E-Commerce: Beyond Transaction


E-Commerce has been around the internet for a while, becoming one of the reason behind the success of the Web 2.0. The modern e-commerce are often seen using the social media as their core strategies for electronic marketing, due to the increased popularity of the social media. This topic explores the possibilities of e-commerce in the future after the integration of social media, and also redefines E-Commerce in wider perspectives.

INTRODUCTION - E-Commerce From Scratch

The e-commerce activities have been around since more than a decade ago, and have changed the way of fulfilling needs of both producers and consumers ranging from just a mere transaction, all the way to corporate deals worldwide. Obviously. Both e-commerce and traditional commerce has no difference in general, since e-commerce were built base on the essential factors of traditional marketing; the involvement of producers and consumers whatever their level of needs are. Alongside the rapidly advanced worldwide-web 2.0, which is the core medium of e-commerce, the activity of e-commerce has improved as well in terms of security, convenience, and marketing strategy. More marketers take the advantage of the web 2.0’s flexibility, and since then people have different views toward e-commerce.

There are some factors of changes in the landscape of e-commerce. Some that we should noticed is that such big online consumer shopping sites like Amazon or eBay, and to many other high profile corporate websites, are not the only places where the e-commerce activity happens. Furthermore, business and consumer has been visibly gapless than ever before. Both sides has noticeably switching roles couple times; consumer being a producer, and so the opposite; creating the role of prosumer. At lasts but not least, the social networking dominance. This has been one of the mediums that some users preferred ever since the social media has become so mainstream. Almost entirely mainstream, to be honest. Despite of that, the marketers took the advantage of how social media are powerfully capable of make contents viral compared to traditional marketing.

These factors has changed the way marketers composing their marketing strategies, and leaves some spaces to the list of “products” that can be spread and even produced other than goods and services; offering more beyond transaction that involves cashes and reputations; although, however, there is an issue where most people are still viewing e-commerce as just a digital marketing. It also has slowly turns e-commerce as a “threat” toward conventional industries. The new generation of e-commerce, perhaps, will never be the same again due to its integration with the Internet. Better or worse, it depends on the user’s perspectives.

Social Media and Prosumers Domination

We are all currently live in an information age, whereas we also getting closer for the era of technology domination. Social networking has been people’s preferred media of communication and consuming information, slowly becoming one of the mainstream media; if not happened. Everybody (and virtually everything) is on Facebook, Twitter is becoming a place where people literally way talkative than in real life, YouTube are now became the alternative source of information library for film, portfolios, and advertising. Alongside for being user-generated media, the power of the social media also lies on the ability to gain so many masses of audience. In other words, the capability of turns things viral. Viral media, as Wilson (2000) has explained in his article, is literally similar to a virus. It spreads, and sometimes the users (in this case, marketers) don’t even have to spread their information repetitively; unless they are not applying some common or popular cultural knowledge, or using the marketing medium that aren’t easy to distribute and integrate. Marketers are taking the advantage within these values of social networking. In fact, the results of integrating social media and e-commerce as been proven effective from a report that Nelson (2006) have made regarding the convergence of both social media and E-Commerce. He also stressed about how the social media consumers prefers to spend their time engaged toward Internet activities such as blogging, online shopping, to as simple as updating their social media account.

Alongside the social media, we should notice the instable role of the marketers (Business) and the consumers. Both sides are often switch places and roles, fulfilling each other needs, in which most noticeably toward non-high profile marketers to the advanced consumers. As year comes, satisfaction level of the consumers toward what the industries have already offered to their audiences are rapidly increasing; whether it is a piece of music, t-shirt, all the way to industrial technology. They started to think that they could produce a better product. Moreover, employees are starting to concern about their incompatibility of their timeframe toward the timeframe of their particular office-hours and also their standard toward salary. These factors can lead to prosumption activities, where consumer is also the producer or marketers and so the opposite according to the statement that Kotler (1986, p.510-513) have made. There are lots of prosumers that taking over their marketing sites on social media, mostly on Facebook, online forum, and YouTube; whereas online shopping store like Amazon and eBay has gotten mainstream and almost entirely dominated by industry’s products. Take a look at DeviantArt as an example. It is a place where this activity happens; consuming the facilities in order to promote or commercialize their artwork. DeviantArt is categorized as a community media. Rennie (2007) has discovered and compared some similarities and differences between community and social media, where the community media is limited to the theme (in this case, art) whereas social media’s theme can be decide from the creator, totally user-generated and automated.

