Live from Retail Systems 2006: Are You Ready for Web 3.0?

Chicago—According to Dr. Andreas Weigend, most multichannel merchants are in version Web 2.0 of e-commerce—but version 3.0 is coming upon us.

The former chief scientist of Amazon.com, Weigend discussed the ever-increasing interactivity of the Internet and its effect on marketing in the Monday morning opening keynote of Retail Systems 2006 at McCormick Center here.

Web 1.0 was “read only,” Weigend said: Companies pushed out product and information to the masses in the traditional “one to many” marketing formula. For online marketers the emphasis was on stickiness and making it difficult for site visitors to leave.

Weigend described the current iteration, Web 2.0, as “read and write,” or “live Web.” Largely because of the lowering barrier of entry, the Internet has become more democratic and more crowded, with blogs, tagging, and the like sharing cyberspace with merchants and traditional publishers. Consumers now use blogs and social media such as MySpace and YouTube to inform companies of what they like and don’t like, in effect pushing their opinions out to marketers. The result, he said, is a reversal of the “one to many” model into a “many to one” model.

We’ve moved, Weigend said, “from a vendor-centric Web to a user-centric Web.” While this indicates a loss of control on the part of the marketers, with the Internet magnifying the power and breadth of consumer word of mouth, it also presents opportunities. Sites that encourage users to contribute product ratings, for instance, are “getting other people to do work for us,” he said. And while a marketer may be tempted to edit or censor unfavorable customer reviews or feedback on its site, by keeping that information visible, it can actually gain greater credibility among its target market.

What’s more, Web 2.0 offers marketers an addition source of information for decision-making: explicit data, actual commentary and feedback from consumers. Marketers in the Web 1.0 era relied solely on implicit data–information gained from observing user behavior— but today they can combine both types.

As for Web 3.0, Weigend said that it is based on a “many to many” marketing model. Consumers push information out to companies, which in turn push it back out to other consumers. It is an evolution from “architectures of participation,” he said, to “architectures of interaction.” In addition to focusing on the relationship of the user to the product, merchants will also have to take the relationship of the user to other users into account.

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