The web has caused revolutions in many spheres over the past two and a half decades. It has changed the way people interact with one another. It has changed the way businesses operate. It has changed the way information spreads. From retail to politics, its fingerprints are found on every aspect of modern life.
The digital marketplace acts as a kind of litmus test for the rest of the online landscape. Technologies developed to help sell products and services tend to end up influencing other areas. And so studying its evolution is a good way of understanding its past and looking to where the future might lead.
In the early days of the web, domain names were an essential asset for any organisation looking to build its brand and make its mark. Yet many major corporations were slow off the mark and had to deal with cyber-squatters in the mid-90s. From MTV to McDonald’s, there was a degree of complacency with regards to establishing an online presence, which seems bizarre in retrospect.
History is doomed to repeat itself, and a similar scrabble to plant flags in virgin turf came about when social media rose to prominence. By this point, businesses were much more web-savvy and didn’t let their names get hijacked in the same way. But as the digital marketplace evolved, individuals effectively became their own brands, and there were new avenues for imposters to cause mischief.
Today social accounts of all sizes and types, from corporate accounts like @casumocasino to individual brand giants like @KimKardashian, act as the digital mouthpiece for the organisations or individuals they represent. And the need to verify these accounts is as much about ensuring that users trust the platforms themselves as it is about protecting brands.
Disrupting Traditional Markets
While connectivity has opened up lots of new avenues for innovation and profit which never existed in the past, in most cases it is the disruption of existing markets that has had the most significant impact, both commercially and culturally.
The retail sector was the first to feel the pinch, with the rise of online shopping leaving people less likely to consider visiting bricks and mortar stores. Footfall figures continue to dip today as consumers benefit from more choice and convenience via e-commerce outlets, as well as the promise of lower prices.
Smartphones have played their own part in fuelling this disruption in recent years. Or more specifically, the application ecosystems which have built up around portable devices have allowed new businesses to emerge and snatch revenue from under the noses of complacent incumbents.
As controversial as it may have become, taxi app Uber is the perfect example of the stage that the digital marketplace has reached. The idea of hiring a cab has existed for decades, but by taking full advantage of the capabilities offered by modern devices, while also delving into the emerging ‘gig economy’, Uber pulled the rug from under an entire industry.
AirBnB has played a similar role, selling itself as a way of empowering individual property owners and accommodation seekers at the same time. While such claims might not always ring true, there is no questioning the impact of these services.
Essentially a company can provide the framework for a service, the foundations of a platform, on which millions of users are able to build their own businesses. This is at the core of the evolution of the digital marketplace. From the early days of eBay and Amazon to contemporary app-based behemoths, collaboration and community have been the key to success
The Importance Of Accessibility
Another underpinning tenet of the digital marketplace has been the drive to get people what they want faster and cheaper than before. Taking the need to rent physical outlets and hire sales staff out of the equation is one side of the coin. Ensuring that the infrastructure required to provide connectivity to as many people as possible is the other.
It has got to the point that many services are offered effectively free of charge, both to consumers and business users. This is because information is the currency that holds sway over the modern marketplace. And in exchange for a few personal details when you sign up, many sites and developers are willing to open the door to their products without any other form of payment.
With issues like net neutrality and data protection hot topics at the moment, the future of the marketplace is difficult to predict. But connectivity and accessibility will be at its heart, whatever happens.