The Convergence of Digital Media and Commerce

Digital media is increasingly becoming the preferred tool for both the supplier and the consumer toward providing the much-needed convenience. Convenience has become the key word that coins today’s businesses, be it technology, retail, social media, or pharmaceuticals, to name a few. It finds application in the various stages of a product or service life. For example, the convenience of product delivery by e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba or the convenience of transportation by Uber, the convenience of product assembly for the auto giant Tesla or the convenience and comfort of a home away from home by the hospitality and travel partner Airbnb.

On close observation, analysts have found this word at the base of many economic trends. One such trend is its non-relevance to the economic slowdown. Research shows the viability of e-commerce globally, especially in the United States and across Europe; although they have been hit hard by recession, the growing habits surrounding the convenience, comparative shopping capability, and lower costs have secured it for a foreseeable future.

Another trend that is closely associated with convenience is that of convergence. Colgate-Palmolive, an American worldwide consumer products company, defines convenience as “anywhere, anytime, however, the consumer wants it,” making convergence in digital technology inevitable. The rapid technological growth and evolution of communication devices have shaped the present scenario wherein the consumers are sensitive toward buying. They are smarter and well equipped to make an informed purchase. eBay Inc., the multinational e-commerce corporation, believes that “the convergence of digital media and e-commerce is something everyone is going to be reacting to over the next couple of years.” Communication devices like mobile phones have integrated the Internet of Things, hence making Big Data a reality.

With the ever so growing markets in terms of both products and consumers, the customer profiling and product recommendation tools are increasingly being used to integrate past brand interactions with “big data” insights that help in predicting shoppers’ likely needs and ways to purchase through digital media. As a result, artificial intelligence, also known as AI, has become the next big step toward e-commerce and digital convergence. This is being achieved by allowing machines to interact with shoppers, thus highlighting relatable requirement and products. As per the Forrester reports, the usage of AI-enhanced services is on the rise, with more than a third of U.S. online consumers saying that they are increasingly using a website’s virtual agent or a smartphone-based virtual assistant, such as Apple’s Siri or Google’s Assistant, to seek customer service help.

In the present market space, consumer e-commerce is mainly driven by two factors: price and convenience; that is, a good deal on products over digital media that are delivered quickly. As e-commerce evolves, consumers want “more for less.” Research has found that consumers are more partial to traders who offer personalization and customization. For example, online buyers shop for unique goods that they will not find in big-box retail chains or something for which they would not like to spend hours shopping in physical retail stores. In order to customize consumer experience, merchants today are open to converging digital platforms and AI to revitalize their businesses through what’s been termed as “conversational commerce.”

In conversational commerce, explicit searching and browsing activities replace natural-language dialogue. For example, keyword-searching for products or navigating through the customer service section to find shipping information helps the consumer make very informed purchases. From Facebook chatbots to onsite product discovery tools, merchants are using such tools to give shoppers a readymade and user-friendly access to their products and schemes. Whatever the platform, these implementations are built on a common foundation: a solid knowledge of the customer experience and the purchase life cycle. As a result, suppliers are expecting that their own AI-enhanced shopping experiences would be far more reliable if they have a wealth of such data and best practices to draw upon.

E-commerce is bound to get more and more dependent on digital media. The provision of unique and desirable shopping experiences, online and real world, is quickly becoming a key means to enhance and differentiate a brand’s value proposition and market share. But the suppliers must ensure that the experience in question should provide genuine delight and value; otherwise, there is a danger that consumers could view it just as a stunt or gimmick.