The shift to e-commerce must be brand-led

Many companies trying to shift from physical to digital sales channels make the mistake of seeing e-commerce as simply adding a shopping cart to their website.

They see e-commerce primarily as a technical platform implementation – how to change back-end systems to enable online purchases. Not enough businesses see it as the brand-led decision it needs to be to gain maximum competitive advantage.

A recent report by Deloitte Access Economics for Sitecore, Asia Pacific Commerce, found that the commerce journey is increasingly occurring across multiple physical and digital channels, with the average business in the APAC region using five channels to try and sell to customers. With not one channel accounting for more than 25% of sales, this is making it hard for businesses to prioritise their commerce efforts.

Making sales through multiple channels increases the risk of friction between those channels or the risk that one is detracting, rather than adding to the customer experience. This is why some of the expected productivity benefits associated with digital commerce are often not being realised.

Why is brand so important to e-commerce? Because customers don’t care about your channels, or your internal processes and systems. They are channel-agnostic. They care about their experience of interacting with your business and your brand underpins that experience.

For today’s customers it isn’t necessarily the store, website, people or products that drive purchasing behaviour. It’s their experience of them. That experience imbues the world with meaning, embeds memories, and transforms our perceptions and behaviours. The truth is, experience is not the most important thing. It’s everything.

Think about your own experiences as a consumer. Do you still book airline tickets through a travel agent? Or via your mobile? Do you research the product attributes of a new waterproof jacket by visiting multiple stores or through website searches? Increasingly a consumer interacts with a company multiple times online before purchasing a product or service, either online or in store, and increasingly it is via their mobile phone.

Deloitte’s Mobile Consumer Survey highlights that 88% of Australians now have a smart phone, one of the highest levels of ownership in the world. The number of Australians that browse online shopping sites on their mobiles has risen 14 percent in the past year and online purchases have increased by 25 percent since 2016.

This customer shift to digital purchasing habits is forcing companies to rapidly embrace digital platforms. The smart ones are combining physical and digital shopfronts – ‘bricks and clicks’ – to provide seamless customer experiences.

A brand-led approach to e-commerce will consider the brand experience you want the customer to have, regardless of the channel, or how many times they visit you. Indeed, the brand experience should be consistent across all channels. What customers experience online (through your website, apps or via social media) should be consistent with their experience in-store or through customer service channels.

The Asia Pacific Commerce report found improving the online experience was a priority for 76% of businesses, due to growing recognition of the importance of experience commerce: the focus on an end-to-end personalised customer journey and using digital channels to also build engagement and brand.

The report identified three key actions for businesses to improve their focus on experience commerce:

  1. Embrace the multi-channel customer journey and ensure a consistent brand experience across physical and digital channels
  2. Invest in an integrated and consistent system that can bring customer data together from multiple sources while increasing efficiencies
  3. Analyse customer data and increase the scope of personalised communication with customers.

Investing in experience commerce is worth it: the Asia Pacific Commerce report found that a 5% shift of customer purchases to digital channels generates a 3.5% digital dividend boost to revenue growth, equivalent to US$3.5 million additional revenue for a business with revenue of US$100 million.

Great experiences require business to bring together technical, creative and strategic teams to unearth innovative solutions through both an emotional and rational lens. The result can be a fantastic experience for people and organisations, and will ultimately deliver better business outcomes.

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