Do you think the e-commerce sector is buoyant, healthy and growing. You’re wrong if you do, Sean Boiling, head of service delivery APJ hybris Software, argues in this opinion piece
In a recent Econsultancy report nearly two-thirds (65%) of company respondents and more than three-quarters (78%) of agency respondents in Australia indicated that they (or their clients) would be increasing investment in e-commerce technology.
Given this you may think the sector is buoyant, healthy and growing too? But, you’re wrong.
You see, ‘e-commerce’ and ‘digital’ is dying. In fact, it’s already dead. Whether a company uses its stores, its mobile channel, its call centre, it’s all commerce. It’s time we dropped the ‘e’ from e-commerce and dropped ‘digital marketing’ because marketing and commerce has to work in a digital world.
In a recent visit to Australia, Unilever’s global head of marketing, Marc Mathieu echoed digital is dead. He told the Global Marketer Conference, “we need to stop thinking about digital marketing and start thinking about marketing in a digital world.” It’s time to break down the silos in our thinking and operational models.
Australian consumers certainly don’t think about channels when they’re researching or buying. Marketers and sales staff need to be able to work across all channels and create and implement strategies that work for web, mobile, social and in-store. It’s no longer going to be enough just to have an ‘e-commerce’ or ‘digital’ experience, we need to offer a seamless brand experience.
For Australian companies to succeed, marketers need to connect with the customer wherever they are and encourage them to buy however it suits them. General Pants is an example of a retailer that is combining digital with the in-store experience. Their kiosks enable customers to take images, share with their friends and read reviews while in the store.
Technology can work in many different situations to improve the customer experience. For example, NFC tagging and gesture browsing in windows after the store is closed. This blurs the lines being neither in-store nor e-commerce, the customer may choose to purchase online or return to the store to pick-up.
Business transformation on this scale isn’t easy and requires many levels of consideration to get it right. If you work in an organisation where ‘e-commerce’ and ‘digital’ operate in silos, it’s time to encourage a discussion about new ways of working with management, IT, ecommerce and sales teams. This may include:
- Encouraging a restructure: Remove the silos that separate. Flatten internal structures. Create job descriptions that incorporate digital and online skills into today’s traditional roles.
- Being an ambassador for change: Encourage the rewarding of store staff for securing the customer and enhancing the shopping experience, regardless of touch point. If you can’t serve the customer on the spot, be it via looking up inventory on a mobile device or being able to order something from another store to the customers’ home, another retailer will secure the sale.
- Integrating channels: Doing business should be seamless. The same price and service across every customer touch point. Integrate technology into everything that you do to enhance the customer experience. Australian women’s fitness and leisurewear brand Lorna Jane maintains Facebook pages for each of its 120 retail stores. The intent is to build a community around each local store in order to offer customers as close to what they want as possible. Sharing the brand’s experience with social media has meant that its online sales are now equivalent to the sales of seven of its bricks and mortar stores, with 10% of conversions coming from Facebook. The recent Econsultancy report, the State of eCommerce in Australia & New Zealand, found that “lack of integration with the rest of the business” was the top barrier for retailers growing their e-commerce businesses as fast as they would like.
- Blending online and offline: Develop marketing strategies that embrace new technology and help gain a competitive advantage. Use digital in-store to enhance the shopping experience be it iPads for sales staff, customer kiosks, cashless payment options or Google Glass once it becomes broadly available. When in-store encourage online brand loyalty for example by letting customers know how to show off their new purchase on Pinterest or Instagram etc.
- No more budget battles: The Econsultancy research found that 56% of retailers are currently operating a separate e-commerce budget and that 3% have not even began to invest in e-commerce. In a flattened operating structure silos won’t have to battle each other for the lion’s share of funding. Marketers will benefit from meeting objectives across the company.