When eCommerce first entered the scene, most retailers or companies looking to do online commerce looked at their eCommerce designs (technology stack) as a standalone entity. As time has progressed, however, this siloed approach to digital commerce has become less efficient.
Today, more than ever, consumers expect a single seamless commerce experience when interacting with a business. This, in turn, requires that companies manage the lifecycle of their customers and tech stacks in an equally seamless way.
Choosing a unified commerce experience rather than selecting single, best-of-breed point solutions is now a more direct path to success and ROI for businesses. Whether a customer stops by a physical location to make a purchase or browses the website at 1:00 am, your team needs to be able to interact, track, manage, and close the sale.
The piece explores the future of the commerce experience with practical tips for businesses looking to keep up with the changes in eCommerce strategy and design to gain an edge in an increasingly competitive space.
Commerce is Taking Place Everywhere
According to eMarketer, people are shopping digitally more than ever before, with 83% of the U.S. population choosing to shop online. New behaviors are forming, as well, with 68% of consumers saying that they will continue to use curbside pickup post-pandemic, per Global Data Retail.
It’s not just traditional eCommerce that is central to this digital experience: eMarketer expects 100 million people to have bought something from social channels by 2023.
The reality is that every channel is now a storefront and modern commerce takes place everywhere. From TikTok to websites to curbside pickup, commerce is a multichannel experience.
For example, think of a few of the biggest clothing retailers, such as American Eagle. Today, a customer might interact with this company across multiple channels before purchasing a new pair of jeans. They might see an American Eagle post on their Instagram feed that piques their interest through a 10% discount coupon. They might browse an online catalog, dropping a pair of new jeans into their shopping cart with the coupon immediately applied. From here, they will expect that they can track their purchase, monitoring the delivery on its way to their address.
Once the jeans are delivered, they will try them on. Realizing they are the wrong size, they will look into return and exchange policies. Noting that the American Eagle store near them allows for in-store returns, they will opt to swing by on their way home from work rather than spending time in line at the post office. When they arrive, a sales member will be ready to assist them with a pair of jeans in the right size. Additionally, the sales member might point out a new line of casual tees that just arrived, which would make a perfect pairing for their recently purchased jeans. The customer will snag a few shirts and head out the door.
Through this quick example, it is easy to see how retailers have to think about any eCommerce strategy holistically, realizing that commerce happens everywhere.
The Constraints of Point Solutions
With the rise in the number of channels that consumers utilize to make a purchase, retailers must look for the right solution to match each new challenge. In many cases, they turn to point solutions to meet these needs. However, point solutions come with serious pitfalls. These highly specialized solutions can result in all of the following issues:
Unfortunately, companies waste time with too much effort towards eCommerce strategy placed on finding, vetting, and evaluating the best-of-breed point solution for the eCommerce ecosystem. The result is that teams are too focused on finding single solutions for each commerce channel, eating up time that could be spent working on an improved digital experience that translates across all channels.
Point Solutions Can Be a Resource Drain
Another issue with focusing on point solutions is that they often require a tremendous amount of time and resources to be devoted toward integration. In many cases, this means a heavy reliance on internal or contracted tech help. This results in a higher overall total cost of ownership.
Real-Time Data is Lost
As evidenced in the example above, where a consumer wanted to move between eCommerce and brick and-mortar stores seamlessly, retailers must have constant up-to-date data. With point solutions, data liquidity is often compromised as one solution does not inform another. This can be problematic because consumers increasingly expect a business to keep up with them as they move between channels.
One area where losing real-time insights is costly is in the case of inventory. In fact, according to Shopify, retailers are missing out on nearly $1 trillion in sales due to stock issues. This makes it more important than ever for businesses to ensure that the business understands what inventory is available to serve to that consumer no matter where a consumer lands.
Point Solutions Can Create Silos
By their very nature, point solutions reinforce silos and do not align to or support customer journey optimization, consumer tracking, and goal accountability from marketing to sales. This means that each team within a retail business operates with limited visibility into another team’s work.
Duplicated efforts can occur, an incohesive strategy will emerge, and customers can get lost in the chaos.
Point Solutions Limit Collaboration
Most retail organizations are striving for a broad, multi-disciplinary team that collaborates with stated goals. However, point solutions don’t align with these organizational best practices.
This lack of collaboration can be costly. In fact, in its 2021 Revenue Marketing Report, Outchannel found that revenue growth is 70% more common among companies where sales and marketing teams cooperate effectively.
With point solutions, collaboration is stilted, complex, and time-intensive. This results in teams that will often move away from group collaboration, focusing instead on a singular project without considering the business’s holistic goals.
The Reasons to Look for a Platform Solution
With the rise of the unified commerce experience, retailers are looking for solutions capable of meeting their team’s needs and their customers’ expectations. Platform solutions allow retailers to focus on an improved digital experience, creating a seamless experience across all channels.
Your Competitors Are Filling in the Gaps
While some retailers spend time taping together a handful of point solutions, the major players in retail are filling in the missing pieces. In fact, by the end of 2018, 28% of retailers had adopted unified commerce, according to Boston Retail Partners, with a whopping 81% planning to do so by the end of 2020.
Even businesses birthed online, such as Amazon, are finding ways to tie together the retail experience.
Visit Amazon’s website, and you will be greeted with livestream eCommerce. Try returning a bulky item, and you will be greeted with the option to drop your return off at a conveniently located Kohls. Grab your phone and browse Amazon’s app at 1:00 am and choose to “buy now” and bypass the entire cart checkout experience. Swing by WholeFoods on your way home and get a discount on your groceries for being a Prime member.
Retailers have to keep up with the businesses currently leading in this space by ditching a point solution focus and looking for a holistic solution.
Platform Suite Solutions Speed Up Important Processes
A platform suite solution will help to speed up important processes. By staying in a single platform, decisions are made quicker with the right inputs, sign-offs, and accountability from start to finish. Team members aren’t bogged down by switching between systems, freeing up time to focus on the customer experience.
Full Stacks Deliver with Less Complexity
More and more of the full-stack solutions available work together to deliver faster time to market. There is no need to purchase, deploy, and train teams on new solutions, and you can now rely on a single support team to tackle any issues that arise.
Unified Ecommerce Stack Allows for the Right Focus
With a unified eCommerce stack, you can spend more time delivering great digital customer experiences and less on other things that do not translate into sales. This shift in focus allows you to optimize your digital experience, creating a truly unified commerce strategy.
Vaimo Offers Expertise and Data-Backed Strategy
For retailers looking to design a more robust and customer-focused unified commerce strategy, Vaimo is here to assist. We offer expertise in eCommerce design, with teams that can help with everything from Magento development to building a data-backed strategy.
Our team has a passion for creating a compelling digital experience that aligns with your business goals. We can help you explore the unified platform solutions that are best for your team’s needs and your customer’s expectations.