Round table about the future of online retail focusses on role of marketplaces

Rianne Beuker •  30 October 2018

mobile shopping

EINDHOVEN – Last Thursday, all kinds of Dutch and Belgian e-commerce experts gathered in tech city Eindhoven. The occasion: a round table session, led by OnlineRetailer, about the future of e-commerce and omnichannel retail. Different topics passed the table, like: How do consumers shop in 2020? How can retailer differentiate? Are B2B companies still behind? And what role is to be expected from marketplaces? This last subject turned out to be a hot topic.

About twelve experts from all kinds of digital commerce companies, like marketplace Bol.com, digital commerce platform vendor ecManager and SEO agency Blauwe Monsters, sat around the table to share vision, knowledge and experiences with each other. The topic that gathered the most attention was the current and future rol of marketplaces in the online retail market.

Especially the big global marketplaces were under fire. Alibaba, for example, received criticism for having an unfair price advantage, because of the free shipping sponsored by China. Most participants agreed that government intervention is required to stop this practice. Another unhealthy market development mentioned, was the world domination strategy of Amazon. They are developing their own brands, and are trying to control over the complete supply chain, including production and distribution. This leads to imbalance of economics and a concentration of power that is bad for businesses and consumers.

Are customer relations being overrated?

According to Dutch marketplace Bol.com, the company has a different approach. They look for (exclusive) partnerships with retailers by supporting them with branding opportunities. According to Bol, this enables retailers to differentiate with their brand story. A critical note from my side was that those retailers will lose ‘ownership’of their customer relations and the related data. Bol.com stated that ‘owning’ the relation is overrated. There’s not much you can do just with just knowing an email address.

I pointed out that it’s not only contact information. It’s all the data you can use, in fact that you need to use, in order to improve order value, conversion, product procurement, pricing and online shopping experiences. Using this data for competitive advantage is not only for enterprises. Mid market retailers with an e-commerce partner and technology, like ecManager and Microsoft Azure, are perfectly capable to increase business results with their data and technology. Once explained, Bol expressed a positive and open approach about the idea of sharing more data with their retailers in order to enhance retail partnerships.

Will there be room for small retailers in the future? I think all round table participants agreed that there will be. Technology and cloud services are now much more accessible and affordable, which means that smaller and mid market retailers can use them to do online business.

For a full report on all topics of this round table, please read the upcoming Omnichannel & E-Commerce issue of OnlineRetailer.

For more related content, download our Dutch whitepaper: Eight E-commerce Technology Trends for 2019.