Delivering World-Class Experiences
As consumers, we are empowered, demanding, and increasingly digitally savvy. We expect to research and purchase our goods anywhere, anytime and via any channel or device. We expect to be able to choose when and where we receive purchases—whether it’s on our doorsteps or over the counter at the brick-and-mortar version of the store from which we purchased them. Finally, we expect to be continually recognized and valued for our business.
Brands know that keeping up with those consumer expectations is increasingly challenging. Behind every customer’s commerce experience lies a plethora of processes, systems, services, and data that need designing, integrating, testing, and supporting.
This is the everyday reality facing CMOs and CIOs who are grappling with how to deliver world-class commerce experiences. The winners will be those who:
1. Adjust to changing consumer behavior
The way customers behave is evolving rapidly, partly due to a mix of progressive disruption, rates of new-technology adoption, advances in science, and new sources of competition. Consumer research is still an effective way to lend an ear to their immediate needs, but it’s not enough on its own. Consumers can’t predict what they’re going to want next month or next year. Capturing data is key to tracking trends, but acting quickly on those trends is even more important.
2. Get to market quickly
Unless you’re a start-up business, you’ll have a wealth of “heritage” processes, data, and systems. In order to deliver a seamless commerce experience, all of these things will need to be connected to various critical web components. This can be time-consuming, risky, and complex. Aim to develop and implement in small steps rather than taking a big-bang approach. Successful brands, instead, tend to chip away, using pilot programs for smaller initiatives to gain feedback quickly. And where long projects are unavoidable, businesses enmeshed in Continuous Commerce™ continue to deliver incremental change in parallel. It’s as much about thinking tactically as it is strategically these days.
In a crowded and competitive market, connecting digital technologies with physical stores and real people is key to successful differentiation. In the UK, Argos was the first to connect website and store inventory by launching a “Click & Collect” service in 2000. This has since been widely imitated globally, but at the time this wasn’t an obvious move because the industry was obsessed with dotcom businesses and home delivery. Figure out what’s unique about your business, and how digital and physical can be combined differently, and how to optimize assets you already own, and make them work hard for you.
4. Deliver round the clock
Lots of the systems and processes underpinning an “always-on” commerce experience aren’t actually always on in the sense that they don’t operate 24/7/365. This won’t do. Brands need to face up to changing working practices and business processes, finding suppliers and services that can support uninterrupted service and creating workarounds for any IT system restrictions.
5. Get global, and personal
We are fast becoming global consumers. We travel frequently for work and pleasure. We live in different countries from friends and family. We bring back new products and tastes and want to continue relationships with overseas brands, and yet we still like to be treated as individuals, acknowledged and rewarded for our business. Winning brands will use data and technology to deliver functionally rich, immersive and personalized experiences that are relevant to our needs, and that support our globetrotting exploits and continue to earn our loyalty.
6. Choose the right service provider and technologies
The cost of services for an eCommerce program is many times the cost of the technology, so it’s critical that brands choose the right partners to help in their quest for success. Top brands choose partners that can help shape commerce strategy, define road maps, choose technologies, deliver commerce programs, and manage ongoing support. A partner can also coordinate the many third parties involved in a Continuous Commerce™ program.
Technology can do amazing things, but it’s what you do with it that counts. How brands bring together technology, people, geography, customer service, and user experience today will dictate tomorrow’s commerce winners—and ensure the bar remains high for the competition.