THE BLOG

Reinventing Commerce: This Secret Will Help Retailers Transform their Online Store and Win Customers for Life

03/04/2015 11:03 am ET | Updated May 02, 2015

For most of the past decade, the traditional catalog ecommerce store has served the retail establishment reasonably well. Online shoppers could browse neatly arranged rows and columns of product images, cherry picking the products they like best based on imagery and snappy product copy. Checkout and purchase were functional but often frustrating experiences handicapped by complexity and poor UX choices (one retailer I encountered had a minimum four character limit on the first name field, so the Joe and Ava shoppers of the world were out of luck).

However, as digital consumer technologies have advanced, how retailers sell and consumers buy has undergone a radical shift.

Catalog Stores Give Way To An Immersive Shopping Experience

Consumers today expect their shopping to be a full-on "experience." Gone are the '90s era catalog stores, replaced with expectations of an immersive, content-rich shopping experience with a beginning, middle and end that happens seamlessly when and where shoppers want it. This complex digital journey seamlessly blends content with commerce and is now at the epicenter of what's called experience-driven commerce.

But what does it mean for a retailer to be focused on the digital experience? And how is experience-driven commerce different from ecommerce?

Experience-driven commerce provides shoppers with personalized, immersive experiences across any channel. Think of it as inviting customers into a visually compelling brand story that blends, rather than siloes, the transactional checkout component. Experience-driven commerce utilizes a new customer journey that combines content and context with commerce. This approach is something the antiquated catalog ecommerce store of days past just can't offer.

Emotional Connection Throughout The Customer Lifecycle

Boiled down to its constituent elements, experience-driven commerce is really a fusion of digital marketing, campaign management, personalization, content management, analytics, and data, combined with commerce and transactions to support the entire customer lifecycle. It's not just about marketing. Experience-driven commerce is more about emotionally connecting with the customer in a digitally enabled way.

For example, by using experience-driven commerce a retailer can deliver contextual experiences that are critical to the visitor at that exact moment of his or her customer journey, such as product discovery.

Imagine this scenario: A shopper walks into an upscale retail store and begins to casually browse. On the wall hangs a digital screen showing a new pair of boots. As the shopper moves about the store and gets closer to the digital sign, the display quickly changes to show a new handbag -- the exact model handbag that our shopper added to her online wish list a day ago. The shopper receives a personalized in-store experience without even knowing it.

Opportunities Abound To Turn Content Into Sales Opportunities

For retail marketers, experience-driven commerce presents tremendous opportunities for engaging customers beyond the catalog website. Microsites, social media, blogs, lookbooks, and digital magazines are turning interactive, content-sharing opportunities into sales opportunities without the usual friction associated with directing shoppers back to the storefront to complete a purchase.

Experience-Driven Commerce Is Your Secret Weapon

For CIOs and CMOs struggling to contend with the challenges of disruptive innovation and eroding competitive advantage, experience-driven commerce represents a new strategic approach. In his latest blog post, Errol Denger, Adobe's head of commerce, outlines how companies can deploy a systematic and continuous innovation approach based on experience-driven commerce. Using this model, business leaders can reduce risk while providing the agility to cost effectively implement multiple innovations simultaneously.

Delivering great digital experiences is an essential strategy for retailers. Embracing the new customer journey will ensure that retailers remain competitive and are able to monetize digital experiences while wowing their customers with personalized service.

In a future blog post, I'll dive into the specifics of an omni-channel retail strategy, and tell you why getting omni-channel wrong can end up costing you your job.

Find out more about experience-driven commerce. Pre-register for a free copy of the up-coming ebook "The New Customer Journey: A Convergence of Content, Context, Channels and Commerce," by Elastic Path.

Matt Dion is Vice President of Marketing for Elastic Path Software. Matt has more than 20 years of experience in marketing & partner strategy, business development, analyst relations, product marketing, product management, and strategic alliances.