What’s Happening in Ecommerce: Three Insights

Technology / Strategy

This past January, hundreds of retailers attended IC Summit in Los Angeles, a two-day conference focused on tackling the challenges of today’s ecommerce lifecycle. Through a series of panel discussions, attendees shared ideas, connected with digital solution providers and networked with the industry’s online brand builders.

Speaking on two of the panels were innovators from strategic solution partners Rightpoint and Sid Lee. Dale Traxler, Rightpoint’s Vice President, Commerce, participated in a panel looking at strategy and integration of omnichannel, and how to define the evolution of omni. Vincent Ramsay, Sid Lee’s Senior Creative Director, Digital and Innovation, took the stage for a panel on mobile engagement, addressing how retailers can take advantage of the $2-billion revenues generated by mobile shopping today.

Here they recap the three themes that dominated the conversations and what you can apply as a retailer to elevate your brand in today’s digital economy:

Amazon: Know your ecommerce benchmark

“How the hell do we deal with Amazon?” as Traxler puts it, was the most consistent topic of conversation at the summit. Whether it’s manufacturers or a retailer, people are still struggling with their perception of the ecommerce giant and what they can do to compete.

“Every retailer today has to know how to be independent of Amazon but also to work with them closely,” he says. According to him, an effective strategy starts with strong brand positioning and differentiation. As an example, he points to the tactic of selling highly personalized, configurable products, something Amazon doesn’t currently do.

“Brands need to ask themselves: ‘Other than price, what makes us different? Why would you choose us?’ It’s vital that your brand is different and can deliver a great, consistent customer experience, but isn’t the same as everyone else’s.”

Invest in your brand story

“If you want to unlock big sales and increase traffic to your site, you need to invest in your brand story,” says Ramsay, “because that’s what really moves the needle, not just adjusting tiny details in your funnel.”

For him, one of the most refreshing brand stories from the summit was of Toms Shoes, that, through its “One for One” model, helps a person in need with every product purchased. The company partners with over 100 organizations worldwide to address issues like gun violence, bullying, hunger and safe childbirth.

“We’re at a point where ecommerce needs to brand itself as a different experience,” he says, “to really stand out, brands need to focus on telling their story rather than simply working towards the Amazon benchmark.” In the case of Toms Shoes, he explains, the storytelling that’s built into their DNA is what creates their momentum and success.

“Another brand I’ve been watching closely is Brandless,” Traxler adds, “who has created a brand story about not being a brand. And that is their brand.” The company donates food and gives phones to the homeless, curates high-quality products and sells everything for between three and nine dollars. “They’re growing like wildfire and it’s because of what they do and why they do it.”

Make every click count

The third hot topic and question among vendors was: “Now that we’ve launched our site, how can we make it perform better?” Traxler noticed that through merchandising, advertising or SEM, brands were focused on turning data into dollars and improving the consumer journey in between.

Without investing in optimization, whether it’s brand story, product content, logo placement or even the color of the “buy” button, people will visit your site, but they might not buy anything,” he says, “it’s something brands are aware of and they know they need help.”

“Everything loops back to how these contact points are integrated and how seamless the journey is,” adds Ramsay, “I think full stack is the solution but it’s still unknown.” While big brands like Google and Adobe claim their full stacks allow real time optimization and personalization, Ramsay feels these features have yet to be explored.

The most successful companies leveraging digital channels are small start-ups offering a niche digital product, Traxler says. They can adapt quickly to changing markets and work well with different technology stacks, content and silos of influence. “But as soon as they branch out, they start to run into problems. Either they’re suddenly in a physical store instead of online, or they buy and try to integrate another company. That’s when things get tricky. It’s really fascinating.”


Using Sitecore to Drive Your Customer Experience

Thomas John, Senior Director and Commerce Practice Lead
Technology / Platforms

I attended the recent 2018 Sitecore Symposium and experienced a palpatable energy around the various sessions and much anticipated announcements. From the opening keynote with Mark Frost, the emphasis was on Experience. This was further detailed by Paige O’Neill, CMO of Sitecore, who showcased the Experience Award winners with Care by Volvo, Cannondale Bike and SickKids Foundation. The main thread of the sessions and follow-up discussions revolved around Experience. It is very clear that customer expectations are evolving and the opportunity to provide enhanced customer experience is enormous. Consumers are ready for a frictionless, fluid commerce experience.

We recently held a webinar recapping the top takeaways from Sitecore Symposium and you can watch the 30-min recorded session with our commerce experts here. Here are some of the exciting announcements from Symposium 2018:

Sitecore Javascript Services (JSS) enables improved customer experience

Sitecore Javascript Services (JSS) enables an improved customer experience with faster time to market. It is a complete SDK for Javascript developers who want to build modern solutions using Sitecore and Javascript. The advantage of using JSS is that the developer can build the experience without Siteore knowledge. In addition, JSS sits on top of the headless capabilities of Sitecore which means content can be used across any digital channel.
Sitecore Cortex provides next level AI and machine learning
Since it was announced last year, we have been anticipating access to Sitecore Cortex. So it was quite exciting to see the announcement of general availability of Sitecore Cortex. Sitecore Cortex is embedded into the Sitecore Experience Cloud and taps into the power of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. With real-time analytical insights, Sitecore Cortex is a powerful tool designed to collect, connect, and process huge volumes of data, from many different systems, in the fastest and most efficient way. If that were not enough, Sitecore Cortex natively integrates context to the Commerce experience. The ability to act on contextual factors from the data will enable marketers to deliver a seamless and personalized experience before, during, and after every purchase.

Sitecore + Salesforce: more investment and tighter integration

The partnership between Sitecore and Salesforce has continued to strengthen with more investment being made into the tighter integration with Salesforces Marketing Cloud and Salesforce CRM. Utilizing Sitecore Connect, you can build comprehensive and personalized marketing campaigns with Sitecore content connecting to Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Journey Builder and Email Studio. In addition, utilizing Sitecore Connect, you can also collect and connect bi-directional synchronization of data between Salesforce CRM and Sitecore Experience Platform. The best of both worlds provides the foundation to deliver one-to-one personalization at scale.

Sitecore acquires Stylelabs

The most exciting bit of news to come out of Symposium 2018 was the plans for Sitecore to acquire Stylelabs, the creator of the Marketing Content Hub platform. By incorporating Stylelabs’ digital asset management (DAM), marketing resource management (MRM) and product information management (PIM), marketing teams will own the entire content enrichment life-cycle. With the acquisition of Stylelabs, the digital asset management (DAM) connector is slated to be in a 2018 release. In addition, the PIM connector for Stylelabs is also being discussed for 2019. As consumers continue to demand relevant and richer experiences, differentiated content is the driving force to deliver the elevated experience.

Wrapping Up

As we left Symposium 2018, there was a general excitement on what the coming year holds in store for all of us. The roadmap contains some exciting features and capabilities especially in the Experience Commerce product line. I also want to point out the charity initiative that was part of this year’s Symposium to benefit SickKids Foundation. With all the participants and partners, Sitercore raised $50,000 for SickKids Foundation. I believe this is a great path forward on giving back that I hope Sitecore continues this next year.
Sitecore Symposium gave us the opportunity to get a glimpse into the future of commerce. As consumers continue to expect a seamless, personalized, integrated experience the path forward can be complicated as companies consider all the areas of transformation necessary for a successful implementation.

At Rightpoint we have the experience and expertise to help our clients approach complex business requirements and achieve their strategic vision. For more information, contact us today.

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