The race for a digital strategy and its fastest possible implementation has never been more relevant than today. COVID-19 and the onset of social distancing guidelines have driven digital channels onto centre stage. Where previously retailers balanced the digital with the in person, now, most retail experiences take place online. In this new world, hyper-personalisation and ‘micro-moment’ technologies are essential for the future of digital commerce.

COVID-19 is having a lasting effect on how consumers shop and digital commerce is essential to the recovery process. Consumers have grown accustomed to buying online during lockdown periods and many will continue to shop this way even when shops reopen. According to Google data, “retailers with a strong digital offering are expected to capture 86% of the sales growth in the next five years”… A new report by Reply, examining trends and strategies in digital commerce, looked at what the key capabilities for ecommerce will be in the future. From expert interviews, digital surveys and bootcamps with over 40 clients, the report shows that mastering the latest technologies and unleashing creativity should be the focus.

Susanne Zander, Partner Syskoplan Reply and Reply Practice Lead “Digital Commerce”

Technology in response to a changing world

Customers want to feel known and appreciated so retailers need to create unique online experiences to engage and retain them. This matters more than ever, across both B2B and B2C accounts, as consumer shoppers’ budgets shrink and spending falls. To do this, companies can no longer afford to shy away from making investments into new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).  Data-driven processes are key players in transforming shopping applications into emotional shopping experiences. As consumers spend more time online, retailers can capture behavioural data and use those insights to stand out from their competitors and retain customers.

Customers have the power

There are many different technologies specifically designed to streamline the retail experience. Voice commerce, digital shopping assistants, digital twins, social commerce, data-driven e-commerce and interactive shop windows all these take the online shopping experience to a new level.

One of the most successful ways to win and retain customers is through the use of hyper-personalisation. This means offering a bespoke and exclusive shopping experience that is unique to each customer like offering deals based on their usual shopping habits or showing suggestions for alternate brands they might like on their weekly food shop.. Experiences like this are essential when customers are more certain of their demands. The variety of choice and opportunity offered by the digital age means that customers know exactly what they want and how they want it. This change in consumer attitude is prompting a revolution in consumer behaviour. Rather than reacting against the tech offering this, companies need to embrace it.

Companies under pressure

As more companies integrate this hyper-personalisation into their services, retailers must be ever more aware of individual considerations and needs. This means sending customers promotions for what they want to buy and not continuing to share offers for products that customers have already purchased or ones they are clearly not interested in. This poses a challenge for retailers who must balance customer expectations with internal processes. Online shops can only attract consumers in a creative way and with a tailored approach. At the same time, complex processes must be managed efficiently. This creates a matrix of dependencies that can only work through the right use of technology.

The volume, speed and variety of data is increasing and efficient data management is becoming crucial. Stable and accurate algorithms and predictions must be put in place to ensure the added value of the data. Data-driven technologies such as AI and ML are therefore at the top of retailers’ priority lists – as are technologies with the potential to automate processes like resolving customer complaints and supply chain issues.

In addition to data processing, targeted tech such as adverts and chatbots should also facilitate direct communication with customers, addressing them in surprising and individual ways. Only brands that accommodate customers at every level – both in terms of content and medium – will survive in the long term. It is essential to combine both worlds – creative and technical – to appeal to today’s sophisticated consumer.

The pandemic continues to boost digital commerce and reinforce the hyper-personalisation, data-driven commerce and emotional digital shopping trends. The challenges of the future are to attract and enthrall individual shoppers and to make skillful use of new technologies. Perhaps ironically, this means the more technical the solution – the more personal the approach. The future belongs to intelligent digital shopping assistants that close the gap between “attraction” and “conversion” in the customer journey.