Having the right technology stack in place can turbo-charge customer experience management within the enterprise.
When businesses first started selling online, the default setting was to start with an ecommerce platform, plugging that into their existing web presence. However, as the customer experience has matured, evolved and become more sophisticated, this bolt-on approach is no longer suitable. A well-selected technology stack and architecture can either breathe life into your customer experience or impede future development and maintenance, stagnating opportunity.
With this in mind, Cognifide’s CTO, Cleve Gibbon and Errol Denger, Director of Strategy and Product Marketing for Adobe Enterprise Commerce hosted a lively discussion on the technology stack of the future at our recent XChange event. They posed the question, ‘where do you think the ecommerce market is going?’.
Traditional brand loyalty is dying in the face of great customer service and convenience. Consumers shopping on marketplaces like Amazon will often opt for the first result for a search, rather than a particular brand. They are favouring Amazon convenience above brand and trusting that the search result will meet their demands. In the latest Future Shopper research, from our sister agency, Wunderman Thompson Commerce, 62% of consumers stated they were excited about ordering goods from a single retailer, indicating that this marketplace approach is fast becoming the norm.
Inspiration gets social
Millennial and GenZ consumers live and breathe social media and it’s playing a key role, not only in inspiration, brand awareness and consideration but also purchase. Just over half (51%) of all Future Shopper consumers say they use search engines for inspiration and a third (32%) of them use social media. However, this drops to 36% for search engine use and soars to 49% seeking social social media inspiration among GeZ shoppers. Brands that can put a product in front of a GenZ customer, on the right channel, based on their interests, can capitalise on being in the moment with them and drive purchase within that social environment. However, branded websites still account for 32% of all consumer inspiration and physical retail stores still account for 27%. Therefore inspiring your potential customers really does merit an omnichannel approach.
Blending on and offline
Ecommerce doesn’t sit in a vacuum but is informed and enhanced by the offline experience too. Consumers still like to physically browse in store, even if they then go online to complete a transaction. In fact, 48 of consumers prefer to shop with a brand that has a physical store and 32% of UK consumers look for inspiration in store, versus a global average of 27%. Half of the Future Shopper respondents said that they wish brands and retailers were more innovative, showing a clear desire for new technology. Consumers want the best of both worlds - the old ways, plus new tech solutions such as being able to see the product in your size on a model, next-day delivery and being able to interact via voice applications.
Voice enters the arena
Voice is becoming the mediator of the shopping experience and helps with research, inspiration and comparison. A third of Future Shopper consumers already use voice assistants, or plan to within the next 12 months, rising sharply to 44% with Amazon Prime users. However, this is just the start. In the automotive industry, great progress has been made in the last ten years on applying voice to building apps that allow you to do more than just talk to the car. Voice appears to be progressing much faster in adoption than other technology such as VR and the consensus was that it may be the new norm in as little as 3-5 years.
How sustainable is all this convenience? When you have a customer opting to buy five dresses online, with the intention of returning four there is a price to be paid in terms of things like packaging waste or delivery (and return) miles.
Some brands are turning to a subscription model with delivery and return at the heart of it. For instance, using the data that they hold on each customer, Amazon Prime could deliver a package every few weeks filled with products that they *think* they will want, based on past purchases or browsing behaviour. However, if they continually send 90% of it back, how can this be justified in the long term? Consumers trust that a service-led brand will accommodate this approach but sustainability could be a massive issue in the next five years as we have to start questioning every kind of waste.
This trend is also seen in the Future Shopper research with 55% of consumers saying that a company’s moral and ethics play an important part in purchasing decisions and 45% actively choosing companies that are environmentally responsible.
Building for the new ecommerce consumer
So how do you find your way through the forest of the marketing technology landscape to find the tools that are just right for your business? Each tool in the stack creates, analyses or consumes data, and to run these efficiently, they need to be effectively integrated to serve a common purpose. Here are Cleve and Errol’s 3 key takeaways:
- Context is key: If you just need to get to market quickly and support the core business commercially, a single commerce engine is probably still the right starting point. Building on this, you will need to prioritise according to what you know about your customers. You might opt for a reactive and progressive web design on mobile, or a great desktop experience with rich content.
If you are further down the line with ecommerce, you’ll probably be opting for a headless ecommerce approach enabling you to deliver even more rich content, across all channels and devices, without sacrificing speed and immediacy. Your data and context should inform your decisions on initial technology investment.
- Different demographics, require different strategies: Again, back to your data and customers. Brands seeking out younger consumers may need to rethink traditional media strategies in light of the clear shift towards social, at the expense of the long-held search engine dominance. But don’t neglect search as an important component in the first mile of the customer journey. Remember that an omnichannel approach allows you to create more touchpoints with your customer, wherever they start their journey.
- Getting smarter with data: A commerce engine tends to serve as one particular system of record, for example storing specific coupons or product catalogues. However, the content management systems that feed these commerce engines often hold far more data on how customers are behaving on the journey to purchase. Are they watching video content? Are they responding to online offers? These two data sources must be linked for a full picture. This will mean that the decisions that are made by AI in the future will ultimately prove more relevant and timely for your customer on the path to purchase.
Illustrations created by Scriberia
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