What has quickly become possibly the most important element of doing business online? Customer experience. Why is this? A recent Gartner report titled Survey Analysis: Organizations Need to Improve the Customer Experience to Fully Exploit Digital Commerce sums it up nicely.
“The traditional four “Ps” of marketing — product, price, promotion and placement — no longer guarantee the same competitive advantage they once did. While there is no substitute for a great product properly priced, Internet-enabled product availability and price visibility make it almost impossible to compete exclusively on product and price. Customers are now able to find similar products at similar prices from multiple places, making customer experience the primary differentiator among organizations. (Also noteworthy is that promotion is not a viable long-term strategy due to margin erosion, while search has become the new placement in digital commerce.)”1
Interesting! And it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. What are your own online shopping habits like? I can personally attest to the statement above because I do price check multiple sources before buying something and often pricing is so close that I end up purchasing from the online store that I’m most comfortable with, even if it costs a little bit more. I’ve even first found a product in one store but ultimately purchased from a different store, because I’ve developed an attachment to the second store. Their customer experience is adequate for me and I’ve developed a trust with them.
The digital commerce businesses that are mastering customer experience have a clear edge over the rest. And mastering digital commerce is more than just your desktop experience. The ability to serve customers across all sales channels is just as important. Customers today demand a seamless experience across multiple touchpoints, desktop, mobile, kiosks and even in-store.
Using my own habits as an example again, If I have entered items into a shopping cart while browsing products on my lunch break, you better believe I want to have the same items in my cart later on when i’m looking again on my phone at home. At home is when I’m more likely to make a purchase and if I have to find the products again, that slight delay might be enough for me to abandon the purchase altogether, especially if it’s an impulse buy.
Customer experience is challenging
The Gartner report mentioned earlier surveyed 88 organizations to determine thoughts and trends towards various aspects of digital commerce. Delivering the desired customer experience across all sales channels was identified as a both of great importance but also a great challenge that online businesses face today.
“Enterprises are intent on making the customer experience paramount in all their commerce interactions. It also follows that enterprises face considerable challenges in satisfying digital commerce customers. Our survey finds that the biggest challenge faced by organizations in digital commerce is delivering the desired customer experience consistently across all sales channels.”1
The following image from the report breaks down the full results.
Source: Gartner, "Survey Analysis: Organizations Need to Improve the Customer Experience to Fully Exploit Digital Commerce," 4 February 2019, Penny Gillespie
This graphic was published by Gartner, Inc. as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. The Gartner document is available upon request from Acro Media (click here).
This finding is consistent with Acro Media’s own understanding that we’ve come to realize over the last number of years. Actually, in looking at that graphic above, every single one of the challenges shown are topics we talk about in our day-to-day conversations internally, on our blog and with our clients. And what’s more important is that we believe we have the solution for every one of these challenges. The can be summed up in two words, commerce architecture.
Commerce architecture is the foundation for building success
Commerce architecture is the entire ecosystem of software that runs a digital commerce operation. This includes your ecommerce platform, CMS, ERP, CRM, OMS, PIM, marketing suite, analytics, etc. Most, if not all, of these components are essential to any digital commerce business today.
Just having these systems in place doesn’t guarantee any type of success. What does put an online business on the path to success is making sure that the business is first utilizing the right architecture and then putting a strategy in place to use the architecture effectively. Doing this will begin aligning all of the components so that they work together through integration, ensuring everyone and everything involved in the operation is running as efficiently as possible. This creates an effective foundation built for scalability and maximum agility.
Customer experience is a great opportunity
The report goes on to mention that the majority of businesses surveyed struggle with the basics of digital commerce and customer experience, even though they know it’s important. We see then that businesses who can forge ahead and become masters of their own customer experience efforts have a great opportunity to gain a competitive edge and develop a foundation of trust with customers. But what makes up the basics of a good customer experience? From the report.
“Organizations that can master the basics of site performance and maintenance are clearly ahead of the pack. Not only are they best positioned to deliver great customer experiences, they also possess a foundational component required to build trust and will ultimately be viewed as more trustworthy by their customers. Trust is an especially valuable trait for an organization that wants its customers to share their data with it, in the hope of better serving those customers and delivering more meaningful experiences.”1
There you have it. A good customer experience includes performance (site speed, security, uptime, etc.) which instills trust. I would also suggest that meeting expectations, product relevance, personalization and customer service, among other things, are also very important. Mastering each of these is a challenge of their own, but it’s not impossible.
Laying a solid foundation through your commerce architecture is the key to mastering customer experience and overcoming all of the challenges identified in the report. Sometimes, however, the tricky part is just getting started. This is especially true if all of this is a new concept and therefore the learning curve is steep. Digital commerce consulting companies, such as Acro Media, can help you through this. We utilize a defined purpose driven development method as a guide which, in the case of defining a commerce architecture, would most likely start with a discovery and strategy phase. This provides us and our clients with a clear understanding of the business requirements and business model from an informational and technical standpoint which helps to uncover which architecture is correct for the business and where to best start aligning the components.
Read the full report
The information within this post is just a small sample of the kind of information within the full report. The report digs deeper and provides recommendations to the reader of possible next steps. If you would like to read the full report, please find this Gartner report from Acro Media by clicking the link below. We’d be happy to share it with you.
1 - Gartner, "Survey Analysis: Organizations Need to Improve the Customer Experience to Fully Exploit Digital Commerce," 4 February 2019, Penny Gillespie