Without a doubt, the past 18 months have created some intense challenges as well as opportunities in the eCommerce space. How should brands allocate resources and reprioritize their strategies now that the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be winding down?
Is it time to take a breath and reassess? What does the future look like for brands that hope to hang onto a brick-and-mortar footprint? Should retailers go back to "business as usual?"
The hard truth is that there might not be a pre-2020 "normal" to go back to.
Forced to work and shop at home, leveraging their connection to the internet, many found that they actually preferred the convenience of fewer trips to work, the grocery store, or the local mall. So rather than attempt to return to a past that doesn't take account of the seismic shifts that have taken place, brands should instead be focusing on using digital transformation strategies to help current and prospective customers understand and improve their online journey.
Mauricio Vianna and his team at MJV Technology & Innovation help Fortune 500 companies in the fast-moving consumer goods sector implement digital transformation strategies. This helps ensure these companies remain competitive by consistently providing a high-quality, holistic customer experience across multiple channels. Vianna offers several insights into how brands can do more than "survive" in our post-2020 landscape.
What are some exciting changes you see impacting how companies think about the customer journey in eCommerce?
One change is the heightened focus on omnichannel thinking. An omnichannel approach calls for brands to deliver a unique, integrated, and consistent customer experience.
It isn't possible to succeed anymore by focusing solely on eCommerce. Brands must build a cohesive and comprehensive "storefront" across all channels. Having a great online purchasing experience means very little if you're not using multiple channels to deliver interested customers to your digital doorstep.
What is your advice to any eCommerce brand that wants to use data analytics to enhance customer experience?
First, understand that data is a means, not an end.
Reliable data provides the link that allows us to understand customer behaviors and consumption patterns. Analytics, used rightly, can empower online vendors to always be there for our customers at the right time, in the right place, and - if we've done our homework - with the most appropriate solution for that moment.
However, this doesn't mean that turning those data insights into something actionable will be easy. It's critical to understand that data collection represents just the tip of the iceberg. Most companies nowadays have access to useful data analytics in-house, but not everyone is digging deep enough to realize where the customer experience might be falling short.
What really makes a discernible difference is determining in advance how you will approach building out a structured and continuous data analytics process. Decide in advance on the goal. If you don't it's easy to get lost in the numbers and succumb to mission creep. Your method must extract the most relevant information in order to provide mission-critical decision support. In this case, that's enhancing the customer experience.
In the perfect-world scenario, your company has an internal data science team that collects and analyzes data on user interactions with your eCommerce presence - what they buy, how often, via which devices, and so forth. After that, your team works to identify patterns and generate insights from them.
At the same time, this data team must be working closely with the design, marketing, and strategy teams. Collaboration ensures that the data analysis is being used to generate insights useful for strategic business decisions. Avoiding departmental silos will help your company create higher value for consumers and, ultimately, for your business.
The lockdown restrictions we all faced to varying degrees during the pandemic demonstrated the importance of discovering new channels to extend the reach of your product to your existing and prospective customers.
At first, DTC was seen as the single best option. However, during the pandemic, things evolved in interesting ways. DTC became an effective solution to smooth over the instabilities. It stopped being just another channel and quickly became a strategic point of sale for retail.
It's important to point out that, since it utilizes a direct channel with the consumer, DTC fosters a better understanding of their needs. This relationship allows brands to create a more valuable customer journey and overall experience. Increased convenience, couple with targeted insights, can help drive sales and assist customers by providing more empowered decision-making.
For most companies, the "pandemic survival mode" involved plenty of DTC. For many, it became responsible for 60-70% of their revenue. The move inspired quicker and easier ways to serve their customers.
The insights we gained at MJV Technology & Innovation made it abundantly clear that eCommerce brands can survive and actually thrive in challenging times if they are prepared to adjust and implement digital transformation strategies for customer experience. A data-driven DTC strategy could mean the difference between struggling to meet customer demands and innovating stellar customer experiences.