eCommerce – quite simply one of the oldest human behaviours, the act of commerce or trade, ever-present in today’s digital world.
In recent years, eCommerce has come to represent significant value for businesses, with online UK retail sales reaching £87BN in 2017 and a projected growth trajectory of over 30% by 2020.*
With such impressive commercial credentials, it’s little wonder why eCommerce has accelerated up the agenda for many businesses. However, what is not always so clear is how businesses should capitalise on such an opportunity or whether they should engage an eCommerce strategy at all.
Defining an eCommerce value proposition
It’s time we went back to the drawing board – read consumer – to understand how to create a commerce strategy which delivers value to consumers and supports business objectives, today and tomorrow.
Firstly, consider this – in an ever-connected world, everyone and every brand is competing for attention - even your heating system, car and fridge are probably already competing for your attention. So, you are going to have to earn it. Also consider that 94% of brands could cease to exist and consumers would neither notice nor care.**
Now consider whether the ability to purchase online would really drive utility for your consumers and, if so, crystalise such exact benefits into a single statement: the eCommerce Value Proposition. As a way of basic acid-test, If you’re unable to clearly define such a statement, you should carefully consider whether eCommerce is viable for your business.
Once a clear Value Proposition has been identified, now consider a few more vital dimensions to define whether your product is suitable to be sold online:
And so the list goes on…
It quickly becomes clear to see how this simple question has many hidden layers of complexity, each of which should be explored with attention and rigour.
eCommerce Value Propositions are only valid if proven. A strong starting point on this journey is to understand the consumers’ path to purchase across multiple channels, both on and offline.
Although there is no perfect solution for doing so, using a blend of quantitative data analysis (such as your website, store data or external market/behavioural data), blended with qualitative research techniques (such as focus groups), we can begin to form a picture of current and future purchase behaviour.
It can also be useful to extend your research to cover products which reflect a similar need state. An approach such as this can potentially stimulate more lateral thinking around channel strategy. Unearthing new opportunities and potential purchase behaviour, while ensuring the outcomes of your research is not constrained by the purchase options currently available to your consumers.
If a strong propensity to purchase online is identified, the commercial viability and route to market should then be examined.
When it’s apparent that eCommerce will deliver value to the consumer, a commercial business case should be created to understand the potential business value that eCommerce could deliver.
Broadly speaking, there are three approaches to eCommerce:
1. Direct to Consumer (D2C).
2. eRetail or indirect eCommerce.
3. Marketplace eCommerce.
It’s often worth exploring the viability of all three to gain a strong understanding of the options available to your business.
Here’s the truth, as we see it…
Before you go any further, stop, breathe and consider this: eCommerce is not an island. It’s an ecosystem.
A solid foundation of consumer insight complemented by a commercial business case sets the preface for a robust commerce channel strategy, however…
Since its inception, Digital has wreaked havoc on the org chart of many businesses. How activities related to the elusive concept of ‘Digital’ should be placed and integrated is still an issue of much contention. At best, it results in numerous restructures and the creation of silos. And, at worst, unclear career paths, roles and responsibilities that cause tension and frustration, and a synthetic sense of ‘them and us’ between the new and old worlds of marketing and commerce.
When considering how digital as a function fits into your organization, remember this, digital is simply marketing. And eCommerce is but a channel.
Strategic as they may be (if implemented correctly), in order create a sustainable business which embraces digital and eCommerce, it must be woven into the very fibre of operations, teams and culture. From the very beginning.
The value in creating an integrated digital presence runs much deeper than process efficiency and HR. It will have a profound impact on the overall performance of the business. Why? Simple. Once again, it comes back to the consumer.
Consider this, once upon a time the decision to purchase was simple and linear. Funnel-like, some may say.
Now, a linear funnel has been exchanged for a highly unique cross-channel flight path to purchase. For example, on average, it’s estimated that users are subject to 26 product related touch-points before making a purchase.
In light of such insight, it would seem absurd to run your consumer facing touch-points – both online and offline – in isolation. It’s time to consider commerce, in every form, as an ecosystem. And the components that create it should be uniquely crafted to meet your consumer needs and drive business value.
Consumers don’t view your business as channels. They view it as a single brand. Ecosystem commerce looks to build integrated, total-brand experiences for your consumer. It also focuses on an ecosystem of technology which creates something bigger than the sum of its parts.
By integrating technology and data to optimize the path to purchase, support automation and increase personalisation, you will drive increased revenue for the business.
1. Understand whether eCommerce should be part of your commerce channel strategy – with a relentless focus on consumer experience, we offer you extensive client-side expertise in driving e-Commerce and e-Retail revenue growth. We can help develop go-to-market strategies that “think as ecosystems” to facilitate the unique digital transformation vision of your business.
2. Support in the creation of your eCommerce business case – we can help clarify your case for eCommerce strategies and help define a vision and strategy to meet business and consumer needs.
3. Build technology infrastructure plans – as we’re 100% independent, we only recommend the most fitting solutions for your business – without any technology or commercial bias.
4. Define resources and develop teams – we help up-skill teams and hand them the keys to success. We offer support in defining resource and team development, coaching and training.
5. Select the right partners – we’ll ensure you have a strong, collaborative procurement department. We’ll also help you create a digitally-focused selection process (RFIs, RFPs, scoring). Define briefs, run tenders and appoint players best fit for your strategy and size.
6. Manage the delivery of the project – we’re here to help you drive online sales. And provide the multidisciplinary expertise you need – right through the line.
* Raconteur, 2017: “Future of eCommerce 2017” https://www.raconteur.net/ecommerce-2017
**Marketing Week, 2015: “British consumers would not care if 94% of brands disappeared” https://www.marketingweek.com/2015/07/22/british-consumers-would-not-care-if-94-of-brands-disappeared/