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Why Retailers Need to Reorganize for Effective Content-Driven Commerce

This is the first post in an 8-part series called "Building a Content-First Organization."

Storytelling has long been a staple of good brand marketing. But the concept has taken on more urgency in the digital space, where brands now have the power to engage directly with their customers through web and mobile channels.

The mandate for more sophisticated brand content has introduced a new set of challenges for online retailers – namely, how to integrate traditionally separate marketing and commerce operations to deliver a unified experience to shoppers.

There’s a lot at stake. Research firm eMarketer estimates that digital commerce will account for $1.3 trillion of global retail sales in 2014, an increase of 22% over 2013. That figure will grow to $2.5 trillion by 2018 – accounting 8.8% of all retail sales worldwide.

A recent Forrester survey found that nearly 60% of companies that sell products or services online have separate marketing and commerce teams. Just 32% share the same technology platform. For many retailers, this siloed structure has resulted in what Forrester dubs the “two-site syndrome” in which the brand website is maintained separately from the commerce site. “Commerce and marketing teams grew up very separately,” said Stephen Powers, a Forrester VP and research director who has written extensively about the integration of content and commerce. “They had separate goals, separate organizations, separate reasons to exist.”

This separation forces consumers to make artificial choices – “Click here to learn more” or “Click here to shop” – that are based solely on the retailer’s operating structure, not what’s best for the shopper. The gaps that disrupt instead of enhance the consumer experience endure. Just 24% of companies in the Forrester survey share project teams and other operational leadership across marketing and commerce. More e-commerce teams report into corporate IT (23%) than into a marketing director (19%).

“You could have the best technology in the world, but if you still have siloed organizations that aren’t collaborating together, you’re still going to wind up with two-site syndrome,” said Powers. For retailers to be effective in the current consumer-driven, multichannel environment, the silos need to come down. An experience-led strategy and supporting organizational structure that blends content and commerce is critical for any retailer trying to differentiate its brand amidst an increasingly crowded and commoditized digital marketplace. No wonder that brands like Puma and Lush are investing in better ways to integrate commerce and content operations.

“Having a unified experience is a competitive advantage right now – because no one really has one,” said Powers. Unifying even a few steps of the customer lifecycle can give retailers a leg up on competitors now while laying a foundation for more personalized and engaging shopping experiences across all channels.

So what is your leadership team doing to integrate content and commerce operations? We’ll explore this organizational challenge further in future blog posts.

See the second post in this series: 6 Steps Toward a Unified Content and Commerce Organization

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

Photo credit: Dave Gray, Design by division

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