Will Digital Commerce survive as we know it?
“We are laying technology on top of our commerce platform in an effort to properly support the consumer’s journey and remain relevant against our competitors…” – Daniel Moure, PureFormulas.com
We are in the middle of the Age of the Consumer and looking forward into the Convergence of Data Age. As we look to 2020 and beyond, businesses will increasingly ask for endless means to deliver superior customer experiences, not caring about the channel, be it Mobile, Virtual Reality, Voice or Apps.
On the flip side, Digital Commerce was originally designed for the world of browser-based experiences as the primary channel, one that starts and ends with a typical search, list, browse, add to basket and checkout journey.
This was the key theme of a panel discussion we held at the Oracle Modern Customer Experience Conference (April 25-27) where we looked for answers to a number of big questions.
- Are we locked into a paradigm that presumes all experiences to do with Digital Commerce starts and ends with a typical search, list, browse, add to basket and checkout journey?
- Isn’t the new reality that we are moving to a much more amorphous shopping experience where you can buy from Snapchat, Mobile or Instagram or Voice anywhere?
- Is it possible to create a digital platform from our current situation that allows us to leverage without disrupting the business?
To help us dig into this topic, we assembled a diverse panel hosted by Lisa Butler which included: Michael Fasosin, Chief Strategy Officer, DigitasLBi OSG; Mark Grannan, Senior Analyst, Forrester; Brenna Johnson, Sr. Principal Product Manager, Product Strategy, Oracle Commerce Cloud; Daniel Moure, Chief Marketing Officer at PureFormulas.com
Consumers using technologies like “Alexa” to shop is the norm, not the future
The panel agreed that disruption is occurring across the industry with technology and it is becoming more important to focus on the micro-moments across their nonlinear journey. Brands will be forced to move away from crafting their individual brand journey to focusing on the story the consumer is weaving as they create their individual journey with the brand. For example, a shopping experience with multiple touchpoints in the journey can be completed with Snapchat, Voice, Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, Mobile App/Web and In-Store. High fidelity stories should be leveraged into modal journeys to engage each consumer in the most relevant moment.
In moving to this micro-moment, more “signal-driven” interaction with our consumers and as we collect this data, we should be using it to inform the experience that is presented back to the consumer through technology. Traditional methods of capturing the journey through surveys do not begin to capture true user behavior. With the proliferation of data related to customer journeys, we can see that user behavior is a much important barometer of user intent based on what they do. For example, consumers have different personas when they are with their children vs. at work. It will be critical to know who the consumer is “in the moment” and what is important in that moment to understand how to engage with them.
As PureFormulas.com has experienced, there are many signals on the journey that they don’t control or have access to because of competing platforms such as Amazon and Google. They are looking to embrace them as an innovator, and plug in to be a part of the fluid experience. It will be important to shift from an emotional context that Companies have about channel ownership to just engaging with the consumer. Measurement of the revenue generated from channel opportunities will be critical in understanding the best bet between traditional channel partners and the likes of Amazon.
Consumers spend the majority of time on five apps that no Brand owns (amazon, google, facebook, email, search) and Companies need to figure out how to inject their brand into those experiences. Forrester believes the pendulum is swinging away from apps back into the web because of its flexibility. Forrester also cautioned that it is time to identify the quick low hanging fruit to continue the movement because the money and appetite that was appropriated for digital have been spent and most Companies are running on fumes.
We need to keep the digital train on its tracks…
There is a shift underway for the ideal digital organizational model; it is a pivot to embrace a federated model (centralized) with a distributed execution through the brands and regions to increase agility. There must be a balance of governance, control and enablement to assure that the brands and regions get the support from the center of excellence. It is imperative not to tie their hands as they will find creative ways to get their jobs done through local agencies, which will not be framed by the reference provided by the center of excellence or take advantage of budget investments made.
Technology is also undergoing a shift where Companies are finding themselves on large commerce platforms that have to be customized, extended and integrated but are still inflexible to the multi-channel, moment-measurement and respond approach. Most digital experience platforms today were designed for subjective segmentation; however, we are moving to a new paradigm fueled by data and Artificial Intelligence where each moment in the user journey is intrinsic to building a deeper and much more one to one engagement with a user. We’re seeing the emergence of new cloud solutions such as Oracle Adaptive Intelligence Apps, IBM Watson and others that tap into user behavior in the moment to facilitate richer and more meaningful one to one engagement. The Cloud is here, encompassing architecture and environment, and it is time to develop a phased strategy to get there before it becomes unrecoverable.
Ease of integration across the technology stack should be the key indicator to allow connection across the solutions and ease of adoption to the next innovation. There is also a broken ‘solo’ mindset that dictates that singular projects should be undertaken. Instead, Companies should be mapping the full end to end journey, consolidating the customer record and identifying the key solutions across Commerce, Marketing and Sales.
We need to be open to what consumers are driving and create a platform that can support and grow with the journey.
Customers like Urban Outfitters and Canon are examples of those Companies that are keeping up with the consumer expectations in providing headless services on demand, standing up touchpoints that pop up organically.
Being present in the journey, across all the moments, will be critical for Companies moving into the future. This presence is believed to drive the “top of mind” experience and the brand selection with the consumer. Ultimately, we cannot forget to the close the gap on the customer journey, and that is service. It is supported by technology, data and therefore intelligence, but true loyalty and customer engagement are only possible when the human experience is deployed.