CMSC Media Talks with Commerce Tomorrow Podcast
In November of last year, Gabriella and I were invited on the Commerce Tomorrow podcast to join Dirk Hoerig, CEO at commercetools, and Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer at commercetools, to discuss the intersection of content and commerce, our background in the space, some of the insight we've collected over the past year or so, and why we still see social struggle to become a viable commerce platform.
To start things off, Gabriella and I dove into a bit of the background on CMSC Media; how we found ourselves in this realm of reporting on the latest and greatest in the world of digital business. We also revealed some of the valued sources we rely on to keep ourselves up to date. Kelly explained that a large driving factor behind the content created by service integrators and independent software vendors is to catch the attention of reporters, like ourselves. He then asked a very interesting question; what do we look for in good, informative content? I let him in on the fact that we primarily look for content that is specific in its message and brings value. A common problem with content, given its surplus, is coming across passages that say a lot without saying much at all. This is often coupled with having to decipher a point that is all but entirely obfuscated by buzzwords and hypothetical examples that hold no value in the day-to-day life of those who are seeking the information.
I also let Kelly in on an appreciation I have for the way ideas can be brought across. I think, in the current business market where everyone wants to be the next viral video, there is a misconception that concepts and ideas have to be brought across in an aggressive style, or with methods that undermine the ideas of a perceived competitor. It's in this type of ‘packaging’ where the value of the idea goes sour. I referenced a recent interview I had with a well-known analyst in the commerce space, and how incredibly refreshing it was for him to share ideas that were thought-provoking, and somewhat in opposition to commonly held ideals. Yet, he was able to bring them forth to such a degree where they remained positive and objective in nature.
Content and Commerce
The next phase of our chat touched on how and why CMSC Media has had such a focus on commerce content as of late, and how we see the interplay of content and commerce out there in the space. I pointed to a number of contributing factors, one being the incredible articles our past tech reporter, Venus Tamturk, wrote on the topic. In addition, many of the WCM platforms, who we work closely in our network with, made a hard push into the commerce space, and we went along for the ride. Finally, I acknowledged the fact that I have a special interest in the commerce space. I got my first taste of business working for a well-known global retail brand that focused intensely on the one-to-one customer experience. Given my roots there, and now seeing commerce significantly transform in the digital world, I can’t help but feel most at home in that realm.
When it comes to the differences we see between the content and commerce worlds, people are neglecting to focus enough on content, to some extent. I sometimes feel that there is great enthusiasm and big investment in the commerce space, but the content ends up feeling like it's just a means to an end. Instead of just the commerce piece being looked at as the exciting opportunity for connecting an experience, I think both content and commerce should be viewed as such. Content can be optimized, wherever it is. Whether it’s crafting punchy social posts, or really tailoring product descriptions, leveraging the power of content goes way beyond the purview of blog posts, eBooks, and whitepapers.
Successful Offline Strategies
When I am in conversation with those in the digital space, I love to ask their opinion on who they feel is really doing well with an online/offline strategy. I know it’s a major pain point for brands, and at the end of the day, we’re all customers ourselves. Dirk and Kelly explored this topic further and I was pleasantly surprised to have this question asked of me by these gentlemen from commercetools. It provided an opportunity for Gabby and me to weigh-in on the subject ourselves.
Gabriella shared her experience with Starbucks leaving a lasting impression on her where it came to a great strategy. Dirk then asked why we think so many brands are still so far behind. I reflected on my own thoughts of really feeling for brands who are adversely faced with improving the online/offline experience with ever-tightening budgets; that they invest more heavily in technology without the means to invest in their in-store experience as well. Another great piece of insight I’ve heard from many people is that digitally native brands have a customer-centric savvy that legacy brands can struggle with. Brands that originated in digital began with customer experience at the core of what they do, but for the established brands that are moving to digital, they often come from a time before this concept was as impactful as it is today. Hence, their blueprint for customer experience may be lacking or hard to build upon in this new digital age, or it could simply be difficulty translating their in-store experience to an online format.
Commerce Through Social Platforms
The second half of our conversation with commercetools centered on the position of social media in commerce, and Kelly asked the fantastic question; why have we not seen commerce through social media platforms? Having had numerous conversations in the industry around commerce, people often talk about how to leverage social media, but aren’t asking how we can do better with it often enough.
I personally think consumers just haven’t acclimated to social as a commerce platform. I think social media users still view the platforms as simply a place where they consume media and content, and the idea of interacting with it for purchases is not quite there yet. One of the problems is that we’ve also seen certain social platforms try, but fail with commerce, which has soured them on the idea.
Facebook, for example, has tried Marketplace, but most people seem unable associate Facebook as a purchasing platform. On the other hand, Instagram has made a good deal of headway in bringing the idea of social and commerce together in the minds of consumers because they’ve made it virtually seamless, and I think that’s been the secret sauce of commerce technology that Instagram was able to figure out. There are still hiccups to it, of course. For example, I am attracted to a brand on Instagram whereupon I click to view a product, and I end up being sent on a clunky journey, or links don’t go where I want them to, or I can’t leverage two platforms at once (like pin an item to Pinterest seamlessly for later). That really sets the whole movement back, so brands still have a long way to go to make social really work for them. I think the groundwork for success has been laid, it just has to be refined and executed as well.
At the end of the conversation, we all agreed that we live in an exciting time in commerce and content, given that much of what we interact with is still so new, and that we’re really just scratching the surface of what is available in terms of connecting with consumers and influencing purchase. I would agree that brands should go with the status quo advice, but also encourage them to think way outside the box and don’t be afraid to build a path that hasn't yet been created in order to reach your customer. Technology could be available to make it happen now, but if not, then give the commerce technology world a minute, because they’ll find a way to make it happen. The best minds are too inspired by innovation not to.