If you haven’t had a chance to click through the 113-slide deck on The Emerging Global Web yet, you’re seriously missing out. 25 years on and the web is finding new ways to be awesome, and here’s just a few of them. It’s like getting a sneak peek at the wild west of digital happening 24/7 around the globe—a duct tape and paperclip MacGyvering of social, e-commerce, branding and pure marketing hustle.
The new currency in the developing world is social commerce using the phone and other tools at hand. In places like Kuwait, Instagram is a platform that finds users selling dried fruits, potted plants, and even sheep, and in Thailand 10,000 businesses are powered by Facebook. The most interesting point is that there is no need for fancy e-commerce shopping carts—in fact, there’s no need for even a contact form to be found. This is retail and commerce at its most pure and basic—social and mobile powered selling and courier delivery.
Leapfrogging Brick and Mortar
The interesting theme throughout the presentation is just how the developing world is skipping the mall, and moving straight to online. In China, for instance, if you think you can open enough stores, “to service its close to 700 million urban residents can be outrageously expensive (or downright implausible).”
Instead, they are reinventing the market virtually in the digital space. The largest such service, Alibaba’s Tmall, already has 180 million customers, 150,000 merchants, and 200,000 brands. Think of it like Amazon on crack cocaine mixed with Red Bull and a hint of Hello Kitty for good measure. For instance, we’re not even sure if these are just kiwi’s or some sort of green cartoon super fruit, but you obviously need to have them. And when you realize how chaotic and exciting this all is, you’ll realize why Alibaba have also invented a PayPal competitor called Alipay that also acts like an Escrow account to protect consumers from rip offs, knocks offs, and other retail challenges.
Brand Still Matters
Thankfully, the combination of marketing and brand cachet is what is helping all these people find the products they want, when they want them. A subculture of affluent and influential individuals is taking their personal brands and turning them into blogs, online shops, and places to move product. Of course, these same individuals can make a killing on almost anything, like the karaoke singers earning $20,000 a month on virtual gifts, or the student making $188,000 in a month for Photoshop lessons.
So what is it that we can learn from all this? Welcome to the world of digital first consumers where email and phone calls are even more passé than they are here—WeChat is the communication currency of the day. And to throw a weird twist into the mix, QR codes actually seem to be relevant in some parts of the world—was not expecting to hear that.