Marketing for the digital era is among us. Digital commerce, as it is commonly called, is essential for everything related to product promotion, pricing, analytics, customer acquisition and retention, content development… the list goes on. This technique merges the elements that trigger a transaction in the first place, so without it, a marketing plan could fall at the first hurdle.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, consumers spent $601.75 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2019. This is a 14.9% increase from 2018 — demonstrating the success of applying digital commerce strategies.
“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. Marketers can now tie spending to revenue. In fact, it’s becoming a mandate,” says Jake Sorofman, vice president of research at Gartner.
Beyond everything, the overall outcome of your digital commerce efforts will depend on the tools, technologies, and processes utilized to produce transactory results.
In order to successfully measure trends and determine the changes of a customer returning to or recommending your site, it is vital that you take some time to monitor high-level metrics. So, ask yourself, are you using the right tools to better understand your audience?
What is Digital Commerce?
An amalgamation of elements are bundled into a marketer’s efforts to execute a digital commerce strategy. Don’t get this confused with ecommerce, because although digital commerce is also an effective tool for marketing, it encompasses a wide array of additional tasks that makes this strategy more thorough.
Some of the integral components of any digital commerce plan include content creation — e.g., blogs, product descriptions, and social media posts — research and development, promotions, analytics, marketing, social media presence, customer satisfaction, and customer service.
Perhaps the easiest way to think of digital commerce is to imagine it like the fuse that provides an electrical device with energy. Digital commerce is the power source for an online retailer’s transactions. This type of commerce essentially encompasses each and every touchpoint and process that prompts a consumer to make the final purchase.
What is Driving the Need for Digital Commerce?
The commerce landscape of today is evolving at a rapid rate, and with these changes comes a change in consumer behavior. Largely stimulated by the modernization of technology, digital commerce has been embraced as an integral cog in the inner workings of the online retail world. Excelling at it means that you need to evolve with the rise of technology.
Within the scope of digital marketing, mobile is an important facet of the modern digital experience. So much so, in fact, that April 2019 data from Statista pegged the global mobile population at four billion unique users. Furthermore, in February of last year, 48% of web page views worldwide came from mobile devices.
As more people use mobile devices, a larger number of customers are seeking out convenient ways to shop using their smartphone, demonstrating adaptations in consumer buying behavior. This is not to say that everybody is shopping on their cell phone, but it is something that retailers must factor into the equation if they want to capture a larger market.
1. Create the best customer experience.
A study by Qualtrics showed that more than 65% of customers feel that a company’s app or website shapes the overall experience. These people described the digital experience as a “very important” aspect in recommending a brand.
People are also turning to digital as a means of gaining follow-up support from the companies they do business with, such as in the form of customer service. Something else to think about is omnichannel fulfillment — something that most shoppers expect when buying from a brand today.
Over the last few years, this trend has emerged as an indispensable solution for merchants and retailers who want to increase their orders with minimal effort. This process centralizes various sales channels (online, mobile, store, kiosk, and/or call centers) with inventory sources (store, warehouse, supplier, and/or marketplace) and fulfilllment locations (which may include home delivery, store pick-up, or collection point pick-up).
2. Keep up with evolving competition.
If you’re not currently mapping the customer journey, you should strongly consider starting. Chances are, your competitors are already factoring this into their digital commerce equation.
After all, when you focus on the moments of consumer interaction that contribute to brand loyalty, you can begin to understand exactly what it is that makes a customer want to recommend your brand experience to a friend, family member, colleague, neighbor, etc. The task of outpacing your competitors can be simplified when you review customer data.
Challenges of Digital Commerce
While it is essential to integrate certain digital commerce habits into your daily business operations, the ever-changing world of technology and consumer behavior can pose a challenge. It can be difficult to allocate enough time to oversee multiple touchpoints throughout the consumer journey, from the moments when your customers experience joy to the times when they feel frustrated.
Prepare yourself by anticipating the following potential obstacles associated with digital commerce:
1. Delivering consistent customer experiences.
Customer expectations are constantly changing. Retailers should make a habit of adopting a strategic approach to monitoring customer data to easily pinpoint areas that are working well and those that need improvement. The more you learn about customer behavior, the more you can do to personalize each and every experience.
Technology will be your best friend at this time. Analyzing algorithms will assist you in tweaking your digital commerce platform to ensure consistency across all areas of the online shopping experience, including shipping preferences, search options, and the types of products you present them with.
2. Meeting new technology expectations.
With so many digital marketing trends in 2020, meeting customer expectations can be a tricky task in the digital age. Devices are constantly being upgraded, which means you’ll need to update your digital commerce campaigns regularly to serve your tech-savvy customers.
