The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the global business environment. Especially in the retail space, brands are being compelled to step out of the comfort zone and adapt to new buying behaviors. While this disruption has changed the game, the goal remains the same – to provide customers with an experience that will meet and exceed their expectations: safely and securely. The retail industry is now compelled to embrace technology at a pace that has never been seen before.
Digital commerce has played a vital role by enabling organizations to stay in business through country-wide lockdowns across the globe. And the importance of digital platforms and new technological innovations is going to grow over the coming years. Retailers are innovating with digital commerce in various ways to redefine the way buyers purchase.
With the global pandemic causing disruptions at an unprecedented scale, the time has come for retail businesses to raise their game and evolve. A “new normal” is slowly being established globally and retailers are finding innovative ways to cater to customers’ changing expectations and habits while alleviating their fears. A combination of all these factors is responsible for the rise of contactless commerce or touch-free retail. The search for the keyword “contactless” has almost tripled year over year, pointing to new buying behaviors that prioritize safety. What customers want is an end-to-end contactless experience and with the help of modern technology.
Digital commerce has always been contactless, and the need to bridge the gap between online and in-store experiences has taken center stage in recent times. Brands and retailers have already started implementing contactless processes like mobile checkout in stores and automatic payment methods inspired by Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” model, which utilizes deep learning and computer vision to create a hassle-free customer experience.
While eCommerce’s growth in popularity shows no signs of slowing down, online shopping cannot match some store experience aspects. What is needed is a blend of the two that brings the best of both worlds. Enter live commerce – a revolutionary combination of live streaming and eCommerce.
Typically implemented through mobile apps, live commerce utilizes video streaming to demonstrate products and enable interaction with shoppers in real-time to encourage purchases. LF Corp, one of South Korea’s leading lifestyle brands, combines live streaming, real-time chat, and convenient one-click purchases to create a seamless experience that has resulted in 30% year over year growth since 2015. JTV (Jewelry Television) is another example of the shift towards live commerce. Their move from a restrictive cable model to internet distribution has opened up new avenues for global viewership. This means shoppers can now make purchases and watch live channels 24/7 on various platforms like iOS, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV, to name a few.
Many businesses have shifted their focus to new channels to enable continued growth in these challenging times. But here’s the thing – customers don’t care about channels. What they do care about is convenience. With the help of customer journey data, brands and retailers can gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior across digital and physical touchpoints. And that is what experience commerce is all about.
The objective is on enhancing the customer’s experience with the convergence of physical and digital worlds. A great example of this is the “click and collect” service, which enables customers to purchase online and pick up their orders at the nearest store. Improving store information on the website can be another effective way of facilitating smoother online-to-offline interactions. Retailers can leverage this feature to encourage online shoppers to visit the nearest local store and get a closer look at the products before making the final purchase decision.
Retailers often employ a diverse array of tools for their omnichannel strategies. This includes point of sale, eCommerce, CRM, inventory management, and more. While, in theory, a combination of these tools should result in a seamless experience, in reality, the complexities of integrating software systems often lead to a fragmented buyer journey that strays far from customer expectations.
Unified commerce brings all omnichannel aspects into a single platform, allowing retailers to provide a continuous and consistent experience across multiple channels throughout the buying journey while maintaining operational flexibility. From a single database that eliminates delays in communication to a real-time overview of all processes, unified commerce’s advantages are manifold. It enables effective management and provides store associates with a 360-degree view of customers that sets the stage for personalized experiences.
The Critical Role of PIM in Driving Retail Innovation
With Covid-19 and its effects shaping the “new normal” of retail, the challenge is to make sure the right product information reaches the potential buyers. A foundation of product master data is required for engagement across multiple digital touchpoints. Upon which, rich product content and digital assets can be connected across innovative strategies like contactless commerce, live online interactions, unified commerce, and converged digital and in-store experiences. This is where Product Information Management (PIM) plays a pivotal role by ensuring product content authenticity, and consistency. A PIM solution provides the ability to create, maintain and draw on a single, trusted, and shareable version of rich product content and digital assets, including:
- Enable the centralization and organization of all product information at one place for the purposes of multichannel marketing and unified commerce.
- Help create a 360-degree view of products by connecting rich product content and digital assets to product master data to support customer-centric experiences.
- Minimize manual efforts and eliminate data silos and data quality risks.
- Deliver product information across all required channels to ensures a frictionless customer journey.
- Incorporate transactional, interactional, observational, and analytics data to enable actionable business insight.
- Enable operational excellence such as supply chain optimization or order fulfillment accuracy especially in live commerce.
- Implement and enforce a unified information governance policy within product master data, digital assets, and syndication software solutions
The retail landscape has changed for real and will continue to evolve, as buying behaviors transform according to new priorities and expectations. Within this rapidly changing environment, a robust PIM solution will become crucial for retailers looking to streamline their processes, increase efficiency, and provide a memorable customer experience.