That consumers have rapidly digitized their lifestyles has gotten much coverage.
But what fails to get quite as much recognition is that the digital customer is increasingly an omnichannel consumer, journeying back and forth across a few different channels on their way to make a purchase.
Those consumers increasingly want an end-to-end commerce journey that’s smooth, seamless and consistent across any and every channel, sticky.io Vice President and Chief Product Officer Lyn Tran told PYMNTS in a podcast.
She said the biggest and best-in-class brands had been on that path long before the pandemic. Digitization was already on its way, just at a much slower pace than it has been for the past half-year. But the pandemic-inspired shift to digital commerce has raised consumer expectations for seamless simplicity in multichannel journeys and pressured retailers slower to enter the world of omnichannel to work double-time to catch up.
“Brands will need to build up their omnichannel muscles in order to compete,” Tran said. “They will need to leverage customer data from all channels to put the customer at the center of the experience, and to listen for buying signals as customers traverse from one channel to the next. And they need to use the data to determine the next best action to nurture that customer towards the ultimate [sales] goal.”
Embracing ‘Headless’ eCommerce
Tran said that to build omnichannel journeys that work for consumers, sticky.io recommends merchants consider adopting a “headless eCommerce approach.”
“This is the decoupling of front-end user experience from the back-end commerce capabilities, like product management, pricing, management payments, etc.,” she said.
The advantage of decoupling is the flexibility it offers merchants in building a front-end experience customized to customers’ needs and use habits but not constrained by back-end capacity. Instead, Tran said a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that work across channels manage the back end, giving brands speed of execution.
She said speed is increasingly critical, as technology is evolving fast, commerce channels are proliferating quickly, and consumers bounce between traditional commerce websites and “Facebook, Instagram, email, YouTube and Snapchat” on their road to making purchases. Any retailer who wants the sale will need enough speed to bounce along with them.
“Headless commerce enables brands to quickly adopt innovations and embrace new channels as they emerge and is an opportunity to future proof their technology investments,” Tran said.
Leveraging The Data
Building the right front-end experience for the consumer starts with understanding customers.
Tran said merchants must determine things like how customers shop, what they do along the path to purchase and what tends to be persuasive. Customization that addresses that will create the right omnichannel communications strategy and boost the odds of a sales conversion.
After all, Tran said omnichannel doesn’t mean brands jump onto a bunch of channels and start digitally shouting the same message to customers. That’s not only not helpful to the consumer; it’s annoying.
“To truly know their customers, brands have the opportunity to sense and listen for buy signals with every interaction, click, search, like, comment and purchase,” Tran said.
Brands must combine those signals with customer data and metadata to “personalize the experiences and curate relevant offerings to optimize for conversion,” she said.
Consider the case of “John the Customer,” whom the data indicates is more likely to convert if he watches an instructional video and signs on for a trial. When John looks but doesn’t buy while on a brand’s web portal, the company should work across channels in a tailored way to capture that conversion.
That might include showing John a video on Facebook or Instagram, then following up with a 15-day trial offered via email. And one more thing is key — when John goes back to Facebook, he stops seeing ads for what he just bought.
“Instead, the brand might start to nurture an upsell,” Tran said. “What’s key is it’s not about repeating the same message or action in every channel. It’s about knowing the customer, using the data that we know and to learn, and then predicting the next best action in order to nudge that customer.”
As much of the commerce landscape has changed, consumers are in many ways the same as they’ve always been. Tran said they’ve always wanted their transactions to be seamless, secure and predictable. All that’s changed is the number of digital venues they’re expecting to have that experience on — as well as how easily they expect to be able to move between them.