Remember that, before buying a product, customers tend to use multiple digital platforms when searching for the right brand. Although consumer behaviors are difficult to predict in this fast-moving era of marketing technology, you can provide seamless purchasing experiences by staying abreast of digital commerce trends, including artificial intelligence, conversational marketing, personalization, video marketing, visual search, and shoppable posts.
3. Generating enough traffic.
Gone are the days of retailers depending on a single source of traffic coming to their ecommerce website. Successful digital commerce gurus are tapping into SEO, PPC, email, social, display ads, retargeting, mobile, shopping engines, and affiliates as a way of sending targeted traffic to their web-hosted store.
Creating Instagram galleries, securing influencer collaborations, hosting social media prize giveaways, optimizing product images for Google — these are just a handful of ways to generate traffic for your ecommerce business via digital channels. The best way to overcome this hurdle is to invest in a software solution that merges every essential element of digital commerce.
4. Converting and retaining customers.
Most B2B marketers consider marketing automation to be a highly useful tool for both generating and converting leads. Statistically, Social Media Today’s 2019 State of Marketing Automation Survey report revealed that 75% of marketers/companies are already using at least one kind of marketing automation tool.
But what about retaining those valuable customers? All of the hard work and resources you spent converting customers could be lost if you don’t focus on keeping them interested.
A loyal customer can last a lifetime, so don’t neglect them! When customer retention efforts were bolstered just 5% by Groove HQ — a computer software company — profits soared 95%.
Tap into the power of customer retention and re-engage existing customers by adopting digital commerce tools such as feedback surveys, live educational webinars, and automation.
5. Expanding business with technology.
Is your technology limiting you? While you might not realize it, the tools you’re currently adopting could be holding you back. Retailers who wish to accomplish ongoing and consistent growth with digital commerce should establish a firm foundation for their technological feats. There’s a lot to consider at this point, including analytics, shopping cart solutions, email software, CRM systems, and inventory management software.
Steer clear of starving your business by investing in the right avenues of technology. For example, integrate a website chat function into your digital commerce store and ask for feedback from your customers. Remember, the first step to dealing with and overcoming potential pitfalls is to find out what your customers are thinking and feeling.
8 Key Digital Commerce Trends
Worldwide digital ad spend is anticipated to soar beyond $375 billion by 2021, according to eMarketer. The market research company also predicts that “digital will continue to exhibit robust growth, expanding from 39.1% of total media ad spend in 2017 to 49.6% by 2021.”
With this in mind, it’s important that you consider which avenue of digital commerce you intend to invest in. Even the most experienced marketers can struggle to keep up with innovations in the world of digital commerce, but as technology advances, so should your ecommerce strategies.
Businesses are relying on the following to keep up with fast-paced changes:
1. Personalized content.
A report from SmarterHQ concluded that 72% of consumers only choose to respond when a marketing message is tailored to their specific interests. Improving the user experience and getting your audience to trust you are two things you can master with content personalization.
One way to make every member of your target audience feel like they have a personal connection with your brand is to utilize ads that are based on an individual’s online activity.
Stats from Instapage show that 78% of U.S. internet users feel more inclined to buy a product after being presented with personally relevant brand content. This type of content typically speaks to an individual or a particular group of people.
It’s critical to conduct research on the consumers you’re targeting. Find out what makes your audience tick, learn their buying patterns, and center your content around this. Collecting visitor data with customer relationship management (CRM) systems can come in handy here.
2. Subscription commerce.
When customers sign up to receive goods on a recurring schedule, it falls under the subscription ecommerce market category. Between 2012–2018, this type of digital commerce swelled in popularity by more than 100%.
A great option for repeat business, subscription commerce has emerged as a popular choice in a wide range of industries, including food and drink, beauty, health and wellness, spirituality, fitness, and literature, to name a few.
“With the anticipated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the global automotive subscription services market through 2022 at 71%, I would be surprised if enterprise decided not to jump into this hot market,” the CEO & Publisher of Subscription Insider, Kathy Greenler Sexton, said during an interview with ConsumerAffairs. She makes a good point, since the sheer power of garnering revenue through subscription commerce is apparent among successful businesses like Netflix and Spotify.
3. Enterprise marketplace.
According to leading research and advisory company Gartner, “The enterprise marketplace is a new business model in which organizations change their ways of doing business, create wider ecosystems, develop new capabilities, and generate new sources of revenue.”
