The pandemic has seen some retailers attract Black Friday volumes online every day, but this is an increase that doesn’t necessarily convert to a rise in conversion. James Brooke, founder and CEO at Amplience looks at how retailers must prepare for a digital only world, and find an efficient way to change the customer experience, and not just the content.
Businesses everywhere are undergoing digital transformation and the eCommerce sector is no exception. The term is more readily applied to banking and insurance, but customer demands need to be met in every market, and when it comes to shopping, the race is on to stay ahead of the competition. The defining factor is delivering the best customer experience.
Even before we were all sent scurrying into our homes, many consumers were balancing their purchases between the convenience of digital interactions – increasingly on smartphones – and the experience of being in-store. Retailers too were still relying on the fact that they could deliver more fun and memorable moments for their customers in-store, which allowed them to differentiate. By comparison, online shopping was more functional, focused on ensuring the customer journey was smooth and delivered them securely to the checkout.
But the pandemic has changed the goalposts. Over the past year, visits to stores for anything other than ‘essential shopping’ have been few and far between and many retailers have looked at how they could elevate their online offer to emulate those experiential moments and encourage customers to retain their interest in, and loyalty to, their brand.
The social effect
Social media has had an important role to play, particularly in framing how customers interact with brands. Until recently retailers have focused on their home page as the start of the customer journey. But with shoppers now using social channels such as Pinterest to inform their browsing, they are landing on product detail pages or product landing pages instead. Suddenly retailers are having to reshape the experience they offer through their eCommerce site and direct resources to provide more content in different places to meet new demands.
eCommerce is also part of a broader connected world. Thanks to the proliferation of IoT, fridges can remind customers what they need to add to their supermarket order, printers can provide a nudge when they need a new toner, and our client Traeger Grills allows its customers to control their barbecues using wi-fi. As the market expands and touchpoints become more and more diverse, retailers have to find a way to remain relevant to consumers across a multitude of channels.
Addressing mobile conversion
Customers love to browse on their smartphones. It’s easy and convenient, even when they’re stuck at home, but this is not always converting to a sale. In part this is because different devices are being used to research and interact with products and brands before a decision is made. This is great for the customer, but leaves the retailer trying to keep up. How can they deliver a consistent experience, personalisation and a superior performance when a customer is moving from touchpoint to touchpoint constantly? It’s not easy, but customers still expect it to happen, so retailers must adapt, and quickly.
Time to change technology
Just being responsive is no longer sufficient. Retailers who want to remain relevant have got to invest in technology that is built to support digital-first and customer-centric strategies. Keeping ahead of the game means finding solutions that allow retailers to meet their customer’s expectations quickly, before they up sticks and migrate to the competition.
This is where Agile CMS comes in. It is a new form of Content Management System that takes the advantages of headless commerce (in separating front-end experiences from the back-end content repository and management) but more significantly removes complexity and allows changes to be made quickly and efficiently. This rapid iteration adapts content management needs so seamless customer experiences can be delivered across the many channels and touchpoints that customers are using to engage with the brand.
This level of flexibility cannot be achieved amidst the bottlenecks and backlogs that are often associated with legacy eCommerce platforms. They are not built to manage processes and workflows with the ease, and at the speed, that is demanded of online retailers today. And it’s not just the here and now that retailers are worried about because future success depends on staying relevant. Competitors are constantly changing their offerings, products evolve and customer preferences adjust, which means that the customer experience has to be optimised not just on a weekly basis, but often daily, to keep up.
Retailers still using legacy platforms may be allowed product updates on a monthly basis, but this is only if the backlog of technical changes allows it. The experiences that are being offered to customers are being controlled by content management system templates that simply can’t keep pace, regardless of how responsive retailers want them to be. There is not enough agility built-in.
The shifting sands of eCommerce have delivered a new challenge to already beleaguered retailers – the technology they use must be flexible; content management systems must be built for purpose; and investments must be made in platforms that embrace agile CMS – it’s the best route to staying ahead if retailers want to deliver digital experiences that move shopping into a whole new dimension.
By James Brooke
Founder and CEO