I grew up in a small town in the Netherlands, with all of 9,000 people. Most stores were located in the center., although we had a very small neighborhood store which carried a few staples. My mom would often send me to get an urgent item she had forgotten for dinner, typically before 6pm closing time. Our milkman would come through every other day, and we could also rely on one of the small grocery stores — an independently owned franchise, with a very friendly and well-known owner, who would go out of his way for his customers. He would even make deliveries for a small fee.

Today, we are in awe of how digital commerce is revolutionizing retail. But the roots of this revolution go back to the pre-digital era. Commerce has always been social, and convenience is not a new idea. But the digital tools available today are making it possible to recreate a shopping experience that dominated before big box stores and large retail chains controlled the landscape. Recently U.S. retail data showed a decline in e-commerce, reverberating the stock price of online retailers. This is likely temporary: digital commerce will assuredly bounce back to reach 25% of retail by 2025. But it is a good reminder that people make choices when they shop, often driven by their expectations. Sometimes they’re searching for a social experience. Sometimes they just want their stuff fast with the least possible effort.

In this issue we have two stories that highlight how digital commerce is rapidly evolving to meet our varied shopping expectations. The rapid rise of Live Commerce in China is now finding its way to the rest of the world. It transforms online shopping into a social entertainment experience, building relationships between the store ownerand customers. On the other end of the spectrum, ultra-fast delivery services (mostly in big cities) promise your items in 15 minutes. This is facilitated by many small dark storesthat can serve a neighborhood within 2 miles. 

The future of commerce will continue to be driven by rapidly evolving digital tools and business models. But the result will be a more diverse approach than the online big boxretail experiences that have dominated to date. We’ll see a more balanced integration between online and offline, that meet our diverse reasons for shopping while building a sustainable business for the future.

What commerce looks like in the future might even involve virtual shopping experiences that find its roots in gaming. The rise of creators in gaming is a topic of conversation in this month’s Startup Spotlight with Uri Marchand of Overwolf. 

Digital commerce and the rise of gaming will certainly be focal points for Signal 2022, which will take place on Wednesday, July 13. In this issue we share the story behind the theme – Learn. Lead. Build. – and provide a glimpse of what the program will look like. As in recent years the 11th edition of P&Gs annual Signal summit will be open to attend virtually for all Signal360 readers. We will share registration details in the June issue and hope to see all of you in July for Signal 2022.

Stan Joosten & John Battelle,
Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G