By the year 2023, Gartner predicts that “15% of medium- to high-gross-merchandise-value digital commerce organizations will have deployed their own marketplaces, thereby creating an entirely new digital ecosystem.” The company even released a report focused on companies like Toyota Material Handling, Best Buy Canada, and H&M (Afound) that are adopting enterprise marketplaces.
The aforementioned brands aren’t the only ones harnessing the power of enterprise marketplaces, which are acknowledged for their ability to help organizations expand consumer reach. Multinational conglomerate company Honeywell also announced in March 2019 that it would be launching a new marketplace for enterprise apps. Honeywell claims that its enterprise marketplace venture will give the company a platform to provide customers with an end-to-end offering and ultimately become a thought leader in the software space.
4. Augmented reality.
Why not offer your audience a digital commerce experience that feels real? Augmented reality (AR) is a type of technology that works by superimposing images onto a person’s view of the world by stimulating the senses. AR may utilize effects that mimic real sounds, feelings, images, and, in some cases, smell. The goal is to establish an emotional connection that triggers a need for the consumer to buy a specific product.
Perhaps one of the most admirable aspects of introducing AR into a digital commerce strategy is the fact that it reduces the need for a physical inventory of products, thus saving time, resources, and money. An impeccable way of boosting brand value through a phone or computer screen, AR eliminates the need for customers to interact with products directly prior to buying them.
Companies that have utilized this type of technology to broaden their reach include Sephora, L’Oreal, Perfect Corp., and Facebook. StubHub also managed to pull off an impressive AR promotion when it unveiled an app in 2018 that enabled users to explore the Super Bowl stadium with a three-dimensional display.
5. Artificial intelligence.
Wikipedia described artificial intelligence as computers and machines that mimic the cognitive functions relied on by humans to problem-solve and learn new information. When integrated into digital commerce, AI analyzes data from users — e.g., age, gender, and interests — to send highly specific sales material to consumers. Considering that Google invested $500 million in AI company DeepMind back in 2014, it’s clear that this type of digital commerce is catching on.
The benefits of AI were highlighted in a Gartner survey finding that 59% were seeking ways to improve their AI strategies. The remaining 41% had already introduced automated solutions into their digital commerce strategy. The company goes as far as to say that 80% of customer interactions will be handled by AI this year.
6. Content and commerce.
Commerce content is one of the most sought-after services. To put this into perspective, Buzzfeed’s commerce business pulled in $250 million in transactions in 2018, according to data from Digiday. These product-centric pieces hone in on specific subjects or products to attract interest and, eventually, steer the reader to make a purchase.
By blending content and commerce, media companies can monetize their audiences without relying solely on basic ads. After reading product highlights, the consumer can click an affiliate link or go directly to a client’s website to make a purchase.
To succeed with content commerce, the content must inspire and educate. If you can accomplish this, you can bet that your content will be shared and your brand visibility expanded.
7. Progressive web apps (PWAs).
This year, Microsoft declared that they would be including URL protocol handler registration support for all progressive web apps. The technology company’s reason for this is to enable Google to integrate PWA services into the Chrome browser to make it look and feel like an installed application… minus the fuss.
A study showed that approximately 20% of people will lose interest in an app when they encounter the steps — finding the app, downloading, installing, and opening it — between their initial contact and first use. What makes PWAs so attractive to both retailers and customers is the immediacy of use that comes with it. Progressive apps of this kind can be used in combination with the browser on which they’re installed.
Adopting PWAs – which work in every type of browser – into your digital-commerce strategy is a clever way of showing customers what you have to offer without too much effort on their part. Offers and reminders can be delivered through PWAs as a way of re-engaging users for days, weeks, and months after their initial experience with the software.
8. Customer analytics.
The concept of using analytics to understand customer behavior is crucial for making data-driven, informed decisions.
Analytics help companies be more efficient in their marketing efforts and fine-tune the demand they generate from prospective customers. Customer analytics can assist businesses in understanding the ever-changing behaviors of today’s consumers. Monitoring algorithms with analytics software can also aid companies in optimizing social media marketing strategies for an improved ROI and assess those all-important “micro-moments” across every stage of a customer’s buying journey.
Understanding what resonates with your audience will ensure that you’re able to stay focused on your journey to success with digital commerce. Meeting the demands of today’s new age digital consumer will be a breeze when you put the forces of analytics solutions to work. From web behavior and search patterns, to identifying best — and worst — performing products, the right type of digital software can ensure that you capture consumer preferences and assess their activity across different touchpoints. When these elements are combined with advanced personalization techniques, AI, and budget optimization, your digital commerce venture is sure to be fruitful.
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