Devotion through data

You know the old saying, about how numbers don’t lie? Here’s the thing about eCommerce today: The numbers don’t always tell the full story, either.

Most eCommerce firms today operate under the assumption that their own transactional data is adequate for merchandising their products and creating compelling offers. This is a far too limiting view in that it ignores the reality that consumers are spending only a fraction of their time with brands. In fact, there are vast amounts of data available about—and, increasingly, from—consumers that contain the exact treasure we’re all searching for: in-market intent or buying signal data.

First, an overview of sorts. Continuous Commerce is an ideal laboratory for exploring the possibilities for using data to drive consumers through the buying process and, ultimately, cultivating devoted fans of the brand.

Consumers are in perpetual motion, and smart eCommerce players recognize a simple fact: Even customers who buy something from them—no matter how loyal—are not necessarily as engaged with the brand as you might think. Not only are people busy, with more channels of interaction than ever before, they are also distracted when it comes to making a buying decision. This constant motion, coupled with an abundance of information about products, features, and prices, leads to a paradox of choice for consumers that, frankly, causes them to stop short. It makes them indecisive. As practitioners of Continuous Commerce, can we make it easier?

We can, but doing so requires looking at consumer information in an augmented way…especially data from outside the enterprise.

Consumers’ behaviors and interactions with other brands through various channels can give us a textured and multidimensional view of their preferences, desires, and intent to purchase. If we can intelligently detect these signals and associate them with the right consumers during the buying process, we can not only to make more appropriate offers—that are more likely to convert—we can also craft highly resonant, cohesive experiences throughout the journey. In short, it means external data can help us optimize the consumer’s experience during the brief period of time they’re actually engaged with the brand.

With a data-driven approach to Continuous Commerce, online retailers open up entirely new avenues through which to drive transactions. Insights about consumers’ lifestyles, interests, and shopping and buying preferences are widely available and utilized in direct-marketing campaigns, but not often enough are they used to streamline a retail buy flow in the moment of truth when the consumer is engaged. Reducing options, presenting compelling creative and informative content, and tailoring the call to action are all tactics that can be optimized with the use of external data, properly applied, in real time, during the shopping experience. “Next Logical Product” or “Next Best Offer” tactics, in particular, can be significantly improved with the intelligent combination of real-time shopping data and external-preferences-and-intent data.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, practitioners of Continuous Commerce should seek to use data to cultivate devotion with every consumer. There is no greater indication of potential dedication than the individual transaction. Yes, it’s much easier for an online merchant to deal in the predictable market of transactions, constantly focusing on and measuring conversion rates, online sales, and price per order. We need to keep on top of these numbers. But it’s a much higher calling to consider the workhorse commerce buy flow as one of the key processes responsible for creating disproportional, superstar-level loyalty.

There are a subtle nuances here: It’s not simply the efficiency of the buy flow that creates devotion—though that helps—as much as it is the rich interplay among product, experience, offer, behavior, and response that gives us just the right context in which to truly and consistently delight a customer.

The free flow of data among these key elements serves as the basis of trust, emotional connection, and, ultimately, transactions. A commerce buy flow that produces transactions without devotion is, quite simply, a utility. A Continuous Commerce environment that also utilizes data to create compelling experiences is a tool for cultivating devotion.

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