Ecommerce has lost its way

Or: How DTC took the torch and ran with it

Modern ecommerce is boring. Really boring. What was the last great innovation in ecommerce? Mobile first design? Don’t say ‘headless’ – that is not shopping innovation. And it’s not all that interesting (don’t @ me).

I equate modern ecommerce to the old school paper order form in the middle of a catalog in 1992. We’ve settled on 2% conversion rates and optimizing silly pieces of the site. From a high level, every site is looking more and more like Amazon. Do you think you can beat someone by mimicking them perfectly?

Remember the great stores of old? Nordstrom for example. They hired great sales people who actually made it fun to shop. When you’re being sold to by an expert, it’s fun. And it becomes something you want to go experience on a regular basis. Are there any websites you want to experience regularly? Instagram, Facebook, Tiktok – which are becoming the modern malls of the digital world. But no one is making shopping fun. I went this weekend looking for clothes. I couldn’t believe how similar all the big apparel sites were. And how much they all look like Amazon now.

Shopping should be visual. Ecommerce sites are massively dropping the ball here. I believe the innovative creative people have moved from old school ecommerce to DTC sites. Give Peloton some credit: they have a killer product detail page. DTC doesn’t try to mimic the structure of Amazon or, they free themselves up to build interesting funnels and unique experiences that are notably absent from ecommerce sites.

It’s time to take some risks. And to stop focusing so intently on analytics for a minute. What can you do to make shopping fun? Try something interesting. But here’s where I think we should be focusing:


We all agree with the notion of being different in general, but not many of us are doing it. It’s time to try something completely different and make your site more fun to shop than Amazon. What can you do to make picking a shirt fun instead of just transactional? Start thinking of your site as a portal to the metaverse if that’s what it takes. But build something that is fun and will get you attention. For one second don’t worry about SEO, bounce rates, the damn brand or the speed of your customer’s internet connection.


We all talk about how the internet is going to video. 5G is here and we’re seeing the start of really fast internet connections. It’s time to be testing and exploring video, so that you can execute on it when you need to. Every test I’ve done with video on an item detail page has increased customer satisfaction and conversion. I’m shocked at how little video is used throughout traditional ecommerce sites. Again, the DTC guys are rocking on this. Don’t tell me it’s hard. iPhones take perfectly acceptable video if you have some $500 lights. Just start trying it.


Building a funnel works exceptionally well for DTC companies. It’s a process you tweak and perfect over time. But it seems completely absent from ecommerce sites (except in checkouts). I think it’s time to start stealing ideas from the DTC folks and making it work on a site with a ton of skus. The funnel is powerful because it customizes the purchase to you. Figure out a way to pull customers through the buying process and (again) make it interesting and fun. Try to build something that looks nothing like Amazon.

Rip off your favorite social site

Tiktok is addictive. Why? Because the measure everything around a quick video so that they know exactly whether you like or not. Then they serve up something else you’re going to like. I don’t see why this won’t work for Nordstrom. Or even Home Depot. Video is the killer next medium of the internet and it should be always shot up and down (like a phone, not like a TV). And you can create a studio inhouse that can produce a 20 second video of all your new skus fast. The math is easy. So try it with 100 skus and see how customers engage.

Do something

Stop doing what Amazon is doing. Start doing something different. 2% conversion rates are not a law of physics. They are an artifact of Day One of the internet. Contrary to Mr. Bezos, we’re now on Day Two and it’s time to step up your game.

Jay Allen
Digital believer. Started an ecommerce website in 1997 and been focusing on digital marketing ever since. B2C, DTC, B2B, I've done it all from building campaigns and up.
Atlanta, GA