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I rarely visit the mall — and never on Black Friday. But I was curious to see if the action on the ground matched the media headlines on the busiest shopping day of the year. I went to my local shopping mall and decided to hone in on one of the anchor stores and a couple of familiar vertical retailers.
Unsurprisingly, other than at Apple and GameStop, there was plenty of elbow room, even though "BIG SALE" signs were visible everywhere. This scene was a far cry from the holiday shopping seasons of the past.
On the way home, I decided to do a flyby of a local Target, where I found more action, including a three-car-deep curbside pickup line — which has increased conversion rates by 33%. There seemed to be a pattern, and while not a scientific model, I decided to repeat the cycle approximately two weeks after the initial tour - yes, another trip to the mall!
During my second tour, I made the same set of observations. Consistent with what has already been written in business journals, I found similar results: low traffic at the mall — but definitely more traffic at the local Target, with no curbside pick up line this time around.
Results are trending much differently online than in-store shopping, with robust year-over-year traffic and conversion increases across most categories. Online sales are up 22% over last year — with 40% coming from mobile devices, a 25% year-on-year increase, According to Adobe Analytics.
As the industry continues to shift and competition intensifies, there are several steps brands can take to meet modern commerce demands successfully.
Throughout this holiday journey, I routinely cruised these same brands and marketplaces in the online world from the comfort of my couch.
I discovered consistently good content, but there were clear winners in branded sites and marketplaces offering rich, brand-relatable content and user-friendly navigation throughout the entire experience — definite ecommerce winning tactics. Timberland and Walmart are examples of websites with excellent user experience.
Consumers want to "feel" your brand before buying. Additionally, merchants in pure-plays and marketplaces regularly impose their own content requirements to engage and "stick" the shoppers that normally explore and buy in their corner of the digital shelf.
While content remains the foundation for delivering the online experience needed to win in modern commerce, winning brands must also possess the ability to manage and activate compelling content in an agile and efficient manner.
From Excel to enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and beyond, content often resides in many places throughout the organization, both online and offline. When content, activation, and other commerce components are disparate across people and technology, efficiency, agility, and quality suffer, followed by abandoned shopping carts — not a winning formula. The brands’ commerce touchpoints need to shift from being disparate and manual to unified, intelligent, and automated to win on the digital shelf.
To maximize the digital commerce experience for consumers and retailers alike, winning brand manufacturers follow three essential steps:
Consolidate disparate digital functions with shared objectives, such as managing and activating content across the digital shelf.
Build agile and tightly integrated business and IT teams that are incentivized by commercial business results.
Establish a technology platform that will enable the people, process, and technology components to function in an agile and harmonious manner — all while protecting and governing the content.
The digital shelf team is the source of content management and activation. This team must work hand-in-glove with channel owners and retailers alike to ensure content is correct, timely, and relevant — as 78% of consumers are more likely to buy when engaged with personally relevant content.
While the team needs to operate at the speed of the digital shelf, it needs to be governed by best practices and data governance models that will maintain trusting, high-quality content.
This approach is not a part-time, do-it-once-and-forget-it function, as recently stressed by a digital shelf leader. Dedicated resources will be required to continually manage and activate internal content strategies and the continually changing requirements driven by the marketplace.
Cast a wide net to build and operate this team, including sales, marketing, and IT, especially owners of master data and supply chain functions.
More progressive, commerce-focused organizations are building small, agile, cross-functional, technology-ready "innovation teams." These business-IT innovation teams' mission is to unlock growth by rapidly producing strategic business outcome-focused capabilities.
This team needs to operate in an envision-construct-deploy-and-then-do-it-again mindset to be fast to market, learn, adjust, and scale to meet the strategic objectives of the organization and the requirements of a dynamic market.
While speed and innovation fuel the team, new capabilities need to interoperate within the guidelines of a governed architecture to ensure that the basic tenets and guidelines of the overall enterprise are not compromised, especially security protocols.
Best-of-breed systems are often considered to have superior functional depth. However, in the grand scheme of an enterprise's strategic objectives, that last mile of functionality is often overrated. Depending on who you poll, the final 10%–20% of "special" functionality creates little value. In fact, it's rarely used.
Organizations with a progressive digital-commerce mindset lean towards the combined agility and governance found in modern enterprise-scale software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions.
These platforms enable the business with the agility and efficiency that is needed to manage the demands of the digital shelf while providing IT with the modern technologies that will allow it to extend outcome enabling capabilities to other points in the ecosystem — whether to internal or external points of consumption, the points of value for the organization.
Similar to the operational advantages created by ERP systems long ago, the integration capabilities of a SaaS commerce platform will drive business efficiency and value — but with agility. It is the ingredient that will produce winning, sustainable outcomes in a fiercely competitive modern economy. Now back to window shopping from my couch.
Watch our on-demand webinar, "Moving at the Speed of Commerce: Introduction of Salsify Commerce Experience Management," to learn more about how to win on the digital shelf by meeting modern commerce demands.
Manny Ochoa is a digital commerce strategist at Salsify, where he partners with brand manufactures to build a vision, value case, and plan to win on the digital shelf. As a retail IT executive with over 20 years of experience, Ochoa has led the development and execution of technology road maps to support digital transformations for global supply chains and ecommerce functions, as well as initial public offering (IPO) and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions.
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