On Friday ReadWriteWeb offered up the below quote from eBay’s VP of innovation -

Steve Yankovich, eBay’s VP of innovation and new ventures, sees the future of mobile commerce as various shopping interfaces that will be woven effortlessly throughout daily life—shoppable screens at the airport, at a bar table, at a mall. He heads up the company’s Zero Effort Commerce initiative, a strategy designed to make that happen…

Perhaps you’re out of laundry detergent—Zero Effort Commerce envisions an app that would learn your historical preferences and order a new box of detergent before you even run out.

Effortless shopping is a great vision, but in reading this piece I realized that eBay (and other e-commerce companies) are missing a key part of the future - the rise of connected devices.

The “internet of things”, or IOT, could be a game changer in e-commerce. Why use algorithms and data to guess what people want and when you can know?

A Series of Devices

Instead of a series of screens, we could see a series of devices that help retailers know exactly when consumers need a product. Most of these devices won’t have a screen, but they will communicate with each other and most importantly back to the retailer who controls the device.

If Apple launches the iWatch or another connected device this year, that could be the tipping point in bringing connected devices to the mainstream. Personally, I’m skeptical that we’re that close (< 1 year) to a point where connected devices will be broadly used. Apple and Google are the main players vying for control the of connected life - each pushing their own products and standards to power a connected home.

But where are the e-commerce companies or more specifically, Amazon?

A Phone…?

Given the fact that Amazon qualifies as a technology company as much as an e-commerce company, you’d expect them to be at the forefront of the how the IOT could improve e-commerce. Instead they launched the Kindle Fire phone.

The rationale was likely that Amazon could become the central hub for media and commerce by building in advantages for their services (shopping, video, music, reading) into the Kindle Fire. But are they forgetting about their core business and chasing the wrong platform? Stratechery recently wrote about Amazon’s rapid diversification -

Here’s my question: why not spend all that money – and time and executive attention – on simply growing e-commerce?

Picking the Right Devices

I predict that the e-commerce company that wins long-term will be the one that figures out how to connect to people’s everyday lives and then automate the ordering process. You can read this post for more on what’s at stake in becoming the “OS of Things.”

There should be more e-commerce companies in this race. Exactly when it will be we can’t say for certain, but there’s no doubt the future of shopping will be shaped by connected devices. Consumer’s won’t even need to know that they need an item. Connected device could know when certain items are running low because it’s always aware and take on the ordering process on behalf of the consumer.

That means convenience for the shopper, but more importantly a deep moat for the company that is able to execute.


Apple/Beats – 2 premium brands are better than 1

by Ian Rosenwach 5.12.2014

Apple faced a problem – how could they reach new customers without tarnishing the Apple brand, which commands a huge premium that has driven Apple’s growth? Answer #1: Launch a cheaper, more colorful iPhone! Call it the iPhone 5c. Give people different color cases to let them express themselves and personalize Apple devices more than ever […]

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Twitter is Dead. Long Live Twitter.

by Ian Rosenwach 5.6.2014

Twitter has had a lot of explaining to do of late. They need to onboard and activate new users while keeping existing users happy. They have to help Wall Street and the media understand Twitter’s business. Last but not least, they have to ensure advertisers see the value in Twitter as an ad platform. How is […]

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Your Move, New York Times Company

by Ian Rosenwach 3.24.2014

Last week the Washington Post announced a program for partner newspapers to provide their subscribers with access to paid digital Washington Post content. Initial partner companies will be local papers like the Dallas Morning News and Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It’s an ambitious first move of the Post under Jeff Bezos, and provides a window into his long-term strategy […]

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by Ian Rosenwach 3.12.2014

Summary: Apple’s achilles heel is fast becoming it’s software and services layer. If something is not done quickly, Apple is at risk of falling behind in software just like Microsoft did in hardware via it’s OPM partners.  Today Apple is the dominant force in hardware + software integration. But they’re at risk of losing their […]

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Disrupting cable TV will take a team effort

by Ian Rosenwach 2.22.2014

Bottom line: Cable is a huge entrenched industry. Innovation and disruption will take a team effort.  The proposed Comcast Time Warner merger cements the fact that the cable industry is not open to disruptive partnerships. If approved, the company would maintain the status quo by providing consumers with fewer choices; not innovation. See Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed […]

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Who will become the Operating System of Things?

by Ian Rosenwach 2.12.2014

The sprawling web of interconnected products that has resulted now thoroughly dominates our experience of consumer technology: if you own a Google Chromebook, your life will be much easier if you use Android and Chromecast and Google Drive, and much more painful if you try to use Windows Phone, Apple TV, and Dropbox. (Matt Buchanan, […]

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With Paper, Facebook thinks like a Media Company

by Ian Rosenwach 2.4.2014

Yesterday Facebook released Paper, a new stand-alone app to browse content. Paper represents a dramatic departure from Facebook as a place to connect with your friends. Paper aims to connect you users with the rest of the world. It’s also the first step towards Facebook becoming a media company. Your Friends – Just a Channel […]

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Is the Internet a public utility?

by Ian Rosenwach 2.3.2014

The question is, Has the Internet become so fundamental to our lives that it is, in essence, a utility that should be subject to regulation? (NYT) Nick Bilton poses the above question today on the New York Times’ website. It’s a question that is at the heart of the net neutrality debate. Net neutrality refers […]

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Apple on the defensive?

by Ian Rosenwach 1.20.2014

Instead of the round-the-block lines that have greeted Apple product introductions in China and other countries in the past, only about a dozen customers showed up to buy iPhones at the opening of a store in Beijing – despite the presence of a special guest, the Apple chief executive, Timothy D. Cook. (NYT) I admire […]

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