for the better and in other more pessimistic ideologies, for the worse. Today we’ll focus on one specific massive influence on economies globally: e-commerce.
It’s hard to even break off one specific part of this revolution. Clearly, the other factors play a part even within the e-commerce space. For example, AI and IoT affect when, where, and why we decide to make purchases. Algorithms and machine learning find us where we are closest to making that buying decision, and often push us across the finish line.
But what I’ll focus on about e-commerce is what it affords us – the ability to connect to an entire literal world of products and services available in real-time and/or a relatively short shipment away. Consumers no longer walk around their block looking for deals. They remain in the comfort of their own home, a click away from a new coffee table or TV stand.
Nearly all (96% per Commission Junction) retail advertisers out there have seen website visitors from other countries this year. The need for a storefront in an area with high foot-traffic is no longer a necessity to make sales. This raises competition, but in the end, it can be argued that both the consumer and companies win.
The Harvard Business Review published the following: “Business leaders are scrambling to adjust to a world few imagined possible just a year ago. The myth of a borderless world has come crashing down. Traditional pillars of open markets — the United States and the UK — are wobbling, and China is positioning itself as globalization’s staunchest defender.”
Data from Nielsen reports that the worldwide average of online shoppers who make purchases from overseas retailers is 57%. In Europe that number is 63.4%. It’s more important to focus on branding from an international perspective than ever before. If you can find your niche and that niche isn’t necessarily in the country you reside, you can still find success.
China and APAC countries represent the next growth “horizon”.
Tim Brown, co-founder of Allbirds (shoe company), recently called China the “brand’s horizon for future expansion.” The question, though, is how are they doing this?
There are three main strategies employed by Allbirds. First, partnering with local vendors. Second, investing in an on the ground team. Depending on size, this may include localization, marketing, logistics, customer support, sales, and engineering. Third, establishing an online presence through third-party marketplaces and/or a branded ecommerce site. Branded sites are more costly, but they provide more data and better customer relationships.
Xavier Lee, a Managing Director at Jumpstart Commerce had the following to say about China: “There is no simple answer to China. Reexamine your product to determine market fit. Start talking to Trade Associations. Get yourself on the digital ground with a WeChat account. Move around the different tier cities to glimpse how consumers behave. Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.”
The same advice would apply in other geographical locations. Get to know your target consumers. They might be in places you didn’t predict. But that’s okay. As the world globalizes, we are all connected to one another in a way never before imaginable. It’s beautiful and scary all at once.
Don’t let your company get left behind in the fourth industrial revolution. Harness the power of “borderlessness”. You can do it!