The retail sector is a cutthroat environment. New technologies come out on a regular basis, large companies like Amazon and Google crush or absorb smaller companies, and customer’s email in-boxes are flooded with new shopping offers. But the facts cannot be denied: to succeed retailers must utilize ecommerce technologies that offer customers a great online experience.
How important is it for retailers to leverage advanced ecommerce technologies? According to the National Retail Federation, “86% of retail executives surveyed in late 2014 expect to implement a unified commerce platform over the next 10 years to consolidate key data elements, business rules and functionality that historically have lived in multiple systems.”
The NRF report, “Building the Business Case for a Unified Commerce Platform—Optimizing the Consumer Experience,” goes on to discuss many topics, but the key issue for retailers is to understand what steps are involved when integrating multiple technologies to create a positive customer experience.
A new architectural approach
According to the report, “retailers must redefine their architectural approach” when integrating their ecommerce applications. With technology advancing so rapidly, it’s difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest solutions to ensure a positive customer experience.
The report highlights the key challenge that retailers face, namely integration. “Loosely coupled legacy systems originally implemented to solve specific programs for specific channels are not equipped to adequately serve connected consumers. The limitations of complex and disparate technology environments increase the risk of unsatisfied customers, rising costs and lost revenue.”
This is not exactly news to retailers. In fact, the NRF surveyed more than 300 retailers and found that 53% of those surveyed plan to implement some form of a unified commerce platform over the next three years to consolidate key data, business rules and functionality. The challenge is that it’s basically impossible to find a unified commerce platform off the shelf and assume it can manage all ecommerce activities.
Three tips to secure a positive customer journey
So what can retailers do to help coordinate all customer touch points and secure a great customer experience? Here are three areas to focus on:
Focus on integration
It’s quite common for a company’s website and its ecommerce platform to not be tightly integrated. In most cases a customer will visit a company website and read information about a product, and when they decide to make a purchase, they are moved to another part of the website. For some customers this can be quite confusing and can lead them to stopping the purchase. Tightly integrating your ecommerce platform with your web content management system allows your customers to view one unified online store.
Create a consistent look and feel
The content creators are the people who write and create the content that appears on the website and they don’t want to search for existing content that’s stashed away in multiple silos. In many cases ecommerce technology isn’t designed to create and manage content or incorporate it from other sources. A centralized content management system lets content creators easily find and use existing content, or create new content, and easily display it on the website.
Personalize the experience, but don’t become a stalker
Knowing a customer’s research or purchase history can be very helpful, but overloading them with ads that they’re not interested will only annoy them. Focus on integrating your content management system with your CRM platform in order to intelligently display information on your website that they are interested in which helps you make a sale. In other words, don’t display or send the customer information about bathing suits in the middle of winter.
Building a long-term relationship across all channels with your customers
It’s important for retailers to design an architectural roadmap that easily integrates Web content management, e-commerce, CRM technologies and web applications. By providing customers with relevant information when they want it, and how they want to view it, helps create an exceptional customer journey that not only keeps your customers coming back, but turns them into brand ambassadors that advocate for your brand.
Oliver Jaeger is Vice President Global Marketing & Communications for e-Spirit Inc. in North America.