Reinventing Commerce - Q&A with Sitecore's Wanda Cadigan
Customer experience. That is the differentiator that will help retailers, CPG companies, and manufacturers stand out from the competition according to a new report from Sitecore and Econsultancy. Retail giants like Amazon and Alibaba reinvented the commerce space and took competition to a whole new level. With the retail industry continually changing, the growing popularity of eCommerce, and the inevitable price wars, businesses (now, more than ever) need to develop unique differentiation strategies— strategies that are smart, simple to implement, efficient, and effective.
Pressure to Adapt
Nearly 60% of organizations around the world believe their current business model is under pressure to adapt to the everchanging market conditions, and almost one-third of them feel their existence is in imminent danger if they don’t adjust accordingly. The report findings show most businesses agree that personalized content and customer experience will be the essential differentiators that will set them apart from their competition. Of the global respondents, over 80% said, “Our success as an eCommerce business depends on our ability to create compelling customer experiences.” Comprehensive data collection, tracking, and analysis are needed to help companies and brands achieve more profound insight into the dynamic customer journey.
The report also points out how important it is for businesses to reevaluate and revamp their internal definition of what makes for good customer experience. It is essential for a company to adapt quickly to market shifts and customer needs, as well as meet demands with strategic content and relevant service. All of this requires steady data collection and ongoing evaluation of what indeed constitutes the fundamental differentiators between a firm and its competitors. Three out of four respondents felt that a persuasive reason to focus on customer experience is that it’s proven to be one of the few variables that can be controlled.
Change is Growth
Another interesting finding was the shift in focus from customer acquisition to customer retention. As necessary as it is to entice new clientele, so is repeat business after the initial interaction; thus, it is imperative to maintain your consumer base by providing high-value customer experiences that are compelling enough for them to return and remain loyal.
There’s no doubt that commerce giants such as Amazon and Alibaba are changing and shaping commerce as we know it. The report found that one-half of the respondents when asked, see these titans as a competition while the other half sees them as an ‘opportunity for growth’. I suppose it’s up to each business to decide which category they belong to.
We reached out to Sitecore’s VP of Global Commerce, Wanda Cadigan, with a few questions regarding the Reinventing Commerce report and to also have her share her view on how businesses can use these findings to their advantage.
The report puts a great deal of emphasis on customer experience and personalized content. What are the big players, Amazon and Alibaba, doing to make them stand-out in that capacity?
“These eCommerce giants were some of the earliest industry players to start deploying AI [Artificial Intelligence] and ML [Machine Learning] for personalization, and that puts them ahead of the curve in many regards. To further bolster their capabilities, they’ve also introduced new channels in order to continue gathering data on their customers as time has gone on. Between voice, text, and social channels, there are more touchpoints than ever to collect insights and provide personalized customer experiences. And now they’ve gone one step further with physical, brick & mortar locations like Amazon Go and 4-Star. The more opportunities they have to engage with their customers, the more data they will have gathered on them.
At the same time, personalization is far from a one-size-fits-all model. The size and diversity of their marketplace, which has led to their growth, may also be what hinders the ecommerce giants. Why? As much as they want to tailor the customer experience from top-to-bottom, the myriad of sellers on the marketplace poses challenges, including counterfeit products and decentralized customer support, both of which dilute the customer journey.”
Can you deliver valuable content and personal customer experience on a massive, global scale?
“Absolutely, and there are already brands who are hitting that goal. The key is understanding past and present data and continually building on the repository of information for each customer. With a robust platform like Sitecore, you can leverage an integrated view of marketing and commerce content to build seamless, personalized experiences relevant to each customer based on where they are in their journey.”
In your opinion, what makes for a positive customer experience? What makes content valuable to the consumer today?
“A good customer experience is one that provides value to the customer: by educating, solving a problem, anticipating a need, or providing a relevant recommendation — and these can be attained by delivering personalized content in the context of the customers’ journey. Customers are smart — they know when a company is doing a hard sell on a product that doesn’t particularly meet their needs or interests. But companies that take the time to map the customer journey and provide relevant content along that journey are recognized as leaders in customer experience.”
What advice do you have for the 60% of companies that feel they are under significant pressure to adapt to the changing market? Where should they start?
“First and foremost, walk a mile in your customers' shoes — conduct a thorough review of your customers' key online journeys. Next, design what ‘great’ looks like in terms of your ideal customer experience.
Of course, it’s critical to have the right technology in place: a weak or disjointed CX tech stack means employees will have to work overtime on manual processes, stitching together views from different systems to ensure a holistic view of the customer. But as our research study showed, leading companies are 50% more likely to also invest in people (training) and process optimization. These leaders are also more likely to engage in agile development and take a test-learn-optimize approach, which puts them ahead of the curve.”
Can you think of any companies that had success once they increased their efforts in creating valuable content and an improved customer experience?
“We’ve seen a number of our own customers benefit greatly by integrating personalized content in their customers’ online journeys. Thule is a premium branded sports and outdoor goods company. They were able to personalize experiences across 140 markets by consolidating multiple sites and languages with Sitecore Experience Commerce. Another great example is Sothern Phone, a leading Australian telecom. They now benefit from personalized messaging and intelligent marketing based on geographic, demographic, and campaign triggers. They can easily create and launch dynamic and complex product structures and relationships for more profitable cross-selling, upselling, bundling, and special offers. Less than a year after implementation, Southern Phone's conversion rates have improved 35% and are still rising. Organic search rankings and the average value of each visit are also higher. The impact of reinventing commerce to use relevant content to drive personalized experiences can’t be overstated."
Click here download a copy of the Sitecore’s and Econsultancy’s Reinventing Commerce report.