The onward march and transformation of ecommerce
This is the second article in a series that seeks to provide some leading insights into the rapid transformation of ecommerce, and what this means for some of the world’s leading brands and retailers.
In the first article, we considered all the market trends that are continually influencing and disrupting the ecommerce market. Amongst all of these, there is one trend that cannot be ignored, and that is the continuing rise of consumer expectation.
Forrester Research, a leading Industry Analyst company, calls this time the “Age of the Consumer.”
“When consumers hear about a product today, their first reaction is ‘Let me search online for it.’ And so they go on a journey of discovery: about a product, a service, an issue, an opportunity. Today you are not behind your competition. You are not behind the technology. You are behind your consumer.” Rishad Tobaccowala
Consumer expectation is not just about value, price or quality. It encapsulates the entire relationship that a brand has with a consumer. This is what is referred to as the customer experience. This customer experience needs to be connected across all touchpoints and interactions into a single journey that continuously builds an emotional connection, whilst also satisfying the immediate expectation of the consumer, at every turn.
What does this mean for the world’s leading brands and retailers?
- Consumer expectation There is no doubt that consumers will continue to expect to receive better and better services and experiences. This is inexorably driven by the advent of new technologies and applications from all types of companies and in all walks of life. It is also reflective of the speed by which humans become accustomed to the latest innovation. When we look back, we often ask ourselves how did we see a certain product or service as being acceptable.
- Brand promise Consumer loyalty is only as good as the last engagement that was delivered to your customer. It is a time when Brands cannot afford to disappoint. It is just far too easy for consumers to switch both attention and attachment, and once a customer has left, it is very difficult to bring them back. There are just too many choices, and just too many new brands and offers to consider. Loyalty is fickle and has to be closely guarded and nurtured.
- Omni-channel engagement Consumers expect consistency across channels; they expect a highly relevant and valuable brand-driven experience across both physical and digital channels. More and more consumers integrate their shopping experience across channels, often researching online and then evaluating in-store. As consumers blur the lines between the two, it will become increasingly important for companies to orchestrate and support the purchase journey across these different channels.
- User interface Often companies only think about customer experience in terms of relevancy and service, however it is significantly more than this. It is the ability to enrich people’s lives by being valuable in the exact moment, that it is required. Time is the new brand currency. The foundation, therefore, for delivering an exceptional customer experience is the recognition that time is now one of the most significant contributors to ongoing brand loyalty. Respect their time, make it easy for them and make it seamless.
- Personalization and relevance Consumers seek highly relevant engagements that are personalized to their needs, but they also need to be inspired. Often consumers don’t know what they want or what will resonate with them until they see it. Consumers need serendipity. They need to be wowed and surprised. Brands that succeed are often those that emotionally draw consumers into their brand with inspiring ideas, concepts or products that may not, in the end, be purchased, but in the process they create the ‘brand heat’ that emotionally connects.
- Brand purpose Trust and experience are all encompassing; from brand positioning & values all the way through to service support. Brands need to make sure that they are honest, authentic and credible when it comes to brand purpose. The brand purpose needs to be more than believable, it needs to be embedded in the fabric of the company.
“You can’t reverse into a mission and values through marketing. The organisations that are struggling with this are probably the ones that are thinking about marketing first. The role of marketing is to authentically elevate that mission and purpose and engage people in it, but the purpose needs to be the business.” Alex Weller, Marketing Director, Patagonia
- Operational excellence Delivering a compelling ecommerce shopping experience requires a tightly integrated and collective approach across multiple teams and departments. At the very least, Marketing, Merchandise Planners, Visual Merchandisers and Supply Chain and Distribution, need to work as one team. It is always important to remember that the consumer never makes a distinction between one department or function and another.
“Don’t ever let your marketing get ahead of your customer experience delivery.” David Newberry
In summary, what is truly important is to be authentic, consistent, relevant and inspiring in equal measure. Your consumers expect this and the bar will only continue to get higher and higher.
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