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The success of direct-to-consumer (D2C) and digitally native vertical brands (DNVBs) saturating ecommerce today is disrupting traditional shopping and multichannel retail.
Digitally native brands are experts at cutting out costs and efficiently acquiring customers, according to eMarketer, and have mastered the art of identifying unmet consumer needs. eMarketer estimates more than 400 D2C brands exist today, and web traffic has roughly doubled in the past two years.
Established brands risk losing market share if they lack the speed and agility required to compete in an age of modern commerce.
Market competition has increased too, based on the current economic climate. U.S. retail and ecommerce sales will continue to grow in 2020, but growth rates will moderate from previous years as the consumer economy softens and concerns over an impending recession become more prominent, according to eMarketer in The Future of Retail 2020 report.
According to Andrew Lipsman, author of the report and principal analyst at eMarketer, total U.S. retail sales will grow 2% to $5.6 trillion, representing a decline from growth rates well over 4% in 2017 and 2018.
“It will be a more competitive and challenging environment than in recent years,” Lipsman said in the report. “With brick-and-mortar under added strain, signs of the retail apocalypse could and probably will get worse.”
That’s why successful commerce brands —now, more than ever — need to accelerate time to market to win on the digital shelf, but several go-to-market (GTM) roadblocks could potentially block the way.
Three of the most common GTM roadblocks include siloed product content, shifting market trends and consumer demands, and an inability to track what’s working and what’s not accurately.
Image Source: Unsplash
Scattered information and organizational silos are a common issue for many commerce brands. This challenge naturally leads to time-consuming processes for gathering product content that lives in multiple locations.
Companies need to amass that information in a central repository or have a process to unite the data across silos — which is far easier said than done.
But if brands succeed, they can create omnichannel experiences, using a multichannel approach to marketing, selling, and serving customers in a way that creates an integrated customer experience, no matter how a customer finds products.
The multichannel experience is what most businesses invest in today,” said Clint Fontanella in Hubspot’s blog. “They have a website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.”
While each platform engages customers, in most cases, the customer does not experience consistent messaging across each channel.
Complicating the process for brands are consumer demands and frequent market shifts, which underlines the need for a consistent, connected omnichannel approach to adapt faster to the future of shopping.
“As people change their behaviors, marketers, salespeople, and customer support representatives will need to react,” Fontanella said.
“Instead of thinking of a desktop experience, a mobile experience, a tablet experience, and a smartwatch or fitness watch experience, companies will need to pursue one, holistic approach — an omnichannel experience that customers can use whenever they want,” Fontanella said.
“Ultimately, your strategy should consist of a strategic plan to build a coherent, aligned experience across multiple platforms,” he said.
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Without visibility into both online and offline performance, retailers cannot adjust their approach quickly to satisfy customers. Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, wrote on LinkedIn that as retail evolves, “many experts are now questioning the value of long-standing metrics like same-store sales and wondering how the new retail industry can be measured more accurately.”
“Companies are turning to new metrics for the new retail environment,” Shay explained. “These next-gen metrics recognize that the holistic shopping experience — whether online, in-store, or both — is more important than any one channel. Comp sales that include digital, market share, and net promoter scores are increasingly seen as painting a more complete picture than traditional metrics, particularly because they capture the ‘halo’ effect of in-store and online and reflect an increasingly channel-agnostic consumer.”
Another issue is the timeliness of insights. According to Mike Eichorst, senior vice president of marketing measurement at Citibank, in a conversation with Rex Briggs, CEO and founder of Marketing Evolution, looking at historical data may not give brands and marketers the visibility they need.
“Marketers find themselves working off yesterday’s news responding to the dynamics of a marketplace that is already weeks or months past,” Eichorst said. “In most companies, marketing is always changing. So, looking backward several months may not be very relevant to the marketing you’re doing today. Think about the impact this has in industries where seasonal changes have a big impact on sales. Retail marketers need up-to-the-minute insights to make sure their programs work for maximum impact on promoting the items their customers need now.”
Product experience management (PXM) has emerged as one way to combat these challenges. It enables retailers to manage product content in one central location, as well as activate it across channels fast, giving brands the agility they need to improve time to market.
“During the age of inventory-led retail, much of the value structure resided in real estate, operations, and inventory management,” Lipsman explained. “Today, dependence on these variables can be minimized through flexible store formats and outsourcing the backend and logistics of the business.
That allows brands — particularly emerging D2C ones — to focus on their core competencies: product development, marketing, and merchandising.” It gives them a definite leg up on speed to market amid fierce competition.
“Retailers and brands that have already invested in the fundamentals of their product and customer experience — both online and in-store — will be at a significant advantage,” Lipsman wrote.
These companies are better positioned to engage shoppers with great product experiences and optimize their content from one central storehouse so discovery and conversion are the outcome.
Lipsman concluded that “frictionless commerce will transform retail. The internet has put power in the hands of the consumer, and if the last two decades have largely been fought on price, the next two will be fought on customer experience. Today, the customer experience battleground centers on convenience, in saving shoppers time and hassle in getting the products they want.”
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