Developing a winning post-pandemic digital commerce strategy

Kunal Puri
11 September, 23

Despite rumours of a global recession in 2023, retail ecommerce sales worldwide are expected to surpass $7 trillion in 2025, with the UK’s share of this revenue forecast to hit $286 billion. With a forward-thinking digital commerce strategy, there’s much upside to be taken by companies that stay with the market, technology, and their customer expectations.

Post-pandemic, the United Kingdom boasts the highest online shopping penetration of any other country. Consumer ecommerce now accounts for 30% of total retail spend in the UK (up from 20% in 2020), with 82% of the population making at least one online purchase in 2021.

What should brand and retailers do to capture this uptick in online engagement, and keep growing in 2023 and beyond?

Personalization

There’s no doubt about it – customers want personalized experiences. 86% of consumers say personalization influences their buying behavior. Most online shops offer some degree of “you might like” recommendations, based on the “wisdom of the crowd” machine learning and collaborative filtering. But personalized experience goes beyond merchandising to include every touchpoint, online and offline, and is increasingly leveraging autonomous and generative AI.

For example, research by the Infosys Knowledge Institute found that of over 2500 enterprise companies, only 39% have fully implemented personalized customer service, and only 18% have implemented personalized offers and pricing. These companies are 13% more likely to score in the top 25% of digital performers than those who lack these capabilities.

Why do so many businesses struggle with personalization? It’s because their various enterprise systems are rigid and can’t “talk” to each other. It’s critical that IT groups embrace headless, API-first platforms that allow you to connect critical data sources together to personalize across touchpoints, including in-store experiences, mobile apps, email and SMS campaigns, customer service, loyalty programs and of course, the website. A microservices-based digital commerce platform enables you to “mash up” pricing, promotions, account, and loyalty data (for example) with personalization tooling and AI capabilities, and ensure they extend across digital and physical channels.

Conversational commerce

The general release of ChatGPT has forever changed how we interact with digital. Platforms like Amazon, Google and Bing are all rapidly shifting to conversational search, while everyday consumers are sharpening their chat prompting skills.

This means customers will increasingly expect your live chat to behave like ChatGPT, and provide lightning-fast, contextual customer service and shopping assistance. In fact, it’s predicted most product discovery will ultimately be handled through a chat interface, and businesses are already using the ChatGPT API to integrate with their digital commerce stack. For example, North American food delivery app Instacart has already built a conversational bot “Ask Instacart” that translates a conversation into a shopping list and can fill the user’s cart as they chat.

What’s more, context persistence is key to excellent customer service. This means a user’s chat history is persisted across site visits and engagement channels, whether digital or offline. Today, only 46% of businesses have achieved context persistence, as this requires an API-first architecture that supports the connection of this data across systems.

Augmented reality

As the percentage of retail spend increasingly shifts to digital from the High Street, the cost of shipping and returns increases. Capabilities that provide a better and more realistic way to experience and evaluate products online helps build buyer confidence, reduce returns and even increase items per order.

Virtual try-on and room visualization tools are just two use cases for augmented and virtual reality. With most modern smartphones already equipped with native AR tools, and plenty of off-the-shelf AR solutions for merchants, this is low-hanging fruit for apparel, beauty, home goods and other industry verticals.

Augmented reality brings the value of the in-store experience to digital screens. Paired with personalization and conversational capabilities, digital commerce can become uber-human. Brands and retailers that master this combination, and can persist these capabilities across engagement points, are positioned to win in the new age of experience.

How MACH-X makes it happen

The foundation of digital commerce strategy is the underlying technology that supports customer-facing experiences. Without the technical ability to innovate, brands and retailers remain hamstrung by aging, inflexible and siloed enterprise systems. The new age of experience demands modern technical architecture, namely solutions that are MACH-X – Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, Headless and eXtensible.

Sometimes called composable commerce, a MACH-X solution allow faster and more seamless integrations across systems, faster development, and limitless potential to build and customize new functionality and ensure it can persist across digital and physical channels.

With MACH-X architecture, you can take advantage of the emerging opportunities in personalization, conversational commerce, augmented reality, and generative AI to make customer journeys across digital and physical properties seamless – and never be left behind.

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