The Ultimate In Preemptive Distribution
In my co-authored book, The New Rules of Retail, one of the new rules is preemptive distribution. Simply stated, it is defined as distributing a product to reach consumers first, faster and more often than all of one’s competitors, thus, preempting the fierce and excessive number of competitors. And today, this strategy is further enabled by technology and the Internet, including the unprecedented impact of smartphones. There’s a whole chapter devoted to this new rule and it offers deep perspective on how to implement this strategy.
In this warp speed world where new technologies and millions of new apps appear each day, there’s a preemptive distribution technology that is turning science fiction into reality. It’s called “distributed commerce.”
Think about how many times your brand is mentioned or appears online, in print, social media, advertising, on TV, in conversation, and on merchandise. Now imagine every time consumers engaged with your brand or product, wherever it may be, were automatically connected to a “buy button” that allows them to complete a purchase from any of these locations in under 60 seconds. This may sound like something impossible or out of a futuristic film, but technology companies have been working on this accelerated access for years, and according to better tech minds than mine, it will be everywhere within the next five years.
Distributed commerce removes what techies call the friction (time and/or number of key taps) associated with retail destinations and traditional POS or EPOS, allowing a consumer to buy any product, at anytime, anywhere. It also requires what is called universal checkout technology. Essentially this technology provides the “next big thing” in distribution. It infinitely broadens the omnichannel concept, providing a limitless number of distribution points. This is the kind of unlimited and instantaneous access consumers expect today. If they spot a product they want, anywhere, they should be able to purchase it wherever they are. In other words, products can be digitally brought to them instead of making customers search for the product.
There’s a pioneer in this distributed commerce space, a company named Shoppable, who claims to be the leader in universal checkout technology.
Launched in 2011, Shoppable claims to be the first and largest distributed commerce-technology company, and says that consumers have engaged with over 300 million products this year. Their mantra is to increase consumer touch points, driving sales in places never before possible.
Hundreds of retailers are using Shoppable technology to make their products accessible to consumers on new multi-distribution platforms. For example, if you’re reading a story on Makeup.com about “how to get supermodel hair and makeup,” you can click to buy the items they use in the tutorial directly from the article and complete your purchase all in one checkout, even though the products come from different places. Live The Look, a digital stylist site, curates apparel and accessories from both top retailers as well as niche designers based on each consumer’s input of the styles she prefers. Every showcased product can be clicked on and purchased in the “showroom.” If something doesn’t work out, the customer can return it via mail or to the product’s original physical location, whichever is most convenient.
Although distributed commerce through universal checkout has only been around for four years, marketing products through third-party websites in exchange for a revenue share has been a standard practice in e-commerce for over 20 years. It’s commonly referred to as Affiliate Marketing. Rakuten Affiliate Network, eBay Enterprise, and CJ Affiliate by Conversant are a few examples of affiliate marketing companies that help retailers market their products online, which also increases the number of distribution points. However, the challenge for digital publishers, bloggers, and other affiliates has always been to reduce the time and number of key taps from when consumers discover a product on the site to when they purchase it. Conversion decreases with every click a user makes and decreases even further for each new site introduced in the ecommerce process. Shoppable’s universal checkout technology, which is patent-pending, provides a solution for reducing the so-called friction from the moment of spotting a desired product to purchasing it.
As I’ve said a million times, the new POS is the consumer, wherever they are. Given the increasing number of digitally savvy consumers and their high expectations of the shopping experience, both online and off, the physical world of retailing will shrink and the physical experience will have to be enhanced out of necessity. Part of improving the experience is, of course, perfecting omnichannel retailing by integrating all distribution platforms for interchangeable use by consumers. Accordingly, the pursuit of preemptive distribution will intensify, seeking out new distribution platforms that consumers can access more quickly and easily wherever they are, and whenever they want something. The future of distribution and how retailers and brands will connect with consumers is not through consumer destination points-of-sale, but through consumer-based points-of-sale.
Technology innovation will further empower distribution strategies by empowering consumers. My advice: Learn everything you can about these tech breakthroughs and adopt the best solutions for your business. Don’t get caught in wake of this warp speed world.