Image of Foc Jesse Genet Ecommerce Retail Hitting Its Stride

Future of Commerce

eCommerce is Just Hitting Its Stride

Jesse Genet, Founder and CEO, Lumi

Technology has dramatically reshaped the shopping experience in recent years, but that’s nothing compared to what’s coming.

Much of the infrastructure that enables eCommerce has been in place for some time now—overnight shipping, flexible packaging, computers, mobile phones, and the consumer Internet (which is now in its third decade). What’s about to kick eCommerce into high gear is a cultural, demographic shift.

As consumers, we’re now at a point where we know how eCommerce works. We can do the math and we want to pay lower prices—younger generations especially. There’s finally an alternative to the way retailers have done business for the past several hundred years. The jig is up.

How did we get here?

For centuries, manufacturers made things, then worked with distributors and brokers to get that stuff stocked on shelves. Hopping in a car and going to a mall hasn’t been much different than hitching up your horse and wagon and riding to the general store to pick up all your daily essentials. Until now.

The history is simple. Big consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands leveraged a commodities system to build a massive stronghold through their relationships with retailers and wholesalers. As a result, retailers got bigger. The goal was to create a convenient, one-stop shopping experience for consumers. In the process, the store became the arbiter of what you could buy. You couldn't just go to Colgate and knock on the door to get toothpaste. You’d have to go to a store. Conveniently, at the store you’d come across other items you needed.

But what if you didn’t have to hop in your car every two weeks to buy toilet paper and toothpaste and everything else you need? What if all your essentials just came directly to your home? Suddenly, with all that time back, you can’t imagine wasting your day doing that anymore. Stores are no longer the gatekeeper. They are now just physical spaces where you might go to browse and learn and discover. eCommerce, and the ability to buy commodities at any time of the day, has eliminated physical stores’ massive, powerful role that they once had.

What’s about to kick eCommerce into high gear is a cultural, demographic shift.

Chores vs. experiences

While it can be a joy to shop for products that we truly care about, most of us will never be excited by shopping for toilet paper and deodorant. We don’t need to see them or touch them, and we can get them delivered on subscription. That’s much better because it’s convenient.

So, stores that once relied on foot traffic to market products to customers now need to be more active on the web and through social media. As consumers, we’re more intrigued about a brand that several of our friends recommend than a display table at the drugstore.

Yet, on certain occasions, there’s still something magical about shopping in-store. We like leaving our houses and seeing other people. We like experiencing products and brands physically—things that are impossible to do online. The stores we like may have special events with limited-edition products and coaches to walk us through what they can do to help our lives.

The shift to eCommerce requires retailers to quickly and continuously figure out how to provide differentiating value to customers. This is a big challenge.

New business tools required

The shift to eCommerce requires retailers to quickly and continuously figure out how to provide differentiating value to customers. This is a big challenge.

Businesses are finding new levers for control, but they’re different from the old levers. Traditional retail infrastructure was built over centuries, but the eCommerce infrastructure is still being built with various resources—from web tools for online stores to a new generation of 3PLs to facilitate the needs of direct-to-consumer brands.

The people launching incredible new products are great business thinkers, marketers, and storytellers, but they might not be logistics and supply chain specialists or experts in manufacturing and fulfillment. Entrepreneurs need help so they can focus on getting their own brands cranking and scaling. They need tools to do their jobs better. You shouldn't have to be an expert in managing customs to run a swimwear company.

Packaging is one of the tools that can make a difference for a new product or one in a crowded field. No matter what you’re opening, there’s an emotional experience. At a minimum, an order should arrive on time—it should arrive safely and cleanly. From there, additional features that excite customers can be layered in. For example, beautiful packaging and branding is great, but are the materials easy to open? Are they recyclable? Do they add to the positive experience?

Fortunately, great entrepreneurs are also at work developing new tools to help entrepreneurs reach customers who are becoming more comfortable with eCommerce all the time. The cultural shift—how we shop differently because of the now-mainstream nature of eCommerce—has reached a tipping point. We've all figured out how it works. We’re not going back to the stores of the past. We demand new experiences. There’s no putting this rabbit back in the hat.

We’re not going back to the stores of the past. We demand new experiences.

Tell Us More

What's one piece of advice that you give that you follow?
Something I really like to keep in mind is remembering that your customers are just people. Sometimes in our quest to market our products to them, we get tone deaf. You have to reach them on a human level.

What's something, as an industry, we aren't talking about that we should be?
The physical impact we're having on the manufacturing sector. We're all heavily reliant on manufacturers, and I don’t think we talk enough about who they are and their concerns. That’s a problem because we can’t sell something if someone didn’t make it.

What's a product that you buy online now, that you never thought you would?
I buy basically everything online. I even buy cosmetics online. Maybe that doesn't sound that crazy, but there's a previous version of me that wouldn’t have done that. I also recently bought live plants online—that’s kind of crazy.

What would you never buy online?
There's nothing I would never buy online. I really can't think of a single commodity that I
wouldn’t buy.

You are a new addition to the Crayola box. What color are you?
I think I'm electric blue—a very shockingly bright version of blue.

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Jesse Genet

Founder and CEO | Lumi

Jesse Genet is the founder and CEO of Lumi. After facing packaging challenges with her first business, an art supply company called Inkodye, she and co-founder Stephan Ango launched Lumi in 2015 to streamline the packaging supply chain. Jesse has been an entrepreneur since she was 16.   Lumi is an online tool that makes it easy for eCommerce brands to ship their products in great packaging. The Lumi Dashboard brings the capabilities of an extensive factory network online to match the ideal manufacturer to each custom order. Lumi is the centralized platform for any eCommerce brand's packaging supply chain.