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Commerce to Be a Game Changer for Shoppers

By Don Scheibenreif, VP-Distinguished Analyst, Gartner

Don Scheibenreif, VP-Distinguished Analyst, Gartner

Commerce leaders have made online transactions efficient and customer friendly. Now they need to enable customers to design their own commerce experiences in a way that solves problems and makes their daily lives easier.

Shoppers still find a lot of reasons not to buy. Almost 70 percent of shopping carts are abandoned — a rate that's been consistent for a decade. During this time, commerce leaders have worked hard to improve their sites. They've added channels, such as mobile commerce. They've added product ratings and social networking. They've added multichannel process improvements, such as "buy online, pick up at the store," "buy online return to store" and "save the sale" options. They've made inventory more visible on websites and mobile applications. They've used A/B testing to fine-tune their sites. They have adopted a continuous improvement model for personalization. This work has brought value to the organization, but it doesn't center sufficiently on the customer. Instead of expecting customers to come to you, your commerce should come to them, when, where and how they want it.

Analysis:

An industry vision proposes the redefinition of a whole industry. It is one vision of many that are possible for any industry. An industry vision stretches your thinking about what is possible. An industry vision should make everyone feel uncomfortable, because it rethinks how value is created and delivered. An industry vision for "commerce that comes to you" consists of four parts: concept, capabilities, assets and research.

“Commerce leaders should allow each customer to design his or her own commerce experience”

Concept: Commerce that Comes to You:

Understands the customer as an individual — The enterprise knows the customer's roles (worker, husband, coach and so on) and interests (such as golf, volunteering and reading), behaviors (favorite coffee shop in the morning), as well as where the customer is in his journey and what he's doing at a given moment.

Anticipates the customer's needs — The enterprise knows when the customer will likely need to make a purchase or recognizes when the customer faces a problem; thus, it proposes ideas for products and services that resonate with the customer, and makes it easy for the customer to take advantage of them.

Simplifies — The enterprise interacts with things that act as a purchaser for customers. These digitally connected devices and sensors can signal for supplies or take action based on what the customer would want, such as scheduling service calls to prevent outages and making payment for them.

Is helpful — The enterprise does not simply try to sell things (for example, diet supplements), but instead focuses on solutions (I keep running out of this, so why do I need to remember to

order more of it?) or achieve a personal goal (such as lose weight, run a marathon or save

money).

Buying cycle — Commerce starts with inspiration — the customer's recognition of a need or want. Commerce leaders should strive to make it easy for their customers to make good buying decisions through rich product content, the ability to compare products, product reviews and ratings, access to assistance and subject matter experts, frictionless transactions, and more options (for example, buy online, deliver from store; peer-to-peer delivery, such as via Uber; automated replenishment; and offerings expanded through partnerships).

Owning cycle — Commerce continues through the product life cycle. Commerce leaders have only just started focusing here. They should ensure customers get maximum value from what they bought, and anticipate when the customer might need to buy again. For example, Under Armour can track how a customer wears a garment, offer advice on when it's best worn, how they can improve their workout and alert customers when it needs to be replaced.

B2B companies will need to address commerce that comes to you, too. Amazon has already moved into B2B sales. Internet Retailer has identified 300 top B2B e-commerce organizations, and that number keeps growing. B2B companies will have to make it easier for the people within customer organizations to do business with them.

Assets:

Commerce that comes to you will combine these technologies into innovative customer experiences and business models:

• The Nexus or Forces (social, mobile, information and cloud).
• Internet of Things (for example, Internet-connected appliances and sensors).
• Smart machines (such as virtual personal assistants).
• Peer to peer (such as Uber and Google Express).
• Algorithmic business (the use of public and proprietary algorithms, such as GPS mapping, and unique fulfillment or order algorithms).
• Visualization, such as augmented reality and virtual reality.
• Digital workplace (to support B2B customers and sales staff).

Big data:

Big data, coupled with smart machine learning, algorithms and analytics, produces smart personalization. The enterprise must gather and analyze multiple kinds of information about its customers to move personalization beyond segmentation to personas, with more customized experiences. This targeting requires understanding customer interest and intent, recognizing where they are in their journey, knowing when to offer assistance, and putting its solutions into the context of the customer's needs and wants. A/B testing can refine the content offered and reveal more about customer preferences. Virtual personal assistants that can take on tasks for the customer, such as finding a replacement part at a particular price by a particular date, or finding an insurance policy with specific coverage and certain terms and other complex requests.

Social:

The digital customer exists within a network of people, and digital businesses are learning how to tap into the power of the community, from product reviews and answering buyers' questions, to creating peer-to-peer services such as Uber, Airbnb and TaskRabbit. Commerce that comes to you will use these relationships to help customers make decisions, solve problems, and receive the goods and services they want.

Mobile:

Customers love their mobiles and take them everywhere. Smartphone’s, wearable’s and tablets provide contextual information about people, enabling sellers to better serve their customers by enhancing the in-store shopping experience (such as finding products, accessing product information and check-out) through augmented reality applications that allow a customer to try out a product virtually or with location awareness that brings items of interest to the customer's attention at the right time and place.

Cloud:

The enterprise can use cloud computing to scale commerce up and down quickly. The enterprise can also use cloud computing to quickly add the capabilities of new partners and to access advanced technologies it does not want to build (for example, smart machines). Cloud will continually supply sellers with new data, information and algorithmic services that can improve the customer experience throughout the customer life cycle.