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Ask the question your competitors aren’t: 'what would my customer expect?'
Today’s consumer is fickle and expects the world. Now. Whether looking to purchase a safe new car, a coat for the winter or plane tickets for a weekend getaway, each individual or business customer has a unique process to identify the right product and a long list of demands the delivering brand needs to meet to make the sale.
These include offer value, trust, best price, easy purchasing experience, customer service, and engagement with relevance. And the list could go on.
For a company to be on the top of the consumer’s purchasing list, or at least in the short list of contenders, it needs to understand every aspect of the consumer and establish a comprehensive commerce strategy that will give the consumer not only what they want but what they expect. Now.
The digital consumer and a game of dominoes
Consumers may not realize it but they are playing dominoes with every brand they are engaging.
The consumer begins the game by selecting a digital channel, or channels, to peruse their retail options (mobile, tablet, PC, social, etc) then they review their many options and make a purchase, completing the initial ecommerce exchange from the consumer’s point of view.
But the game doesn’t stop there, as a lot continues to happen behind the scenes for transactions to be executed smoothly and set the stage for future opportunities with customers. And the same is true in the business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce realm.
Perhaps the most significant tumble of dominoes comes with the convergence of digital marketing with ecommerce within businesses around the globe.
Today the CMO or brand manager is collaborating with the ecommerce team to develop an aligned strategy to provide the best experience to the consumer on all channels.
No matter where a consumer is in the purchasing cycle, the business should be able to offer timely and relevant marketing communications such as search advertising banner ads or a social media response.
Why is this important? Effectively marketing to the consumer is now just as important as the purchase transaction as it also has the power to establish and impact continuous engagement and purchases.
B2B ecommerce is an area that continues to get more attention within businesses. And it should. Without a proper B2B focus, the channel in which a product is created, dispatched and delivered to the consumer could be mismanaged and falter.
When managing a B2B commerce strategy, companies need to look at both the internal digital multichannel options and also how the company is working with its external resellers, distributors, partners, etc to ensure all are run most efficiently to meet the consumer’s expectations and demand.
For instance, in the pharmaceutical industry, businesses need to examine their relationships with distributors and doctors to make sure the patients are properly taken care of to maintain loyalty and brand support.
Four steps to achieving c-commerce
C-commerce is defined as collaborative commerce, but I believe it should also stand for 'customer commerce' as the customer should be at the center of all decisions a business makes regarding its commerce strategy.
Businesses should create a B2C and B2B ecommerce strategy with the goal of achieving c-commerce: collaborative and customer commerce.
Here are four recommendations, based on a recent Accenture study, which companies should follow to accomplish this goal in today’s multichannel environment.
1. Adopt a customer viewpoint
The only way to properly deliver to a customer is to know their motivations and expectations, and then making business decisions based on this heightened customer viewpoint to meet or better yet exceed their needs and ultimately benefit sales.
When following this rule, companies can take a huge step toward ensuring all the B2B, B2C, and multichannel marketing strategies work toward this same goal.
2. Create a new organizational framework
Extinguish silos and create the framework for an integrated channel experience by establishing a new organizational blueprint with inputs from across the business.
A variety of members should be seated at this new collaborative roundtable – CMO, CIO, CSO, etc. – to create a well-rounded and seamless c-commerce approach for the customer.
This strategy will also help stop each channel from cannibalizing each other or competing for the same customers.
This new approach can be challenging and may require a cultural shift within the business, but it is vital for everyone who has a stake in this approach to be heard.
3. Tap technology
Companies should focus on developing an integrated digital platform that is well understood and used by the entire organization, across brand and geographies.
The platform should also be scalable and adaptable that will grow with a company as technology evolves and allows for continuous testing to drive innovation.
Analytics is also a key ingredient when it comes to developing an IT and commerce strategy as the insights garnered from consumer data can help multiple departments, from sales and marketing to supply chain, to make educated decisions that could positively impact future business and the bottom line.
4. Nurture external relationships for your customers
Engage with external channels (partners, affiliates and franchises) that sell your products or services for yet another way to provide the customer with a seamless, easy and positive shopping experience.
This can be done in a number of ways and a few examples include sharing product information with key retail partners to use on their sites where most customers shop, enhance websites with information that makes buying easier even if customers don’t purchase from that website directly, and include trade promotions or digital coupons redeemable at retailers.
If a company’s commerce roadmap isn’t up to par with a customer’s expectations, the brand could encounter a drop in loyalty, a loss in sales, or negative comments on social media that could domino to other customers and impact further purchasing decisions.
To gain a competitive advantage by creating greater value for the customer, companies need to develop a commerce strategy focused on customer behavior across channels that can be implemented at scale.