9 May 2012
ShipServ CEO and Founder, Paul Ostergaard recently delivered a speech at the International Maritime Organisation on the digital future of shipping e-commerce. View his presentation and read the extract from his speech below.
IN ORDER to look forward to see how the internet will continue to change e-commerce and trading, it is perhaps apt to firstly go back, in fact, back to right at the beginning of man, when our prehistoric ancestors began to trade through bartering and swapping.
This was the first example of what is now being coined ‘collaborative consumption’, a phrase that I feel will become more commonplace again thanks to the combination of internet technology and trust mechanisms.
Traditional trade over the centuries has been shaped and standardised through a number of associated sectors and institutions that have acted as middlemen to help us trade on a global scale.
These institutions such as banks, insurers and dealers have provided mechanisms to help us buy and sell and also provide information to help us learn and trust our trading partners.
These middlemen have helped us to facilitate globalisation but there are also associated transactions costs and in the 20th century in particular, this led to a period of hyper-consumption and the full ownership of products.
When the Internet came along in the 1990s there was talk about disintermediation, even in Shipping, but this didn’t happen as fast as we thought as the trust mechanisms were missing from the new digital world that needed to be put in place first.
From our perspective in shipping e-commerce, we can now see three clear eras/ages of e-commerce that have developed in the last twelve years: Connectivity, Information and Trust
When ShipServ launched in 2000, we went through a period of five years of helping to connect both buyers and suppliers, which we tend to label as the Age of Connectivity.
Once we had enough buyers (shipowners and shipmanagers) connecting with suppliers across the Globe, came the Age of Sharing, Curating and Using Information.
Using the knowledge gained through the first five years of connectivity we were able to begin to expose this information through the creation of ShipServ Pages, our supplier sourcing directory providing the ability to match buyers with relevant suppliers according to trading history.
The information period and the curation of data has gained growth and traction over the last five years and we are continuously improving, but we are now entering the Age of Trust and this is where the technology provided by the internet can be really powerful.
Trust guides much of our behaviour while we are online and using e-commerce. In fact, trust governs many day-to-day activities, whether business or personal, online or offline, but it has been the hardest part to get right particularly in the shipping industry.
We have implemented our own trust mechanisms on ShipServ Pages with TradeRank, Reviews and Verifications enabling buyers to gauge each supplier by their activity and recommendation from peers.
The next stage of trusted mechanism is collaborative consumption, which is used to describe an economic model based on sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting access to products as opposed to ownership.
This has been highlighted most dramatically in the consumer space where sites such as Airbnb – which offers room for rent- and Zip Car – a car sharing portal– have grown at a phenomenal rate as people hire space or share cars rather than buy one outright.
Another site that is evidence of the power of peer-to-peer is Zopa, the community bank that provides a lending exchange with rates far higher than traditional banks.
The basis of these sites is trust, built on the ability to rank and rate the user and to access a product or service that is specifically required rather than own a product outright.
The B2B e-commerce space will always be behind the B2C curve, mainly because the decision making process is slower for a business, compared to a consumer that can make a decision instantly, but I truly believe that in the next few years, technology will turn some elements of trading back to its prehistoric roots through this new phenomenon of collaborative consumption.