The Elusive 4th C of E-Commerce

By Dror Liwer

For years, I have insisted that the secret sauce for any successful e-commerce strategy is weaving the “3 Cs” into a fabric that engages the consumer and facilitates higher conversion rate and basket size. And, I haven’t been the only one. Numerous e-commerce strategists believe the 3 Cs—Commerce, Community and Content—are the cornerstone of any relevant strategy.

However, very few e-tailers fully leverage all three of the Cs. Of course, all have commerce. Some have both commerce and community: Amazon has massive commerce and a tremendous community of peer reviews, lists and feedback. But, it’s all purely transactional—beyond shoppers’ sometimes entertaining first-hand report of their product experience, there is no “infotainment” to engage the visitor.

Others have commerce and content, but little community. J. Peterman, for example, does an exceptional job with content, telling an engaging and entertaining story behind each product, but there’s little emphasis on community.

In fact, I can’t think of too many sites where all 3 Cs truly co-exist—Sears and Continental Airlines are making strides, but few others are even close.

The Missing C

So, why is it that after all this time and much discussion about the importance of the 3 Cs, very few are actually implementing this holy grail of ecommerce to successfully grow conversion and basket size?

I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a missing C – it’s not 3Cs, but 4.

The missing link is Curation. Much like a museum curator carefully selects appropriate pieces and meticulously arranges them in such a way for the audience to understand and appreciate them, the e-tailer of the future must curate its collection and offer it to audiences in an intelligent way that makes sense to their consumer.

Curation Premium

While this notion of curation may sound expensive, I firmly believe shoppers are willing to pay a premium for this added service. Consider the Nordstrom difference: unlike the on-your-own experience you’ll find at a discount retailer, Nordstrom sales associates will help you find the perfect item to suit your needs. You’re not only more apt to buy from them because of the service, but willingly pay—and still feel good about it, knowing you made the best choice.

Think Boutique

E-tailers must employ this same strategy, and curate their assortment—in essence filtering their millions of products intelligently to deliver the most relevant selection to their customers. They must think boutique.

Hayneedle has made great strides in this boutique-style shopping experience, despite its massive selection. By using technology to curate its “sweet variety” at the product level into more than 200 specialty stores, it offers a boutique-style shopping experience with products curated to match its customers’ habits, tastes and desires. An integrated shopping cart allows customers to shop each boutique individually, but then aggregate those purchases into a single cart for easy checkout.

Red Envelope offers curation “by purpose,” offering products to satisfy virtually any gifting need, curated around events, holidays and special occasions. And, customers willingly pay a premium to enjoy this curation. Red Envelope shoppers know that the gifts they buy will be perfect, beautiful and really unique as a result of the curation service provided.

Curation Cuts Through the Clutter

The e-commerce evolution has created a pathway to massive selection for consumers and provided infinite opportunities for small shops to compete head-to-head with gargantuan big box retailers. But, as the fragmentation and plethora of choice begins to overwhelm consumers, curation is becoming imperative. For e-tailers that do the legwork to curate the selection, there is tremendous opportunity to generate repeat business, increase margins, build basket size and conversion.