Beyond omnichannel retail to convergent commerce
In the last decade, retail channels and consumer engagement touchpoints have both mushroomed. But at the same time, digital and physical environments are converging. Shoppers may be using digital technology such as QR codes at shelf for price and product information in a physical store environment, for instance.
Touchpoints are also converging, with some previously predominantly used for consumer awareness and education now also becoming shoppable purchase channels. ‘Buy now’ buttons in social media, for instance, enable see-and-buy, one-click purchases. This means that in many cases there is now no actual pre-purchase ‘shopper journey’ per se; that the traditional plan, search and evaluate stages of shopper journeys have in some instances been severely curtailed.
‘Channel thinking’ in the sense of simply online and, or versus, offline, or has become redundant. Whilst the omnichannel concept of seamless customer experiences across touchpoints still applies, it is within the context of simultaneously converged and fragmented channels, environments and touchpoints. Convergent commerce, if you will.
Converging channels and touchpoints offer speed and convenience on the one hand, and for some of them discovery on the other. Some of the largest and fastest growing emerging commerce channels include Social commerce, Livestream commerce, Direct to Consumer (D2C), Voice commerce, and Qcommerce (on-demand delivery).
What does it mean and where next?
These new consumer trends require a strong organisational emphasis on determining where to be and not to be, for both sales and marketing by assessing all of the available channels to market, and their role for the organisation and brands in the context of where competitors are already playing.
Core to this is understanding the multiplicity of shopper journeys and touchpoints, and expectations at each, in order to identify pain points, solve shopper problems and address shopper jobs to be done, as well as to value add. It also means understanding shopper decision hierarchies and the role of brands and retailers in this new world of product-related discovery commerce channels.
Some of the implications for what brands and retailers need to undertake to meet this challenge include:
- Understand shopper journeys including post purchase stages, touchpoint expectations and decision hierarchies by category and channel
- Understand what a consistent set of experiences across touchpoints looks like
- Determine the role of each commerce channel and touchpoint in awareness, consideration, trial, conversion, repeat purchase and advocacy
- Think though packaging and delivery criteria as part of the brand experience, and how to match the experience to consumer expectations such as sustainability
- Review how product packaging can be optimised for digital environments and sales in order to be made more delivery-friendly
- Consider how sensorial aspects, and in-store experiential aspects such as showrooms and try-on can be replicated in digital environments. Consider how the online experience and touchpoints can enhance the physical store experience, and vice versa
- Review sales and marketing investment based on channel and touchpoints strategy
- Determine the implications for joined-up sales & marketing and supply chain/demand forecasting, particularly for emerging channels with one-click see-and-buy transactions
- Review and harmonise channel pricing strategy.
The new world of convergent commerce requires being omnipresent. The challenge is in how and in what manner to activate it.