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Insights / Blog / Agility & Organisation

The stagnation of E-Commerce

February 16, 2016
Alain VeuveAlain VeuveManaging Director, AOE Switzerland

One can observe an incredible demand for E-Commerce solutions in the market. This has been going on for years. And one would think this would bring with it a large number of new players and intense competition. This hasn’t happened by any stretch of the imagination. If one subtracts all of the marketing speak what remains is a certain stasis. Basically, not much has changed during the past eight years. Those that are paying the bill are the companies that want to carry out E-Commerce. An urgent plea for a paradigm shift.

Magento, the rocket

When Magento was introduced into the market a few years ago it represented a true revolution. For the first time, concepts and many best practices became available to smaller and mid-sized companies that heretofore were only accessible to companies with large budgets. Magento – that was a revolution.

What has developed since is remarkable: market leadership in nearly all relevant segments, a large ecosystem and the de facto standard for companies who are newly entering the E-Commerce arena. Everyone benefited (myself included). The best point of departure for the future, one would think.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t continued to develop along these lines. Rather, one has the feeling that the rocket has jettisoned its stages after running out of propellant and is now “floating” in space and – at the very most – occasionally uses its auxiliary engines. This is somewhat painful to everyone who has been on board the “Magento Rocket” since day 1.

That isn’t to say that everything is bad right now when it comes to Magento. After its split from eBay Enterprise the company is in a phase of re-defining itself. With Magento 2 a completely reengineered product has not only been announced, it has also been delivered. Marketing is ramping up. A lot more is possible than before the split.

What is missing though is visionaries, people who want to deliver a radically improved product. Today, there is a lot more to lose than one can ostensibly win. Market domination, user base, customers or, probably most importantly, investor’s trust.

And so everyone blows into the same horn of the established systems. As mentioned, those that lose out are the customers. Today, what was once the promise of salvation is now simply a very, very good offering.

Limitless potential

But, what we are able to currently discern is that such a monolithic approach to E-Commerce isn’t likely to be terribly successful. Compared to the usage of the Internet the growth of E-Commerce is moving along far too slowly. I maintain that the reason for this is that we, as E-Commerce operators, are far to fixated on building an “online shop” to carry out E-Commerce. What is ignored is the customer experience, something we find ok only because “that is how everyone else does it” and because we don’t know any better.

“What if E-Commerce, as the industry understands it, isn’t the best tool to sell online?”

All the lamentations and studies and comparisons of online- vs offline additionally cement this mindset.

But just ask around to find out why things aren’t purchased online. The answers are multifaceted, of course. But, it’s notable how often it’s mentioned that the process is simply too complicated. Especially in the mobile area. And especially for older people, who have various incentives and the money to buy online.


Spryker has made headlines in recent months. In fact, I think Spryker will be a future trendsetter, as it can be seen as more of a framework for Agile E-Commerce development rather than merely a set package of features.

It’s a fact that what merchants need today is flexibility. And a short time-to-market. And low costs. I think Spryker has it all. It is, so to speak, the framework for all companies who are serious about their E-Commerce initiatives. What remains is that the conceptual input and a minimum of best practice must come from the customer.

Something that is certainly present in the segment of big pure-players. In Europe, however, these can be counted on four hands. An interesting market looks different.

The exuberant majority of interesting customers that don’t yet have a large E-Commerce initiative (e.g. first steps with a “simple Magento shop”), also have only very little E-Commerce know-how. And just because they have an improved tool at their disposal doesn’t mean that they will necessarily be more successful now.

As a new player I would begin there and build up a relevant learning-community. You can earn money in that way and there is no better acquisition than people who are convinced of a product’s advantages, simply because they became “empowered” only by using this product.

We don’t need another E-Commerce system

I therefore don’t think that we need another E-Commerce system. What we do need is a Commerce system (without the “e”). A retailing system that provides best practice solutions for different verticals.

One that seamlessly combines on- and offline and begins by solving today’s problems – those that the customer has in interacting with the provider. And consistently offers solutions for these issues, solutions that work. Such a provider will shortly be fishing not only in the E-Commerce pond, but also in the ERP- and POS ponds as well. And that is, when one considers the unbelievably outdated and expensive systems in this sector, a huge opportunity.