Capitalize on Customer-Centric Commerce Innovation

By Phil Britt

Ninety percent of merchants have seen an increase in customers’ use of their digital commerce channels: 52 percent of merchants polled have seen a slight increase and 38 percent have enjoyed a significant increase, according to 451 Research.


Are those merchants doing enough to capitalize on that digital commerce activity? Not yet.

Companies looking to nurture their budding digital relationships need to increase their focus on customer-centric digital transformation, Sheryl Kingstone said during her session at the DX Summit.


“Everyone is feeling tech disruption,” said Kingstone, 451 Research’s research director, customer experience and commerce. She added, “And, we have empowered customer demand…


  • Seventy-six percent of consumers prefer digital communication channels;

  • Fifty-five percent of customers prefer self-service; and,

  • Forty-two percent of consumers say a prerequisite for loyalty is the ability to resolve issues via digital channels


…But what are we doing to meet it?”


Not enough.


A mere 29 percent of companies currently have a formal digital transformation strategy in place and only 33 percent are in the planning stages.

Kingstone recommends taking a cyclical, four-pronged approach to digital transformation:

Digital operations – Shift to paperless interactions, operate in real time,

use prescriptive analytics

Digital experience – Shift to a mobile-first, omnichannel customer engagement strategy and provide contextually relevant communications

and interactions

Digital organization – Implement a company-wide digital strategy and adopt a “disruptive” mind-set 

Digital platform – Shift to an agile infrastructure that allows the company

to quickly adapt as technology evolves, embed machine learning, and

adopt microservices


Additionally, Kingstone advised that companies prioritize improvements to their mobile commerce experience. Why mobile CX? In the next five years, 60 percent of consumers’ digital commerce purchases will be mobile, she said. And, 40 percent of consumers polled say they’d choose a company with a mobile loyalty program over a business without one (when the prices are comparable).


Kingstone also suggested providing digital assistants to simply the digital purchases and service experiences. The goal is to minimize customer friction and provide meaningful context during customer interactions. Companies that do so are likely to have an advantage: 451 Research predicts that only 30 percent of companies will implement conversational commerce using AI-based digital assistants over the next five years — with the objective of providing seamless interactions that mimic human conversations.


“It’s an experience generation today,” Kingstone said. “We’re competing on experiences.”


Kingstone cited as examples several companies using digital experiences to separate themselves from the competition:


  • Neiman Marcus’s mobile app enables consumers to snap a photo of an item they like (that they’ve found elsewhere), then the app finds a similar item sold by the retailer.

  • The Home Depot app helps consumers find items in the store, see their local ad for any promotions, and check for product availability.

  • Ashley Stewart uses personalized mobile search to improve its digital CX; as a result, the retailer doubled its click-throughs and increased its conversion rate by 16 percent.


In each example, the companies are empowering customers with digital tools that remove friction points, Kingstone said. Removing friction from digital commerce experiences is where many companies fall short in terms of digital innovation, she added.


“The essence of putting digital to work is to ensure that data and insight are embedded into an intelligent process,” Kingstone said. “The end goal is for business to phase out analogue- and paper-based processes, which are error-prone and require manual effort by the consumer. As a result, businesses must invest in new technologies and processes to enhance the customer experience.”


But success isn’t just about technology, Kingstone stressed. “It’s also about rethinking strategy, culture, talent, operating models, and processes,” she said, noting her four-pronged digital transformation strategy. Companies must be more responsive and access to information must be immediate in the age of the customer, Kingstone added.


In fact, 451 Research predicts that 55 percent of B2C companies will have hyper-personalized content, commerce, and data strategies in the next five years. The experiences those companies will be able to deliver may well provide them with a significant competitive advantage. So, now is the time transform your marketing operations, and join the 62 percent of companies actively using digital experiences as an effective way to engage and retain customers.

About the Author

Phil Britt has spent 40 years as a professional journalist, with work appearing in various newspapers and magazines, and on numerous websites. Phil is CEO of S&P Enterprises, a full-service editorial services firm in suburban Chicago. He covers financial services, technology, marketing, robotics and the plastics industry.


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