VTEX Blog - Everything you need to know to be ready for the future of retail

Everything you need to know to be ready for the future of retail

Philipe da Silva
Philipe
16 Aug 2018
Reading Time: 6 min

This text will introduce new concepts and trends in the eCommerce market along with marketing strategies that are increasingly being adopted by retailers online and offline around the world.

Unified Commerce

The first concept is Unified Commerce. But what exactly is the main difference between Unified Commerce and the already-discussed omnichannel?

Omnichannel was introduced almost a decade ago. At this time, it was believed that physical retail, eCommerce, telesales, and all touch-points for the end-consumer should be treated in the same way, with the same parameters, with the same weight, so the consumer develops a continuously deep relationship with the brand.

However, with the evolution of the consumer, we realized the need for each channel and sub-channel to embrace the peculiarities of its platforms, ensuring that the information and data of the consumer are integrated. Soon, each point of contact became a new opportunity to delight customers, offering the chance to build loyalty.

Thus, the concept of Unified Commerce was born, in which all the channels are connected to a unique backbone where new smaller actions can be defined according to the channel of interaction with this consumer. This whole relationship generates more data which needs to be fed back to generate more knowledge for the marketing team, where it will then be used to guide and adjust the brand’s positioning within the market for its diverse stakeholders.

By entering more specifically into the digital universe, it is possible to customize the experience so that each user sees a different campaign according to their profile. It is necessary that certain basic topics are approached to link the formation of this data in a logical way, since the consumer needs to understand the values that are being transmitted by the communication of the brand. These points are:

  • Brand assets;

  • Brand ambassadors;

  • Communications;

  • Content;

  • Customer first;

  • Prices and promotions.

Of course, to design a strategy where the channels are unified, IT and logistics departments need to be aligned and prepared to support adaptation to these new needs. After all, supporting this strategy means having integrated technology for all channels and offering the consumer a series of steps can go something like: search the product online, visit the store to make the experience more tangible, purchase via mobile, receive it via courier at home, call Customer Service to consult something, go to the physical store to return it if necessary, and leave with another product in the bag.

All of these systems need to communicate with and support the various channels to bring instant insight into decision making, which will continue to nurture the customer relationship, delivering brand value, while ensuring satisfaction and loyalty.

A great example of how these changes are occurring in a more meaningful way is the Bonobos expansion. The company realized the need to physically interact with its customers as it grew in the virtual world, and expansion efforts were tailored to meet the demand of unified commerce. Today, Bonobos has 53 (and growing) experience stores throughout the United States, and in none of these “stores” do customers leave with bags and products.

Every transaction continues to be done online and orders are delivered to consumers’ homes. However, the brand has made its products available for exhibition and has created a team of “consultants” of style so that their clients can have personalized help in finding what they want to buy.

What Bonobos realized was that customers started to return to their stores because the consultants developed such a deep relationship with customers that they not only knew their sizes and tastes but also learned about personal details such as their families and day to day lives. This led to very successful follow-ups to see if the customer was truly happy with their new purchases or if they wished to return the products in the event they were impulse purchases.

Content First and Commerce First

Bonobos is just one example of the pioneers who are innovating in the relationship with the consumer without losing sight of one of the most important points of the retail: the sale.

eCommerce passed through its first stage of knowledge and interaction with the consumer in which there was a need to make products more tangible. Clients were already accustomed to a physical relationship in the process of choice that was being drawn from the equation. This era was known as the Content First strategy, that is, you had to generate content about all the details of the product.

However, this method began to generate two major problems for the present situation:

  1. Customers were confused by so much information. This leads to more doubt in the choice process, increasing the time for decision making and consequently lowering conversion rates.

  2. The costs, time, and staff required for content generation have begun to derail the amount of content needed to excel in competitive markets.

Currently, it is understood that a Content First strategy loses focus on the sale. The demands are currently generated by the proper positioning of price and sale – aligned to the communicational positioning of brands and products. So the challenge is to have a balance in content generation and in interactions with pricing and access to offers to facilitate decision-making and closing the purchase in a timely fashion.

This balance or sweet spot is a new “moment of truth” for eCommerce since it adopts a way of approaching consumers at several levels, always allowing them to make the purchase, either in the virtual store, in mobile, in the marketplace, on the telephone, in the physical store, through social networks, etc.

Theorists call this strategy Commerce First. The aim is that the customer must be able to close the purchase and be able to place orders at any time during the process of the learning / product knowledge curve.

Big Data, AI, & Machine Learning

Much has been said here about all the data and information that consumers leave behind when they shop online or simply when they are connected to the internet. But what can be done with so much information in a world where the consumer wants personalized service? Using technology to scale the way you interact with consumers seems like the best way out, right? Yes! But you need to be careful.

Before proceeding, it is important to define the concepts of the 3 subjects of this chapter:

  • Big Data: Very large and complex data set to be processed;

  • AI: Artificial Intelligence is present in systems and software that analyze environmental data and take actions that maximize your chances of success;

  • Machine Learning: One of the fields of study of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning is a technology used by systems that are constantly assimilating, learning, and making new decisions without necessarily having input from programmers.

With a better idea of what these 3 topics are, you may have realized that the Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence application is becoming more important so that businesses can analyze and process consumer data and create the appropriate relationship, which is both one-to-one and scalable at the same time, including for pricing.

And to apply these concepts, some things are also needed, such as:

  • Storage and cleaning of your customers’ data;

  • Understanding the reason behind each contact and the need for customization to be able to model the algorithms;

  • Understanding consumer behavior and its reactions on each channel;

  • Comparing the behaviors of known and unknown consumers;

  • And applying machine learning to improve results constantly.

Closing

The latest consumer demands for the creation of new technologies and their new interaction habits make Unified Commerce a reality, and eCommerce, mobile, marketplaces, social media, and other channels are increasingly imperative on the journey for companies that are aiming to excel in the market.

The consumer has always changed and forced companies to upgrade, the difference being that today we have much more data to be able to build loyalty, while creating brand defenders and brand ambassadors that represent our brands and products.