Separate Lives: Overcoming Multi-channel Disparity in E-Commerce

cotributed Box


  • Doug Heise Vice President, Global Marketing
  • Aug 4, 2014

This is the second in a three-part series exploring the relationship between content and commerce.   

To read the first installment, click here.

As we’ve established, there are a number of disruptive forces changing the way consumers approach the buying process. As so many e-commerce businesses have found, tried-and-true rules are few, and the landscape is constantly changing.   

One of the most pressing is the multi-channel challenge. And it’s not just about delivering consistent experiences to different devices, it’s also about providing consistency across all consumer interactions and touch points. Aberdeen Research Group found that more than half of online companies cite heightened customer expectations as their number one challenge in building an effective online sales channel.

Specifically, consumers have high expectations for a rich, engaging, and increasingly personalized online experience. Shoppers expect more from online retailers and aren’t afraid to express those feelings by seeking out brands that can deliver the experiences and service they demand.

That engagement, however, happens across multiple touch points, which each delivers its own experience. Oftentimes, these experiences are managed by different teams, using different tools and different content, with very few connections between them.

This fragmented and poorly integrated digital presence confuses customers, is difficult to manage, and, ultimately, leaves revenue on the table.

These problems arise because, frankly, the customer doesn’t know or care what is going on behind the scenes. They expect a single, unified experience from a single brand, and when they don’t get it, they are more likely to take their business somewhere else.

According to a Harris Interactive poll, 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience, and only 1 percent said that their expectations for a good customer experience are always met.

Ouch. E-commerce can do better, much better.

Organizational structures, technologies, and business models that were designed to support earlier ages of innovation, keep retailers from delivering a unified experience across touch points. Delivering the unified experience requires investments in technology and organizational structure that risk cutting into already thin profits. The vision is there, but companies are struggling to find the right tools to deliver on that vision. They need an approach that will allow them to innovate in a structured and stepwise manner to minimize disruption but delivers significant and measureable results, quickly.

The problems that companies face in delivering unified experiences to consumers are not just technological, they are also cultural. Many organizations have entirely separate teams for managing marketing content and managing Web stores.

As you can imagine, different teams often have different goals and work patterns. Marketers are looking to create impact with activities that are typically seasonal in nature. The content they work with is often unstructured and sometimes takes time to properly develop and deliver. On the other hand, e-Commerce teams tend to be more focused on the daily operations of the Web store, are charged with driving conversions and tend to look for simple, affordable and repeatable solutions that can help them increase ROI.

This separation contributes to the breakdown between consumer expectations and online reality, and it isn’t hard to see why.

Traditionally, most e-Commerce activity is built on a catalog-driven foundation and mostly concerned with facilitating transactions, including fulfillment, pricing and payments, site performance and security, price optimization and promotions. While critical, these “transactional commerce” capabilities are only one side of the coin today and are insufficient to address the requirements that arise in the age of the empowered consumer.

Shoppers want to do more than simply transact. They want to be able to interact with the brand, explore different product categories, converse with their peers, get tips on how to use a product, and see a product in context. The actual purchase and fulfillment of a product is really just one part of a much broader customer journey that many people are beginning to call “experiential commerce.”

Experiential commerce goes beyond the mechanics of purchase and fulfillment in seeking to understand the shopper throughout their journey and develop an emotional connection that delights, inspires and informs. Ultimately, experiential commerce understands that no one buys anything without a purpose, a story, or a context. The more that a brand can show that it understands this context, the easier it will be to guide the shopper to a purchase decision, This in turn will create brand affinity, drive revenue and increase loyalty.

Stories, engaging content and discussions around content are also THE best way to get your store on top of the search results and drive traffic from earned media.

In the series’ final post, Content + Commerce: A Match Made in Heaven, we’ll discuss the things that retailers can do to create an experiential site that supports storytelling and increased customer engagement.

Discuss this article

There is one comment on this article.

  • Arne König
    Hi Doug, talking about experiential commerce, are there any best cases you could share - companies who have already achieved this? Or are they all just at the beginning?
    Aug 8, 2014 10:56 AM