Interview: Sitecore on the importance of digital touchpoints during the e-commerce revolution
2020 marked the dawn of a new decade, new disruption, and a monumental journey for commerce. Something changed for every business, everywhere, at the same time.
Sitecore's director of product marketing, David Schweer, says it was an interesting time for e-commerce because it transformed society. Those who weren't digital natives became 'digital comfortable' - i.e. they didn't know everything about technology, but they adapted so they could continue to work, shop, and play.
"This shift online was beneficial for e-commerce because it allowed organisations to market to new consumers - consumers who benefit from offerings like buying online, direct-to-consumer shipping, and click and collect. It makes the experience easier for people. We found, especially with older consumers, that they were introduced to online shopping and e-commerce and they will continue to use it."
There was a downside, though. Hand-in-hand with the shift to online shopping and business, the pandemic caused operations to grind to a halt worldwide.
"One of the challenges that we're still seeing is delays with the supply chain. This is top of mind for a lot of companies right now. E-commerce has to connect deeper with the supply chain and work out how those issues affect customer experiences," says Schweer.
He believes that organisations need to pivot based on what they can provide to the market and what consumers are looking for. That is where many companies fall short. Consider consumer touchpoints, for example.
A study from Sitecore found that more than 50% of consumers use more than four touchpoints before making a purchase decision. These touchpoints cover two categories: Device touchpoints and digital touchpoints.
Device touchpoints speak to various mobile devices such as computers, phones, tablets, and at least one other smart device. Schweer explains, "Sometimes consumers don't realise that we're switching from device to device. They could be on a Zoom call on a laptop and pick up their phone to look at something."
Digital touchpoints include places where consumers look for products. Schweer adds, "The most effective touchpoints are ones that immediately display what a consumer is looking for. We've found that, as an example, female shoppers aged between 12-21 take 8.7 seconds to either find what they're looking for, or they go somewhere else.
Older consumers have a bit more tolerance, but it is important that brands need to start delivering personalisation right from those initial entry points."
Schweer says that another popular digital touchpoint is a marketplace where brands can place their products. For example, a consumer might want to know who has the best price or the best experience.
"Consumers who are brand-agnostic may have a choice of a few different brands. Marketplaces are popular touchpoints because they enable consumers to search across different brands to quickly find what they want."
Device and digital touchpoints play a major role in providing an e-commerce experience that works for the customer. Still, organisations must also weave these into their commerce architecture and marketing, known as 'marketecture'.
"Marketecture is everything that comes together to deliver the customer experience. For a lot of organisations, marketecture comprises many different technologies from many vendors - and all of these technologies need to integrate with each other. That's why we see this rise in composability, which enables best-of-breed tools to integrate with each other. Organisations also need to consider vendors based on their ability to innovate. Vendors need to operate and innovate at the pace customers need, rather than at a pace than, for example, a slow monolithic vendor."
He adds that CIOs need to support the pace of change, but they also need to understand that the pace is not driven by their organisation or their marketing team; it's driven by the customer.
"A trend we're seeing is that CIOs in organisations are getting closer to the customer and being more aware of customer trends. They need to be joint partners at the table with departments like marketing. It's the new model, and there is a lot of value that can be created for the business."
So what's ahead for the future of commerce, and how should organisations shift their commerce architectures to match consumer needs?
Schweer says organisations need to focus less on historical customer data and more on anonymous real-time data to deliver a personalised customer experience. This data means that organisations don't need to hoard as much data to pinpoint relevance; they can apply it to a wide range of customers, reflecting that customers are constantly changing.
"When you have a view of consumers right now in the moment, it's easier to accomplish your goals."