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eCommerce is Dead, Long Live Commerce

Online Shopping And E Commerce Technology Concept, Shopper Using Computer Laptop To Input Order With Trolley Credit Card Delivery Truck.

eCommerce has transcended its traditional boundaries set over twenty years ago, morphing into a holistic experience that extends far beyond mere online transactions. This recent transformation has been fueled by the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the Commerce ecosystem, propelling the industry into a new era of personalized, intelligent, and immersive shopping. Holistic commerce is the aim now, where customer monologues become a dialogue, transactions become interactions, and Commerce becomes more than just about systems, but about business outcomes.

Personalization Redefined

Gone are the days when online shopping and B2B purchasing merely involved scrolling through a list of products. Customers are now looking for immersive experiences utilizing AI solutions that have the power to analyze vast amounts of customer data to gain insights into preferences, behaviors, and purchase history. This allows businesses to craft hyper-personalized experiences for each consumer, which ultimately puts the customer in the driver’s seat of choice and preference. This level of personalization not only enhances customer satisfaction but also drives increased conversions and loyalty. AI algorithms help guide customers’ tastes, and buyer preferences anticipate their needs and even predict future buying trends.

Is Seamless Commerce the New ‘Frictionless’?

The holistic evolution of eCommerce means that shopping is no longer confined to only one channel. Consumers now expect a seamless experience across various touchpoints – from online stores and mobile apps to social media and in-store interactions. AI empowers businesses to provide consistent and engaging experiences across these channels by analyzing customer behavior and optimizing content delivery. Customers now prefer a commerce experience that can be started and finished in any channel they want. Websites and native apps are now accessed in-store and in person, where devices are becoming voice-controlled, and AI ensures a seamless journey where the customer needs the brand to be. B2B companies incorporate comparison buying, social, sales representatives, and support channels to help their clients understand their procurement options and contract rates through personalized websites.

AI-Powered Chatbots and Customer Support / Self Service

Customer support centers staffed with dozens of customer service reps (CSR’s) are now becoming a legacy way of working for brands. The recent trends around intelligent bots provide near-instant assistance by answering queries, addressing concerns, and even guiding customers through the purchasing process. Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities enable chatbots to understand and respond to customer inquiries just like a human representative would, ensuring a round-the-clock support system. This not only enhances customer satisfaction but also reduces response times and operational costs for businesses. As more B2B companies turn toward online assistance and self-service for real-time information, the criticality of these functions to be detailed and precise will exponentially increase. This means that both customers and customer support view and understand a single version of the truth across the order lifecycle.

Order Management as a Commerce Catalyst

Inventory management is fundamental to making the customer promise and seeing it through. Post-purchase experience design is a key enabler of customer lifetime value. From a systems perspective, Order Management Solutions (OMS) enable brands to optimize their inventory levels, minimizing stockouts and overstock situations. By ensuring that the right products are available at the right time to the right channels, operations become streamlined and revenue potential is maximized. Additionally, the OMS has the next-generation business logic required to satisfy both the expectations of the customers and the demands of the business to maximize return on the investment of inventory. Where previously eCommerce was the sole focus, now brands must have the right strategies and capabilities to enable accurate inventory promising to be served in real-time to consumers.

The Evolution Toward Visual Search and Augmented Reality

Visual search and augmented reality (AR) technologies are bringing the in-store experience to online shopping and an online shopping experience to B2B procurement. Visual search now allows customers to snap a picture of an item and find similar products available for purchase. Improved buying journeys are further sustained by customers virtually trying products “on” or simulating their use before procurement, now being enabled by generative AI solutions. There are similar applications of this in the furniture space as well, as consumers now can see their living rooms and bedrooms with an augmented view of what the new room will look like. The ‘eCommerce’ landscape as we know it could not have conceived this just 10 years ago. Commerce is now enabled to be where the customer wants, fueled by AI.

The holistic evolution of eCommerce is being driven by AI towards “Commerce” itself, thus reshaping the way we shop and do business. No longer confined to online transactions, eCommerce has expanded to encompass personalized experiences, multi-channel interactions, and intelligent decision-making. New capabilities and operational processes are being developed to enhance personalization, streamline operations, provide seamless customer support, optimize order management and order lifecycle management, and even bring virtual experiences to life.

eCommerce is dead, and in part, AI killed it.

As the synergy between Commerce and AI continues to grow, the future promises an even more immersive and intelligent shopping experience, revolutionizing the world of Commerce as we know it.

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Zach Zalowitz

Zach Zalowitz is considered one of the leading voices in the post-purchase experience space, and has an expertise in order management solutions in the market. Prior to Perficient, he was VP of Digital Technology and Digital Experience at Foot Locker where he oversaw a global team of digital experts focused on the website and mobile app experience. He writes often on the state of digital experience online and instores, and all the parts of the customer journey in between.

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