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Content and Commerce: the new power couple

By Wanda Cadigan

You’re probably tired of hearing how empowered today’s customers are.  Everyone knows that they’re more mobile, better informed, and less loyal than ever before. And they expect brands to deliver not only a smoother, more seamless shopping experience, but a highly personalised one, too.

Keeping up with the pace of the customer can sometimes seem like a bridge too far.

However, in a digital world, there are some digital tricks that retailers can take advantage of to get ahead of the curve.

Overview

It’s no wonder more than 10% of retail shopping is done online, and that's one reason why some retailers have advanced their technology to the point where they can send an email reminder the day after you leave an unpurchased item in your cart, or personalise promotions according to your buying history. Our research found that ‘know that on the go’ (24%) and having mobile apps that can adapt and react to your location (29%) will become a key requirement for customers over the next three years.

When Henry Ford built the Model T, he inadvertently set in motion a series of events leading to where we are today in the customer equation. One of those was how businesses approached personalisation, famously quipping, ‘You can have [the Model T] in any colour, as long as it’s black’.

Fast forward a century (plus a decade), and you can see how this has come full circle. Despite being in an era where Amazon has furthered the need for retailers to provide accessible, competitively priced products, it’s no longer enough to offer just a product, regardless of whether that’s at the cheapest price with the best features.

High street shops

Indeed, digging into the recent Whole Foods acquisition demonstrates the real value of the deal is in all of the customer data, and not just about acquiring hundreds of stores and affluent customers. We’ve reached a tipping point where customers want helpful information to go alongside what they’re about to purchase or continue to use. And they want this any time, any place, with minimal friction... hence the need of creating that omnichannel experience.

This is where the opportunity lies for retailers that get personalisation right. Customers now expect your interaction with them to acknowledge their current needs and history with your brand – to such an extent that they’re willing to part with personal data, in order to increase the experiences they have with your brand.

Puzzle pieces slotting together

Content and Context

Which is why content, and now context, play such a key role in the brand experience – it’s now the norm for these to be freely available to the customer throughout the entire retail experience, whether they are engaging online or offline. Customers want personalisation, but retailers sometimes struggle to make the connection. When this occurs, there’s a breakdown in the customer equation.

Why can’t they do it? Broadly speaking, it falls into three categories: Technology, people, and process.

Technology is often centred around siloed systems and data flow. With all the talk of digital transformation, and the investment organisations are making towards this, for many, connecting data silos should be one of the key areas to look at. Having a disjointed, siloed database (for example, when the information captured when a shopper visits a website doesn’t talk to the email database, resulting in the customer receiving less relevant, less personalised content) is a recipe for failure.

Supporting this is the overall trepidation around data, and the maturity levels of some organisations. More often than not, retailers know they need to do it but don’t know how they’re going to do it. Dedicating time to working out how to make use of these datasets, and understand the tools available to them, will help the organisation become data-driven rather than product-driven – a key attribute needed to thrive in today’s digital world.

Digital customer

Finally, processes within the organisation itself need to be reviewed. Customer data, personalisation, and the customer experience have become so integral to the success of the business, that making the most of the window of opportunity you have is the building block to a successful organisation.

Retailers across the world need to ensure they make the most of every opportunity they have by automating engagement plans that link content and commerce together – for example, if a prospective customer has an item in their online basket for 24 hours, an email alert is triggered, notifying the customer and sending an incentive to purchase the item. When businesses align technology, data, and processes, they can avoid using a disconnected jumble of marketing tools, which may result in a disjointed experience.

Companies which make the mistake of focussing solely on the almighty transaction could be setting themselves up for failure, while companies that use data to create relevant customer experiences have a chance to win customers for life. And we all know the end goal is to gain and retain those customer relationships.

Shaking hands

Transactional vs Integral

Forward-thinking retailers are fast realising that the shopping cart isn’t the end state, but the middle part of the journey. It’s no longer acceptable to draw customers into a beautifully designed brand website, only to abandon them post-transaction with no real intent to deepen the relationship.

Engagement in the post as well as pre-purchase state has now become an essential part of the sales cycle, that goes beyond product, in order to retain customers. It’s about how you communicate with your customers before and after the transaction that drives brand loyalty and customer retention. So, the phrase 'communication is key' comes into play.

Fundamentally, marketers and digital leaders can only effectively manage the customer experience when they’re marketing in context of how customers have interacted with their brand. How you communicate with your customers before and after the transaction could ultimately decide the level of brand loyalty and customer retention you can achieve.

This is where the power of content combined with commerce becomes apparent.

Meet the new power couple!

Wanda Cadigan, Global VP of Commerce, Sitecore

Download our whitepaper - When content meets commerce: How to make it a perfect relationship

Content and Commerce - Download whitepaper from Sitecore

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