The Battle for Digital Commerce Market Share is Heating Up

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Steve Tzikakis is the Sitecore CEO. Here, he looks at the relationship between digital experiences and digital commerce and shares advice on how brands can succeed in the current market.

After such a whirlwind year, it is easy to lose sight of the scale of change underway in digital commerce. In all, ecommerce surged 27 per cent in 2020, eclipsing 17 per cent of global sales for the first time amid a down year for retail overall.

Given the changing market dynamics, an increasing number of consumer brands are assessing what — if any — direct-to-consumer digital commerce strategy to take in a post-COVID world. Some are understandably hesitant to get distracted by an ecommerce play, not wanting to undermine existing retail partnerships or brand equity with a poor online shopping experience — let alone cannibalize sales or compete in a crowded field of traditional retailers and digital upstarts.

They may want to reassess that calculus for several reasons. For one, consumers are offering a rare opening, especially younger generations. A majority of Gen Z Australians surveyed by Sitecore, 61 per cent, say they placed an online order with a main street retailer for the first time during the pandemic. Despite having sky-high expectations – most want free delivery, for example – a majority (55 per cent) are also willing to give a company a second chance if they have a poor online shopping experience.

From a technology and operational perspective, there has never been an easier time to go direct online. The revolution in technology adoption in the past year by both everyday people via their smartphones and businesses means brands can truly deliver a connected and consistent experience, powering the full buying cycle from order fulfillment to service beyond the sale through a rich and expanding ecosystem of partners. The alternative is the status quo, where most online shopping experiences are at least partly divorced from the rest of a brand’s advertising, marketing, loyalty programs and customer service.

Success Comes from a Great Digital Experience

For many luxury or lifestyle brands, selling directly online has long been part of their toolkit. But others are seeing the unique opportunities it provides from IKEA to Nike, taking digital destiny into their own hands by going direct to offer a great experience through things like furniture assembly services or personalized shoes — and winning back customers from those large retailers that have traditionally dominated product categories.

Therein lies the key to winning in direct ecommerce for brands: not just offering the option; but making it part of a broader experience that is authentic or exclusive to the brand.

The best digital experiences frequently do not begin with a buy button; they begin with content — an app that lets customers find a perfect cosmetics match for every skin tone, an article about a brand initiative that moves someone to tears, or a retro cereal box promotion with designs from decades past that sparks a beloved childhood memory. These starting blocks of powerful digital experiences that move buyers down the funnel and back again are reinforced by every other touch-point, from email to customer service.

A Marketing Tech Stack That Works

To deliver on that vision, brands need a technology stack that connects all of these dots from content to commerce on any screen.

But getting marketing technology perfect is not necessarily a prerequisite to experimenting with direct ecommerce, especially since most brands are not yet set up for this type of customer life cycle marketing. Even where customer data is spotty and platforms are disparately connected, brands often instinctively know their customers better than anyone, and can tap into decades of built-in trust to create shopping experiences that are an organic outgrowth of existing brand initiatives or values.

That gives enterprises time to get the broader integrated technology stack right, and early data to guide success — first fruits in an expanded first-party data relationship with customers that will serve as an important foundation for future experiences — even if most sales continue to take place offline or via other online retail partners.

Despite increasing consumer expectations around privacy generally, personalization is actually what consumers want from brands they choose to interact with. 

In fact, our research shows that people across generations yearn for a deeper relationship with the brands they care about. Most expect brands to know their purchase history and provide a consistent experience online and offline, catering to them as unique individuals and rewarding their loyalty in deeper ways.

Are brands ready to offer it to them?

 

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