I’m an outsider. I have never been employed by a retail organisation. Perhaps if I had, I would never have developed my perception that retailers are consumers. Everything I do, every module I develop with my team is driven from a (real) consumer’s perspective rather than from a retailer’s perspective.

From day one in this business I struggled to understand why ecommerce was different from any other type of commerce. I’m wary of ‘walls’, so I could never really grasp why any enterprise would create and covet artificial barriers such the one imposed around e-commerce some 15 years ago. What the heck do consumers know about channels after all?

I do get all the arguments behind that decision though:

  1. The Internet is not here to stay
  2. We are afraid that our other channels will lose out
  3. It’s new, so let’s see how it will play out
  4. Our field crew / stores / branches generate the majority of our revenue and we don’t want to upset them
  5. Who gets the commission?
  6. Who covers the costs?
  7. Insert your excuse here…!

B2B companies use the same arguments too.

However, all these arguments have one thing in common – they are born out of fear, the fear of losing something. I can relate to this fear when businesses fight against external competitors, when an athlete battles another one, when enterprises compete for the same market space. There is always the possibility of losing.

But, to breed that fear inside an organisation, I do not get. Shouldn’t an enterprise’s ultimate goal be to increase its bottom line, regardless which channel has contributed how much to it?

In my experience enterprises are so busy discussing internally who gets the bigger piece of the pie that they are failing to notice that the pie is shrinking on a daily basis. Is that just human nature? Either way, I can’t help but think that those companies who fail to swiftly shift their internal compensation structure (and that is in so many cases the only hurdle) will soon be fighting for survival.

There is one inconvenient truth. Like water erodes stones, the Internet and its users have very quickly brought the inter-channel walls crashing down. Many organisations now find themselves stripped down to their foundations. Let’s hope those walls were not the load-bearing walls of their enterprise.

An organisation without these walls is not necessarily exposed. It is liberated. Suddenly, so many things that once seemed so hard to achieve (click & collect, in-store personalisation, empowered shop assistants, a new type of point-of-sale, support for emerging touch points) become easily possible. E-commerce becomes what it’s supposed to be… commerce!