The following is a guest blog by Sanjeev Siotia, Development Executive, Head of Development for Websphere Commerce, Sterling OMS, Sterling WMS, Sterling CPQ, IBM Commerce as Service.
Analysts have estimated that as many as half of all B2C companies are planning an ecommerce replatform in the next 24 months. Chances are, you’re one of those companies, and, more than likely, you are thinking of putting together your next generation solution because you want to elevate your customer’s engagement with your brand. So, what is the most important area of customer engagement for providing your customers the best possible experience?
- Giving them every possible detail about a product through product content information
- Helping them quickly find the best product for their need at their price point
- Understanding their personality and tailoring their experience to their individual needs
- Allowing them to pay in any which way they would like to pay for their purchase
- Getting the product to them in the way they prefer – pick up in store, shipped to home
- Letting them know exactly when they will get their product, based on the shipping options they prefer
- Wowing them with the best customer service when and if they call in with a problem
- Giving them a consistent experience across all channels of interaction with you
- Making their returns process painless if they decide to return some of the merchandise
- Allowing you marketers and merchandisers to provide the customer the next cool promotion
To me, asking this question is like asking what is more important in a human body? Liver? Stomach? Lungs? Heart? Brain? Kidneys? Well – all of it. The human body wouldn’t be functional without any one of them. You cannot provide your customers the best possible experience without excelling in all of the above areas.
So, the question that’s probably more important is to understand how your ecommerce solution is designed from the foundation up to deliver the best experience for the customer. Some consider product information as the most important aspect of customer engagement. In fact, one vendor claims that any commerce solution that is not built “on top” of a Product Information Management solution is “old thinking.” I cannot disagree more. Don’t get me wrong; product information and content is extremely important in your chances to be able to wow and retain the customer. But to create the best experience for the customer, you cannot just focus on only one aspect. You have to do all of the above to create an engaging experience. For that, you need a solution that is built around understanding the customer rather than a solution that is built around defining the product.
This is the foundation of IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, to put the customer at the center of all commerce operations. We know customers prefer to do business with brands that allow them to personalize and control where, when and how they interact through their preferred channel combinations. To do this, you will need a platform that is capable of providing a high level of personalization and can optimize every aspect of that customer’s interaction. You will need a platform that can use the location context and multi-dimensional social information to allow your marketers to create rich dialogs that can evolve as a customer progresses through product discovery to purchase.
If I have to give you just one piece of advice, I would say that as you build your solution, please put the customer—and not the product—at the center of it.