Modern commerce and the art of personalisation

The world of commerce has been evolving rapidly these past few years, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in a rapid shift from physical to digital for most consumers. Speaking at Sitecore’s two-day virtual summit, “Modern Commerce in Asia Pacific”, done in partnership with Marketing Interactive, Simon Kemp, founder and CEO of marketing consultancy Kepios, said two thirds of internet users already shop on their phones every month.

Additionally, the APAC region is experiencing the highest rate of eCommerce adoption of any region in the world, with 84% of internet users in Southeast Asia saying that they bought something online in the past 30 days, showing that digital behaviours have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research also points to the fact that consumers will continue with these new behaviours after the lockdown has ended, especially in the shorter term where people in general will be more mindful of social distancing. In particular, consumers say they will spend more time researching brands and evaluating options using online channels, which means that digital channels will play an increasingly important role during the earlier stages of the buyer’s journey.

John Menagh, commerce solution specialist at Sitecore, agreed that digital and physical commerce are now getting increasingly blended. According to him, the modern consumer, does not necessarily start their purchase consideration by simply walking into a shopping centre and browsing in shops. They do their research online first and then they go to the stores to complete their purchase.

As such, brands have to compete online to capture consumers’ attention. Given the intense competition online, he said the way companies can differentiate themselves from the competition, beyond pricing and quality, is by offering a good buying experience for the consumer that is personalised, relevant, convenient, and local.

A crucial part of a great consumer experience comes from having a personalised shopping experience. Kemp said personalisation is one of the hottest topics in marketing and eCommerce right now, and plays an increasingly important role in engaging and converting audiences.

Citing a study done by Accenture, Kemp said that more than nine in 10 consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are personally relevant to them.

“In the simplest terms, personalisation is about giving people more of what they want, but also giving them less of what they don’t want,” he said. This could be something simple such as remembering people’s website preferences, or offering customised experiences on a brand’s website based on the pages people have visited.

Kemp added that offering a personalised experience does not necessarily mean having large amounts of personally identifiable information on a particular consumer. The secret to mutually beneficial personalisation is to move away from the idea of knowing every single thing about every individual, and instead, adopting an approach that’s based on understanding patterns and behaviour, and using these to create more customised experiences for each individual shopper.

Nonetheless, he also cautioned brands to toe the line when it comes to using personally identifiable information for personalisation efforts to refrain from being invasive.

The evolution of personalisation

As the consumer experience continues to evolve, so will personalisation. Stuart Jarvis, insights and personalisation director of digital agency AKQA, said that while the current model is to impose personalisation on consumers by delivering personalisation strategies based on what businesses think consumers want to see, the future of the consumer experience is where businesses start to empower personalisation.

With that empowerment, consumers will be able to select the level of personalisation they are comfortable with, and what level of personalisation they would like to experience from each brand. This is to help enable consumers to feel in control of how they are targeted and decrease the level of mistrust between consumers and brands.

Although personalisation is vital to commerce today, a Sitecore study, which surveyed 1200 business respondents, showed that less than 40% of companies reported that they have a system that can personalise for individual consumers. Jarvis added that according to research by Gartner, 74% of marketing leaders reported that they struggled to scale their personalisation efforts.

One way to tackle this, however, would be for brands to first begin with understanding which devices their consumers are using, and how they are using them across each stage of their eCommerce journey. Given a consumer’s journey is always a mix of digital channels, brands should not only look at the channel used to transact, but also the other devices used leading up to the transaction stage which could heavily influence a consumer’s decision whether they purchase or not.

Citing from GlobalWebIndex’s Commerce 2020 report, Kemp explained that purchasing online is undeniably a mobile-first activity, but computers and laptops do play a very important role in the overall purchase journey.

“Various data points suggest that computers and mobiles account for roughly the same share of consumers’ internet activities,” he said.

Therefore, effective targeting requires a multi-device approach, and brands should invest time to understand consumers’ specific needs and objectives at each stage of their consumers’ purchasing journeys.

Meanwhile, Kevin Dechamps, eCommerce expert at Sitecore, urged brands to go beyond transactional commerce, which focuses on merely getting consumers to purchase a product and very little on user identity, and develop an experience commerce approach, which aims to build a relationship with consumers through their purchasing journey with the brand.

He said while brands might find it challenging to go up against eCommerce marketplaces where transactions are fast and convenient, and prices are lower, brands can tap onto experience commerce to differentiate and build brand loyalty. Some interactive aspects that Dechamps suggested include having more information content tagged to their products, such as how a shoe is made or which athlete wears a certain sports shoe. Another aspect could be including information about the brand itself, such as campaigns it has ran or informational blog content that can humanise the brand and allow consumers to gain a better understanding of the brand itself.

According to Dechamps, these additional features may not translate into direct sales, but they will help consumers remember the brand and perhaps be top-of-mind when they need to purchase a product the brand offers.

Watch the in-depth presentations on-demand at our "Modern Commerce in Asia Pacific" virtual summit archive. Available now until 25 August, this online resource for commerce, marketing and IT professionals features top-notch commerce experts from across the region, who discussed commerce and marketing success strategies for 2020 and beyond. Click here to check it out now. Sitecore's virtual summit is done in partnership with Marketing.

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