Shopify Grows, Amazon Slows: A Bellwether for Ecommerce’s Future

When a customer goes to Macy’s to find a new lipstick, their journey doesn’t begin at checkout. In fact, their journey is probably already well underway before they even step foot in the store. Today, 81% of American shoppers research products online before buying in store. So, by the time the average customer arrives, they’re already saddled with information, inclinations and likely some expectations about what their shopping experience will bring.

The journey begins in earnest, however, the moment they cross that invisible frontier into the beauty department. I say in earnest because even the most laser-focused, single-item shopper will inevitably slow their pace ever so slightly after entering their store of choice. The bright lights, delicate music and heady blend of fragrances crowd their senses and begin to color their perceptions of not only Macy’s, but also of the countless other brands they encounter.

Even if not noted consciously, each brand takes on a hint of that fragrance, a tinge of that lighting and a suggestion of that melody. When a brand representative steps forward and engages them, that attitudinal recalibration kicks into overdrive, going from unconscious sentiment and association, to conscious consideration and decision-making.

What that representative does and says (and how they do and say it) can quickly swing the shopper’s brand attitude in any number of directions. But, even the most impactful representatives will always be captive to their context. Even the most compelling sales pitch will inevitably fall on deaf ears if the music being played over the PA is littered with profanities and pushing 100 decibels.

Assuming all goes well, though — and the customer isn’t appalled and/or deafened by the in-store audio — she’ll make a purchase. And it’s not until well after she’s completed that transaction and left the store that the customer experience comes to an end. While some of the details of her experience may be unique to brick-and-mortar businesses, the shape of the journey isn’t. And the lessons to be learned from that journey can help to inform new strategies to be applied to ecommerce.

A Fresh Look at Ecommerce Shoppers

This sensorially rich, experiential form of brand engagement has long been seen as the exclusive terrain of brick-and-mortar retailers — and therefore an ineffective avenue to pursue on digital channels. Prevailing wisdom tells us that online shoppers are, above all else, purchasers — driven almost exclusively by the rational economics of price, selection, and convenience. This myth has persisted as long as it has (despite not holding up to even basic psychological scrutiny) thanks in large part to Amazon and its decades-long reign as the undisputed king of ecommerce.

However, we may soon be able to put this idea to rest. Over the three-month period from July through September, average monthly unique visitors for Shopify-powered sites landed at 1.16 billion, while Amazon managed just 1.10 billion over the same period. In fact, Shopify sites saw an average year-over-year traffic growth of 108.5% each month since May 2020, whereas Amazon traffic just 9.9% over the same period.

Though Amazon still towers over the DTC market in terms of total revenues, these vastly superior traffic trends tell a much more important story than one of simple scale — they tell us where consumers want to shop online. They reflect a turning of the tides, away from the chilly, utilitarian model of efficiency-first ecommerce, and toward a warmer, more substantive model in which consumers place meaning above money, brand above budget and connection above convenience.

There are of course many aspects contributing to the success of DTC brands and their supporting technologies.But it’s impossible to ignore the fact that most if not all of their most fundamental features and characteristics are not just different from Amazon, but diametrically opposed to it. While Amazon takes the word “monolithic” to new extremes, platforms like Shopify thrive by staying low to the ground and expanding outward. While Amazon reinforces the walls around its closed ecosystem, this new breed embraces integration and interoperability across the open web.

And while Amazon focuses its CX efforts around streamlined payments and optimized recommendation algorithms, the champions of decentralized ecommerce thrive on enabling distinctive brand experiences, omnichannel integration, and more engaging, immersive shopping experiences. And although Amazon won’t be rendered irrelevant anytime soon, consumers and businesses are flocking to decentralized solutions by the millions as they offer a new, path forward, promising autonomy, opportunity, and reclaimed ownership of their brands, customers, and increasingly-valuable data.

Live Commerce Equation: Where It Thrives, Where It Dies and Why

Over the past 12 months, the ecommerce industry has been abuzz with curiosity, excitement, and no shortage of confusion, around the emergence of live commerce and shoppable video in the West. And if China continues to be a strong indicator of what’s to come for the U.S, then there’s plenty of good reasons to be excited: 2.49 trillion reasons, to be precise.

With their focus on things like direct customer engagement, and authentic brand experiences, the DTC industry has become a fast and natural friend of live commerce – with DTC brands being among the earliest adopters and most effective users of this new medium. In contrast, despite many attempts to reinvent and revitalize the chilly Amazon shopping experience, including Amazon Live video streaming, the ecommerce giant has failed to capture the live commerce magic seen elsewhere.

Of Amazon’s 100M average daily visitors, only 300 watch Amazon Live videos. Instead, the walled garden bulwark has held fast as the familiar digital destination at which shoppers add product to cart, transact, and leave. If anything stands as a true litmus test for these two rival models moving forward, it’s this. Live commerce represents the largest, most promising growth opportunity within ecommerce today – and this new face of online shopping has proven itself a model of what’s to come in the decentralized future of Web 3.0.

Matthew Lynch is Global Head of Industry, DTC at Firework