The Disadvantages of The Advantages

Web 2.0 is undeniably powerful in information delivery over years. Social Networking, as one of the Web 2.0’s product, is a versatile yet scary facility. With all the values of social networking, those are also become the disadvantages, especially toward the consumers.

Since knowing that social networking is a user-generated media, people have always got issues with trust. Basically, users can define what the purpose of their account will be. Users can change all the contents of their account at all time. They technically can even pretend to be someone else, another person or character that they think are better than them. The problem with the social media users is that sometimes their behavior in the virtual-reality can be the opposite than in real life, as experienced by Clemons (2007, p.268); which means, in e-commerce terms, the users can alter their information delivered on their page that mostly lead to miscommunication, or worse, scamming. I have been there. Egger (2000) argued about how complex the marketing strategies of today compared to the traditional marketing, and how e-commerce activity cannot replace traditional marketing because of the lack of direct business-to-consumer interaction in order for the customers to easily relate with the products and the sellers.

These kinds of trust issues has been around for a very long time and hardly ever cured, and the integration of the social networking site has made it even worse due to its viral elements which might lead the consumers to fall into the same hole. However, we cannot easily blame the social media for all of these. After all, those are just tools, so it depends on how the user sees and uses the value of the medium, as argued by Farhangi and Rahmati (2011) in their journal.

New Categories of Product

Despite of the disadvantages, we should look back to the title of this topic, which mark out the idea of e-commerce as something beyond transaction. The definition of the word “commerce” itself has always been linked and narrowed into marketing world. That is before people begin to integrate social media for their strategy. Using the social media as a tool of e-commerce also means that e-commerce should merge with the social media; and so the opposite. This means that the values and characters of social media should be executed. In short, E-commerce should become the social media itself.

So far, social networking sites have produced their own kinds of “products”. Thus, it creates new categories of what can we commercialize or advertised in e-commerce activity. People made or share information of others or their own on Facebook and Twitter, discovered talents and cultural sensation on MySpace and YouTube. The best question to ask for this matter in marketing language is probably “How much does these costs?” and the answer will be “user-defined”. Sensations, cultures, and talents, are those new categories. Everything that are shared in the social networking sites are literally free of charge, the only thing that could limit that “price” is the user’s decision whether they want to put the information open (free-of-charge) for everyone or in private.

Justin Bieber, in this case, is one of a great example of an e-commerce’s product. His current manager discovered him where at that time he was looking at one of Bieber’s video performing a song for a singing competition, until he currently held a recording deal and some achievement of awards. He uses Twitter and YouTube as his promotional tools, and has been proven effective; although with the cost of his name and fame being used for spam-artists to take advantage for creating false yet viral advertising.

On the other hand, Rebecca Black has become one of the most viral phenomenon and culture on the Internet. She is known with her awkward but catchy song titled “Friday”. Unfortunately, unlike Justin Bieber’s fortune, she has been a victim of cyber-bullying. People keep making harsh parodies, and nearly abusive YouTube comments for her (although now being removed). However, her song was once a 5 stars rated song on the iTunes Store. In addition to that, Rebecca Black’s phenomenon has currently gained attention from a big-name musician like Katy Perry, and even a high-profile company like World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

CONCLUSION - Possible Impact on the Society: Industry vs e-Ndustry

E-commerce has been redefined ever since the integration with the social media.
On the audience side, prosumers and their prosumption activity will keep growing quantitatively and advancing qualitatively. This will slowly become either a major issue or challenge toward the remaining proper high-profile industries, as we notice that more people relies on the prosumer’s product based on price-performance or quality wise. On the other hand, prosumers might keep active in producing products of the new categories defined from the result of merging e-commerce and social media, due to the fact that most prosumers are known active in social networking, because that is what they often use to promote.
In my opinion, it is possible for a prosumer to put in another categories of product that suppose to be produce from a real industry inside e-commerce’s list of product in the future, and I believe there will me more coming. Products like talents used to be discovered non-digitally via agency, until YouTube stuck around. Products like sensation, and culture used to be consumed from the newspapers or magazines, until Facebook and Twitter came. This conclude that goods and services are not the only products that e-commerce can commercialize.

The real industries are slowly digitizing themselves as, if I may call, "e-Ndustry" (pun intended). Those new categories of product are just the starting evidence. Although it is still not safe to say that the marriage of e-commerce and social media could mark the death of the real industry. It is clear now that e-commerce is more than just transaction; it is also about commercializing an impact within the society in a viral pace.


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