The story of e-commerce’s rise is familiar to anyone reading this blog post. Amazon.com began selling books over the Web in 1995. Plane tickets (Orbitz) and auctions (eBay) soon followed. Then, seemingly, so did every other product category under the sun.
Dive deeper into the numbers, however, and a more nuanced narrative emerges. Some product categories, such as groceries, remain tiny online. Others, such as computers and consumer electronics, have ballooned. Smartphones, TVs and PCs now comprise 22% of all online sales, according to eMarketer, and is expected to grow to $108 billion by 2018 worldwide from $66 billion this year.
The conventional wisdom – that consumers avoid purchasing expensive items online – seems obsolete. Online sales of luxury goods will double over the next 5 years to US$27 billion by 2018, according to McKinsey and Co. Sales of big ticket electronics such as TVs, tablets and unlocked smartphones are rising equally fast.
Online was a channel that we simply couldn’t ignore anymore; there are too many customers eager and willing to buy from us online. Take our latest hit phone, the BlackBerry Passport: at Amazon.com, it has consistently ranked as one of the top-selling unlocked phones since its release more than 2 months ago, while garnering 4.8 out of 5 stars from reviewers.
Going online makes us much more efficient and agile. As quickly as the BlackBerry Passport kept selling out after launch, we were able to quickly make the phone available again via ShopBlackBerry and Amazon. We’re also now able to give consumers the buying options they prefer: online, carrier and retail stores, and more.
Finally, selling online also grants us better control over the total consumer experience. For instance, we’ve been able to link our ShopBlackBerry to electronic resources such as device manuals and apps that help users port their data from other phones – and vice-versa. And they can mix and match a wide variety of phone accessories. Consumers expect that sort of convenience today. And we’re more than happy to deliver it.
As we gain more experience with this amazing channel, expect us to become better online merchants, offering ever more convenience, efficiency and value to customers. While North American consumers have been the prime beneficiaries thus far, we plan to expand our online sales to many other countries soon (stay tuned). By embracing online retail, we are consciously choosing to embrace the future, in order to help ensure the viability of BlackBerry for years to come.
About Marty Beard
Marty Beard (martyjbeard @ Twitter) is Chief Operating Officer at BlackBerry. He is responsible for leading cross-functional operations, including Marketing, Strategic and Application Partnering, Pricing, Corporate Support and Quality, eCommerce Sales and Security Evangelism. Marty previously served as Chairman and CEO of LiveOps, Inc., a software and services provider of cloud applications for customer service. He was also President of Sybase 365, a mobile messaging and mobile commerce unit of Sybase, Inc., and Vice President for eCommerce at Oracle Corp. He has a B.A. from UC Berkeley and an MBA from Georgetown University.