It’s Cyber Monday, and you, like millions of others, know what you want.
You’ve done your research. You know who has which deal. You don’t care where you buy the items you want, you just want to get in and get out online before the offers expire or sell out.
Now, it’s up to the retailers to deliver.
Every year, Cyber Monday deals and online holiday shopping are inching closer to an eclipse of their counterparts, Black Friday and brick-and-mortar store purchases.
The outcome appears inevitable. If retailers deliver on the brand promise with a consistent experience on every device and in their stores, game over.
The questions now are, which companies will bridge the gap the best, which will innovate faster, and how will their use of technology stand up?
Eighty-seven percent of brands surveyed say they know their customers well, but just 37 percent of consumers surveyed say their favorite retailer knows them, according to Manjush Cheruveedu, senior director of technology for SapientRazorfish in Boston.
What’s more, 81 percent of consumers surveyed say the performance of retail websites and the consistency of experience matters, Cheruveedu said.
Cheruveedu has spent more than a decade helping companies embrace the digital revolution. He said there’s a reason Toys R Us, Radio Shack and Circuit City filed for bankruptcy, and there’s a reason well-known chains, such as Sears, Macy’s and J.Crew, are looking for answers.
It’s this simple: Customer expectations for results are down to the millisecond.
Meeting consumers where they are in their purchasing decisions
If you research something at home on a desktop computer, you expect to be able to close the deal on your smartphone while riding the subway to work the next day. Or you expect to walk into the store and have the salespeople able to quickly catch up and know exactly where you are in the process.
Then, you expect the ads that follow you on say Facebook or BostonGlobe.com to not show you the product you’ve already purchased. Right?
Well, we’re getting there.
“Me and my wife, we were shopping for refrigerators. Like most of us, we go online, we make a whole spreadsheet of what models do we like, what features are in there, what’s the cost, where do we buy,” Cheruveedu said. “All of that while I’m logged in. Then, of course, it’s a refrigerator; I just don’t want to buy it online. We actually ended up going to the store, and I showed them my membership card, and I’m hoping that they know that I just spent hours researching what I want.
“Hopefully, I don’t have to repeat everything that I just researched to customer service. They didn’t know what I researched online. It’s me, my membership, if I did not give my information, I agree they don’t know me, but I gave my information. I’m a loyal customer, they freakin’ should know me, right? That is the problem in most cases,” he said.
Who is winning the online shopping experience these days? Wayfair, Walmart, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, Apple and Best Buy, Cheruveedu said.
You don’t have to be digitally native, but it helps. However, some historically brick-and-mortar stores are adapting. In the first quarter of 2017, Walmart reported a 63 percent jump (quarter over quarter) in online sales after acquiring Jet.com, he said.
Keys to Digital Commerce Success
Cheruveedu’s three keys to successful digital commerce are: putting customers first, having a digital mindset, and having technology at the core of the operation.
It’s not enough to understand customers and personalize ads and content; digital storefronts have to perform. Making it happen is difficult because e-commerce is in a constant state of flux. Companies need to keep up with increasing expectations.
To do so, Cheruveedu suggests companies adopt a different mentality to allow them to fail fast, fail smarter and recover faster.
And that means using open source technology, and decoupled commerce – choosing the right tech stack for the right thing.
“Organizations are getting stuck on enterprise platforms right now,” Cheruveedu said. “You choose one platform, one technology. You’re either a Java shop, you’re either a .Net shop, you’re either a PHP shop, a Ruby on Rails, but the reality is all of these technologies have their strengths. How do you make it happen such that if Java is the right thing for something, or if PHP is the right thing for something else, or .Net is the right thing, how do you actually have an ecosystem that lets you develop using the right tech stack at the right time?”
For Cyber Monday, it takes some firms nearly half the year to ramp up and add hundreds of servers to make sure their infrastructure can meet the demand. Part of the problem is web technology isn’t changing at the same pace as e-commerce.
The need to create features separate from the back end of traditional websites by using something that sits outside (or on top of it) to create a better customer experience is becoming more important. But that alone won’t fix the problem. Scaling for large increases of customers has to be addressed.
No one wants to have an online outage from a super surge of traffic.
“So how do you now leverage the right tech for the right thing and not get bottled into, ‘We chose this tech stack, that’s the skillset we have. We cannot change the skillset. We cannot change the people’ ?” Cheruveedu asked. “Now, do you solve for the technology problem because you invested in all Java, or do you solve for actually meeting consumer experience?”
The keys to return on investment are speed, quality and agility. That means having smaller teams for micro-services, using all the tools at your disposal, no matter what tech stack you have, and making sure it all works in a millisecond.
In other words, Cyber Monday is about to become Cyber 365, so get ready.