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6 Steps Toward a Unified Content and Commerce Organization

This is the second post in an 8-part series called "Building a Content-First Organization." See post one here.

More retailers and branded manufacturers are acknowledging the importance of integrating digital content and commerce operations. They realize they need to move away from the classic “two-site syndrome” -- where the brand site and the online store are separated by different technology platforms and managed by different teams -- and give consumers a seamless experience along the many stages of the buying process, from awareness and research to purchase and support.

There’s a real business imperative for integrating content and commerce. In its recent Intelligence Report on Content and Commerce, research firm L2 found that brands’ success in delivering a variety of content on their websites correlates with higher e-commerce conversion rates. “These assets are driving online sales, creating a virtuous content-commerce relationship tied to shareholder value,” the report states.

content and commerce

Unfortunately, executing and realizing a true and seamless integration of content and commerce operations is much harder than writing about it. Just 39% of companies in a recent Forrester survey have an integrated commerce and brand marketing team, and only 32% use a single technology platform for digital content and commerce.

How does a brand that sells online break down the walls between content and commerce? Alignment is needed in six critical areas:

  1. Goals. The desire to deliver a better digital experience to customers has to start at the top of the organization. A clear mandate from senior leadership is the only way to ensure organizational buy-in and provide the air cover necessary to make tough integration decisions. Philosophically, the shared goal should be an an offering based on what’s best for the customer at whatever point they engage with your brand.
  2. Team structure. Marketing and commerce teams have long co-existed under the figment of “collaboration.” But clear lines of delineation generally exist between the two groups, with separate agendas, separate KPIs and separate bosses. It’s time to blur those lines through shared reporting structures and governance. Hiring a chief digital officer may be a good place to start. A C-level executive who has authority across all digital channels can bring content and commerce teams together in a structure centered on the customer, not organized around channels.
  3. Technology. Most pundits stress that technology should never lead business change. But in the case of commerce, integrating web content management and e-commerce platforms can be an excellent catalyst for unifying marketing and commerce operations. An integrated platform will force a meeting of the minds around the entire customer journey, not just the discrete elements that marketing and commerce each oversee. It doesn’t matter whether you add content management functionality to an existing commerce platform or layer commerce features onto your WCM platform, because the end goal is the same: a seamless browsing and shopping experience.
  4. Processes. With an integrated team in place, the next step is to pave a smoother path for customers face as they move toward a conversion. Removing operational barriers -- such as having to leave the brand site to complete a purchase, or having to re-enter information when moving from a smartphone to a website -- requires a reworking of business processes and workflows around a common and comprehensive view of the customer lifecycle, not discrete parts of the journey.
  5. Content. Compelling content is one of the biggest opportunities for a brand to differentiate in a world where everything is beginning to look the same. The old commerce model emphasized utility -- grids and thumbnails and prices. The new approach involves content that is tuned to engage a customer wherever they are on the purchase path – from discovery to checkout - and tightly integration with the opportunity to buy. A variety of formats – including blogs, video and social media – must work together to drive engagement, conversion and return visits. UK cosmetics maker Lush has mastered this formula.
  6. Metrics. The uber-metric for any retailer or branded manufacturer – sales – doesn’t change in an integrated content/commerce operation. But many of the underlying metrics that lead up to the check out of the cart will need tweaking. It’s vitally important, for example, to eliminate any KPIs that reward sales through a specific channel; these types of incentives lead to internal barriers that inhibit the shopping experience instead of improving it. The good news is that integrating brand marketing and commerce platforms will drive new insights about customer behaviors and preferences, which teams can use to improve engagement and conversions.

Integrating content and commerce operations is a critical step for any business that hopes to thrive in the digital economy. It’s a big job, with plenty of challenges. But delaying efforts to break down organizational and operational silos will only make the transition more difficult. If you’ve been putting it off, it’s time to get started.

We’ll be writing about each of these core areas of alignment in future posts.

See the third post in this series: Unlocking Business Growth Through a Unified Content and Commerce Strategy

See the series ebook: Why Retailers Need to Reorganize for Effective Content-driven Commerce

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