Fueled by a combination of technological advances and the pandemic’s contactless demands, it is foundational in today’s multichannel world of buying and selling.
Far more than simply an online storefront where products reside and checkouts occur, it spans across channels and involves everything from traditional eCommerce to personalized content.
It takes an integrated approach to the customer journey and aims for a unified buying experience, regardless of the channel of interaction.
For businesses looking to remain competitive in the years ahead, a keen focus on this type of commerce will be integral to increasing sales, acquiring new customers, and retaining existing ones.
If your business is looking to build an improved strategy, the following guide will help walk you through its importance, noteworthy trends in this space, and tips for improving your overall strategy.
Why is Digital Commerce Important?
Digital commerce has taken center stage, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic forced all commerce to adapt to a contactless world. According to the US Department of Commerce, consumers spent $861.12 billion online with US merchants in 2020, which amounts to a 44.0% increase year over year.
For this reason, its importance is about more than just a rise in online sales. It is about the entire customer journey, embracing a new world in which interactions happen between consumers and brands across a blend of physical and digital spaces.
Its relevance can be seen in a few key areas.
- Consistency across channels: It is the glue that holds all channels together. More than just an online storefront, it involves curating content, personalizing experiences, and the shopping journey across all channels. A powerful strategy must offer a consistent experience regardless of where an interaction takes place.
- Meeting higher consumer expectations: It addresses consumers’ high expectations. Customers have come to expect a personalized experience regardless of how they interact with a brand. Whether they are visiting your brick-and-mortar location, shopping online, or adding a product to their cart via an app, customers expect brands to provide a seamless shopping experience.
- The merging of B2B, B2C, D2C: It offers a blended approach to commerce. This has led to the merging of B2B, B2C, and D2C sales. Brands have a new opportunity to cross lines and reach whole new audience segments.
Benefits of Digital Commerce
Married to its importance are the benefits offered. If your brand handles your strategy well, the gains are immense.
Easily Expand Internationally
For brands looking to cross international borders, the time to do so has never been better than now. Digital commerce makes it easier and more cost-effective to reach consumers across the globe.
It is important to note that if you plan to expand internationally, you need to prepare for the logistics of global sales. While customers are open to purchasing from international brands, they will still expect fast shipping at little to no cost.
Manage Multiple Brands
This approach makes it easier for businesses to manage multiple brands at once. With the right integrated platform, you can reuse assets, manage product information in one centralized location, and serve experiences to the right audience based on targeted data.
Offer a Better Customer Experience
By harnessing customer data, you can provide a more personalized experience across all channels. This is a powerful tool when used well. It allows brands to acquire new customers, retain existing customers, and improve overall sales numbers.
Not only do businesses need to build out a robust digital commerce strategy, but they also need to take a deep look at the experience of customers who interact with their brand.
A report conducted by Forrester Consulting discovered that nearly half of buyers would pay more for a better digital shopping experience. Additionally, this same group of customers would not buy from the same business again if their experience was poor.
For this reason, it is important to understand the customer experience.
The key is to focus on the full customer journey, analyze where your brand’s weakest points are, and utilize data to improve the experience.
Meet Your Customers Where They Are
A digital commerce strategy allows you to meet your customers wherever they are.
This could be a timely text message promoting a new product to a customer while they ride the train for their morning commute. It could be bringing helpful guides to a new mom, which includes pointing out must-have items from your online store.
Regardless of what you are selling, this strategy allows you to interact with your customers on a level unheard of before. You are invited into your customers’ homes and daily lives, allowing you to reach them with highly targeted, ongoing experiences.
Current Trends in Digital Commerce
What customers expect from your brand will not look the same in a year’s time as it did in early 2020. Much is influenced by advancements in technology and an increasing use of personalized data.
The following are key trends to pay attention to in the year ahead.
COVID Fueled Digital Adoption
At this point, it almost goes without saying. COVID increased digital usage across all channels.
From the popularization of curbside pickup to the demand for contactless payments, much of its future will be influenced by the rapid adoption of digital channels due to the pandemic.
While pandemic fears might be lessening, the digital habits learned over the past year are here to stay.
Digital First is Essential
By 2023, 58% of retail sales will be influenced by digital. Having a digital-first approach to your strategy is a business essential.
Digital first means that you incorporate every interaction your customer might have with your brand into your digital strategy.
For example, if a customer visits your brick-and-mortar location to look at a product, you might retarget that customer later with an SMS message offering a promotion to complete their purchase online. Linking all channels into one strategic approach will influence your brand’s future success.
Additionally, this means unifying all teams across your company to work towards a digital-first approach. From sales to marketing to warehouse management, digital must be integrated into everything teams do.
Customer Data is the Key to Improved Experience
If your brand is not harnessing customer data, now is the time to begin. Customers expect a personalized experience when interacting with brands. Understanding your customer will involve a deep dive into analytics on consumer behaviors.
For example, if your customer abandoned their cart prior to checkout through your mobile app, what else did they do leading up to that moment? What information can you glean about content they visited, products they searched, and interactions they had with customer service reps?
While digital commerce allows brands to learn more than ever before about their customers, this is only as useful as your business’s ability to analyze and adapt. The right platform is critical to turning data into action.
How to Improve Your Digital Commerce
There is essentially no brand today that isn’t taking part in digital commerce on some level. However, many businesses are in danger of being left behind in this space.
If you are still viewing your strategy through a singular lens, setting up an eCommerce website, and calling it a day, it’s time to adapt.
Improving your approach involves a few key strategies.
Offer an Omnichannel Experience
Omnichannel is the way of the future. Customers expect to seamlessly transition from one channel to the next.
For example, if a customer places a product in their cart through your mobile app and later lands on your website via their desktop, they will expect the same product to be in their cart. If they later speak to a sales representative via a call bank, they will expect the sales rep to be aware of the product in their cart.
Whether your customers are interacting with you via an app, a social media messenger, or in person, the experience should be one and the same.
Be Mobile Focused
Data shows that 51% of website traffic now comes from mobile devices. A digital commerce strategy must focus on improving the mobile experience. From investing in a mobile app to improving the mobile version of your website, be sure to pay attention to the mobile experience with your brand.
Give Multiple, Flexible Payment Options
Consumers want to be able to pay in a myriad of ways. This includes everything from connecting popular payment options such as Venmo and Paypal to your eCommerce store to offering monthly financing options. Digital commerce should include a strategy around expanding your payment options.
More payment options make it easier for consumers to choose to purchase your products.
Take on a Strategy Backed by Best Practices
Jake Sorofman, Vice President of Research at Gartner, stated: “There was a time when marketing and selling were two distinct disciplines. In many cases, digital merges these two into a single, continuous activity from initial awareness, through engagement, conversion, transaction and repeat purchase.”
Your strategy must be backed by best practices that weave together marketing and selling into an optimized experience. It is no longer enough to serve up an ad to a customer and hope they convert to a purchase. Instead, it is becoming an interactive experience. With the rise of conversational commerce, shoppable content, and AI-powered personalization, your business must continually adapt to new best practices in both the digital and physical realm.
At Vaimo, we specialize in helping businesses improve their digital commerce strategy. Whether you are hoping to add in new channels or optimize existing customer experiences, our team can help you harness the power of data, analytics, and testing to create an improved strategy.
Additionally, we can assist you in implementing the right technology solutions to ensure that your business can continue to scale over time. The right platform will make it more efficient to manage multiple channels, product information, and even content in a centralized location. Reach out today to learn more about optimizing your strategy.