​BigCommerce predicts future ecommerce to be fuelled by voice

The company's first CTO has said merchants need to be prepared for the online shop of the not-so-distant future, predicting that it may be a space fuelled by voice-based natural language interactions.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor on

Consumers have been driving the state of ecommerce since the first online shopper placed an order from British retailer Tesco back in May 1984.

Since then, ecommerce has come a long way, with technological advancements driving the industry at speed. However, merchants need to ensure that they are active in the spaces where the consumer wants to be, according to Brian Dhatt, chief technology officer at ecommerce startup BigCommerce.

"The experience is really about connecting with the consumer's desires and making sure you are meeting their expectations. We won't be able to push users to an interface that they don't enjoy," Dhatt explained.

"I as a merchant, if I ever choose to restrict the way customers work -- they have lots of choice out there -- so to me, the best thing one can do as a merchant is to make sure that you are transacting the way that customers want to transact."

Speaking with ZDNet, Dhatt said one direction he sees the future of ecommerce heading is towards voice-based natural language interaction.

"The most telling thing about voice interfaces like Amazon Alexa or Google Home is when I look at the next generation out there, so if I look to my nieces and nephews ... I'm amazed by their interactions," he said, adding his parents were probably confused by his desire to shop on a desktop instead of at a store.

"The next generation after us spend a lot of time on mobile and here we see it with 50 percent-plus of sales. The generation beyond that I see spending a lot of time on voice interfaces.

"I will be very surprised in five to 10 years from now if we don't see much like the mobile revolution, a revolution where most folks are buying using natural language and voice interfaces."

Most importantly, Dhatt believes that good ecommerce is fuelled by great technology.

"The better you are at it, the better you are at serving customer," he added.

Dhatt joined BigCommerce in October last year as the company's first ever CTO.

He joined BigCommerce from cross-border commerce company Borderfree, where he led all aspects of product and technology as the company's chief technology officer, as well as through an IPO in 2014 and its acquisition by Pitney Bowes in 2015.

"These revolutions we see out there in commerce, as an example the move to mobile, it was really interesting at Borderfree to spend some time inside of China or South Korea and see that ecommerce started on mobile there, because most folks didn't have hard-lined internet connections at home, they tended to do anything they did on the internet on their phones," he explained.

"It was a great wake-up for someone like me who had spent all his time in US domestic ecommerce to actually learn how different commerce was in some of the emerging markets."

BigCommerce is an Australian startup, headquartered in Austin, Texas. It has an office in San Francisco, in addition to its foundational office in Sydney, where Dhatt said engineers have been with the startup for eight to 10 years working on critical areas of the BigCommerce system.

The company was founded in 2009 and bootstrapped until mid-2011 when it closed $15 million in Series A funding from General Catalyst Partners.

BigCommerce then received $20 million in Series B funding in September 2012, and raised another $40 million in Series C financing from Revolution Growth, an investment firm led by AOL co-founder Steve Case.

In November 2014, BigCommerce announced $50 million in Series D funding had come from investors such as SoftBank Capital, Telstra Ventures, and American Express. It secured another $30 million in a funding round led by GGV Capital in May last year.

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