Selling the Story: From Store Operations to Experience Management
by Ray Grady
As the ecommerce channel becomes the key channel for many consumer driven brands, ownership of its P&L is moving to the marketing organization as that channel becomes the primary digital face of the brand. As marketing itself moves from a rigid “funnel” model aligned to a marketing calendar (Dads-and-Grads, Back-to-School, Black Friday) and the classic Four P’s of product-price-promotion-and place to a more fluid experience customized to the individual, the need for the marketing communications model to adapt becomes imperative.
Where in the past marketers might develop a handful of value propositions, sales, and programs over the course of the year, new ecommerce-driven brands are generating hundreds of thousands of differentiated messages according to customer segments defined by Big Data, and by customer lifecycle management disciplines that key in on identifying categories of customers and predicting their behavior.
This means marketing needs a media platform that can not only create rich customer messaging, but also work in parallel with an ecommerce transaction processing engine. Issuing RFPs to agencies to develop landing pages and microsites as part of this amorphous, ever shifting marketing landscape is too time consuming and expensive for marketers to risk any more. A CMO may find herself confronted with dozens of individual brands, each of which needs its own digital experience to survive and thrive against the competition. Building and managing those experiences is simply unaffordable if outsourced, and incredibly difficult to do without the right creative talent and content management tools to operate then.
For example, if a marketer’s analysis yields the insight that a first-time buyer can be converted into a loyal life-time customer if they can be induced to make a second purchase ithin 30 days of a first purchase, then that customer needs to be hit with an offer that is not only relevant to the first (“you may want to order a cover for your new tablet, here’s a 10% coupon towards one”) but be welcomed back into the online store with the deft intelligence of respecting their past purchase and delivering a relevant user experience (e.g. if a customer account is opened with an .edu email address the assumption may be made that the customer is either a student or an educator, thus deserving a “campus-relevant” segmented experience as they interact the second time with the store).
As brands go through the “digitization” process -- transforming themselves internally with the talent and technology required to develop the expertise to master the digital marketplace -- the challenge is to meet customers’ expectations that are being set by nimble startup disruptors who have no reluctance to break up traditional value chains and break incumbent models. To rebuild and respond means adopting a digital marketing platform that is not only agile but anticipates constant, and ongoing change.
The days of the monolithic store are over -- the act of taking a credit card, clearing it, sending the order to a warehouse for fulfillment remain essentially the same. -- in its place is a flexible and complex model that adapts to the user’s choice of device, point of origin, history with the brand and preferences.
Seizing the new wave of ecommerce represents one of the most dynamic and difficult challenges faced by brands today. Several trends in the underlying technology are easing the process, particularly for traditional brands challenged to digitize their operations in the face of disruptive attacks by competitors and attackers. The first is the commodification of the transaction engine and the movement towards standardized solutions for payment processing, security, counter-fraud, and supply chain/logistical integration. The second is the rise of a host of new tools and services aimed at enriching the store experience from its former row and column model of SKU presentation to something richer, more engaging,and ultimately tailored on the fly to each user.