The speed of technical innovation in recent years is forcing retail brands to re-evaluate — and re-invent — their digital commerce strategies in 2012.
To keep pace with new devices and touch points — and consumers’ evolving and highly-technical expectation — merchants must re-examine two strategic areas of their businesses:
- The kinds of brand experiences they’re delivering to their unique set of consumers
- How their digital commerce infrastructure helps them deliver those experiences in a seamless and personalized manner.
Brand Experiences Start With The Consumer
In today’s competitive landscape, consumers want timely access to information about products and themselves. This requires synchronization of accurate and detailed information across any number of emerging touch points. More importantly, consumers want a choose-you-own-adventure brand experience that directs them to the information based on preferences, context, and location. Consumers also want the ability to interact with friends, colleagues, and family to share their experiences. The first step in digital commerce success in 2012 is realizing that consumers’ needs have fundamentally changed. They are more connected, empowered, and knowledgeable than ever before.
Organizations must then break down the functional silos — often constructed to optimize individual channels and merchandise categories — and operate around the consumer. Many organizations have created centers of competencies focused on consumer insights. The intelligence garnered from these groups is fused into their digital commerce operations to drive branded and relevant interactions across channels, applications, and devices.
Existing Legacy Systems Will No Longer Satisfy Consumer Demands
To effectively leverage and operationalize this intelligence, retailers and brands should consider transitioning to a central commerce platform that will allow retailers and brands to manage all digital interactions across channels, applications, and devices. A central intelligence hub can power touch points such as call centers, brick-and-mortar stores, social networks, and online and mobile sites. In addition to simply keeping up with your consumers’ expectations this central hub of intelligence will allow you to enjoy:
- Faster response to new service models such as in-store clienteling, or mobile and social commerce
- Uniform and personalized marketing, merchandising, sales and service
- Reduced operational expenses with a framework that easily allows diverse technologies to integrate and co-exist in one digital ecosystem
At Demandware, we call this strategy Digital Commerce Management (DCM). When executed well, it allows organizations to reinvent themselves and their technologies to deliver a distinctive harmony of experiences across any touch point, in any sequence, throughout any moment, and beyond their commerce platform. One key is to scale your operations and integrate content, like product information, inventory and purchasing history on one platform, so you can deliver unified customer experiences within — and beyond — the ecommerce platform.
Of course, these changes can’t happen overnight, however retailers can immediately begin to center their decisions around brand and customer experiences.
Another shift is to rethink traditional technology investments. Let’s take POS for an example. As retailers make investments in a digital commerce backbone that is the intermediary between enterprise applications and brand engagement, core POS hardware and disjointed software — will become obsolete. Instead, the device — whether it’s an associate-run or self-service tablet, smartphone or computer at the cash wrap — will become an entry point to a central digital platform. We will disconnect the hardcoded capabilities from the traditional cash register and infuse it with global, digital visibility into all commerce applications and data.
So How Should Your Thinking Start To Change In 2012?
Think about your commerce strategy holistically. Consumer intelligence indicates that online retailers will need to be able to control a multitude of brand experiences and deliver a level of engagement and service that today’s consumers demand. This holistic experience can be made possible by using a central commerce platform to manage all digital interactions across channels, applications, and devices.
As Vice President of product and solutions marketing for Demandware, Rob Garf taps into his more than 20 years of retail industry experience. Prior to Demandware, Garf served as the Global Retail Strategy Leader of IBM Global Business Services and was Vice President of Retail Strategies Service at AMR Research where he led coverage of customer intelligence and multichannel operations.