The 3 Pillars of Modern Commerce
Today, there's no such thing as "e-commerce," there's just commerce — or perhaps the "e" has come to denote "everywhere." Consider, for example, Amazon.com opening its first retail store, Target partnering with Curbside for drive-by pickup, Yelp buying Eat24 to extend its digital offering into food ordering, or Warby Parker securing the top spot on Fast Company's list of the most innovative companies "for building the first great made-on-the-internet brand" … now with a thriving new retail presence.
Brands like Amazon, Target and Warby Parker (not to mention the ultimate showcase example, Apple) represent the new era of commerce, defined by experiences that seamlessly blend the digital and physical. In the customer-first era, brands must deliver exceptional experiences from beginning to end or risk losing business to a savvier competitor. Take Gap, for example. Faced with sagging sales and the shuttering of its online-only brand, Piperlime, the company recently eliminated its chief marketing officer position with a head of customer experience.
Now that customer expectations have evolved, brands have to seamlessly connect everything from the first marketing touchpoint through the final sale. Here are three pillars of the modern commerce experience that build loyalty and drive greater lifetime value:
1. Personalization: Consumers want to be recognized as the same person no matter how or where they're shopping — be it browsing in the mall or making a quick purchase on their tablet. Personalization is more effective than marketing and merchandising to the masses. It's also less complicated than it seems if you have the right system for collecting and analyzing customer insights. Collect information throughout the customer journey to identify patterns and better understand your customers. Use the insights you gather throughout the end-to-end customer journey to better tailor your offers and interactions.
2. Convenience: Across websites and physical stores, many people make purchase decisions based on what's easiest. Retailers must provide convenient services, both online and offline, to maintain a competitive edge. Today, consumers expect to buy online and pick up in-store, or have an out-of-stock item delivered at no cost. In some cases, consumers are willing to pay more for trusted availability and convenience. Just think about the millions of subscribers to services such as Amazon Prime. To retain customers for life, think about how to make the consumer's buying journey as frictionless as possible.
3. Mobile experiences: More and more, brands are offering dedicated in-store experiences that take advantage of mobile to complete the omnichannel experience and ensure commerce happens anywhere and anytime. Apple Pay has brought mobile payments into the mainstream, but it's not enough for retailers to switch their point-of-sale systems. To do omnichannel right, retailers must think about how they can use mobile devices as shopping tools — e.g., offering exclusive deals, product information, personalized recommendations, loyalty incentives, self-checkout capabilities, stock integration and more.
As forward-thinking digital brands open retail stores and traditional retailers set their sights on digital experiences, it's time for all companies to think about the link between commerce and customer experience management. It's time to cross the bridge between the digital and physical worlds, using the same information to feed all parts of your business and inform your strategy for every customer touchpoint.
Ryan Donovan is the vice president of commerce at Sitecore, a provider of customer experience management software.