I had announced it here. I said it would take a few weeks, and instead it took a few months. Oh well, you know how it is, ‘a revolution is not a dinner party’ – but finally we made it!
I think the result is totally awesome.
But let’s take it one step at a time.
Since the beginning of time, if you go in a store the merchandise you see is that which the storekeeper has prepared for you: the showcase, shelves along the walls, shelves behind the counter, goods strategically setup near the cash register. Take highway service stations as an example, they even have mandatory routes through the shop so that you see exactly what they want in the order they want, otherwise you can’t leave.
eCommerce, despite its advances, has never really left this mentality behind. Sure, nobody can force me online to go through all the shelves before leaving – if you try, voilà, one click and I’m gone, already in another site, shopping at somebody else’s store. And yet everyone, and I mean everyone, really EVERYONE!, including the Gods of eCommerce (from Amazon to Ebay and all the rest) conform to the rule by which commerce, in the Internet era (unlike communications and information), is still incredibly push: I want to push that product, so I’ll dazzle you with it in the showcase; that agent pays me a fee, so I put his products in the limelight; that publisher runs a promotion, so his books go on the homepage; I want to push that author, so I put him in the newsletter, etc.
I can’t find any exceptions, go ahead and take a look yourself, and then come back here (we’re focusing on books, but this discussion could be applied to all goods): Amazon.it, ibs.it, LaFeltrinelli.it, Bol.it, Bookrepublic.it, …
Done? See what I mean? They all do the same thing: push push push.
Not us. Not any more. We at Ultima Books just don’t do that any more. Go and see for yourself, then come back here, but not without playing around a bit first: UltimaBooks.it.
Done? See what I mean? Awesome, isn’t it?
Sure, if I enter for the first time and nobody knows anything about me, the bookseller has to show me something, right? So he shows me what he thinks might interest me, mainly because it interests him… but hey, the first thing he does is give me the keys to his shop, giving me free run of the showcase, and even the shelves! I can open and close them as I like, I can create new ones, and I can move them up and down as I please! And if I register on the site, then next time it’ll recognize me automatically. So every time I come back to UltimaBooks.it I’ll find more than just the bookseller’s picks, I’ll have my very own shelves, a true custom permanent bookstore which will automatically update my custom shelf with all the new releases on each subject, on the particular category, on my own personal search keyword that I wanted to keep an eye on (an author, a location, the title of my dissertation, etc.). WOW! Totally unprecedented!
This is why the revolution is over: one small step for UltimaBooks, one giant leap for commerce as a whole. The power is no longer in the hands of the seller, but the buyer; and if the seller wants to sell, he’ll have to rely on the buyer, his preferences and choices, his interests and motivation, providing him with the best-performing and most appealing system possible in order to meet those needs.
So why did I put that almost in the title of this post? What is the commerce revolution lacking in order to be declared over and commerce, with the help of ecommerce, ready for the digital era?
Obvious: it still lacks the possibility to share and exchange personal shelves. That will be our third step. I hope it will be done by February 2012. From that moment on our book-lover friends will not only be able to open and close, move, create and delete shelves, with choices that remain effective and unchanged with each new visit to the bookstore. They will also be able to decide if and which personal shelves can be shared, in order torecommend them to their friends or just plain everyone, and there will even be a ranking of the most useful and liked shelves. In order to create my own ideal personal bookstore, I’ll be able to go to all the shelves other users have decided to share.
I myself find it to be an intriguing journey, so much so that it would be a shame to keep it all to ourselves. This is why, once the third step has also been completed, we’ll make the technology behind all this available to everyone: to all our online bookstore colleagues, but also all our online merchant colleagues. And after ecommerce has taken this final step, who knows, maybe something similar will come to mind for offline commerce, in “physical” shops – never say never….