Multichannel Commerce: Creating Loyalty in the New Era of Syndicated Commerce
Multichannel commerce has evolved; the lines between channels are disappearing. Retailers have long built strategies for marketing to shoppers within a channel, whether it's online, in-store, through a catalog, via a mobile site and so on. But today's shoppers view retailers holistically, regardless of how and where they choose to shop. This dynamic changes everything for retailers. They're now required to promote their brand and products consistently, in relevant context, to individual customers. The era of "syndicated commerce" is upon us.
In this new paradigm, retailers are using their e-commerce website as a virtual hub for commerce across all channels — e.g., via smartphones and wireless devices such as the iPad; on social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter; through transactional emails; customer service encounters; in-store; etc. This evolution changes the relationship retailers have with consumers. It doesn't matter what "door" a customer walks through. Retailers must identify individual shoppers as a prospect or a returning customer, then offer the right promotions and products that provide a compelling experience that's true to their brand. This new one-to-one relationship between retailer and customer is tricky, but it provides new levels of customer engagement, deeper customer loyalty, and will ultimately drive sales and profit.
In the new world of syndicated commerce, content, promotions and customer interactions are syndicated from a central commerce hub (i.e., today's e-commerce platforms) across all channels. There's one source of content, one inte- grated product catalog and one source of history relative to each customer. Retailers can drive acquisition, conversion and retention in the new world of syndicated commerce quickly if they think about retailing from the customer's perspective. It's not really e-commerce anymore; it's just commerce. And consumers want commerce at their fingertips, at any time and at any place. The transition to cross-channel syndicated commerce can begin with the following three easy steps:
1. Focus on customer experiences first. Drive relevancy through targeted, personalized experiences delivered consis- tently across all channels. Shoppers' expectations of a robust, rich, informative, responsive and personalized experience applies whether they're shopping online, via their mobile phone, responding to a transactional email, visiting a store or interacting with a customer service representative. First and foremost, build an integrated central customer database that provides complete customer history and preferences. Use this history to inform personalized emails, mobile promotions and on-site experiences.
2. Establish cross-channel integration strategies for product and promotional information. Whether a consumer enters via your website, brick-and-mortar store or mobile phone, sales and loyalty will grow if you deliver consistent brand experiences and offer relevant products and promotions. Here are a few examples:
- Deliver personalized offers and promotions via email or text message to be redeemed online, in-store, via your mobile site or through a customer service interaction.
- Holiday gift lists can be sent to customers reminding them of the items they purchased last year — and whom they sent them to. Offer to package and send these items to the same list of recipients, saving time for harried holiday shoppers.
- Allow shoppers to select items in-store, purchase them via in-store kiosks displaying your website and have them delivered to any address they choose, simplifying holiday gift giving.
- Provide additional product information online, as well as giving consumers the option to interact with a customer service representative on the phone or via live chat.
- Develop transactional pages on social sites that can promote featured items or special discounts as items are "liked" or recommended.
- Enable shoppers to share product recommendations through on-site postings or linked social networking pages.
3. Integrate business processes and multiple storefronts. As e-commerce platforms become the central hub for marketing to consumers, conducting transactions and providing customer service across all touchpoints, integration with the enterprise technology environment will continue to be a requirement. Retailers must build integrations between their commerce hub and the following systems:
- Order management and fulfillment systems are critical components to customer satisfaction. Regardless of which "store" a customer purchases from, retailers are responsible for understanding what they bought, when it was shipped, when it's expected to be delivered, and any product return or customer history information that's relevant. Doing so assures a seamless and satisfying experience for customers.
- Customer relationship management systems are central to customer satisfaction, and can often be the source of profitable cross-sells and upsells. If customers are offered specific items or products which are in line with their preferences and buying habits, they're more likely to transact.
- Business intelligence and analytics systems help retailers understand which promotions and channels are most effective. Remember, cross-channel view is essential to optimizing offers and driving transactions across all touchpoints.
Pure e-commerce is becoming a thing of the past. Today, retailers who embrace syndicated commerce across all of their channels will differentiate themselves from their competition and become more relevant.
Tools and technologies exist today to make syndicated commerce a reality. Work with your e-commerce platform provider to create a sound strategy, and implement effective tactics across all channels in which consumers interact with your brand. Syndicated commerce is being driven by consumers and has the potential to drive revenues, enhance customer loyalty and build stronger brands for the retailers who embrace it.