The future of ecommerce in an omnichannel world

Increasingly, the battle for customers is not fought within the channels that brands operate, but rather across them, in the customer experience companies provide.  Across industries, too many companies are organised with separate e-commerce teams, goals and KPIs. The trouble is, this doesn’t reflect the reality of customer behaviours. Whether buying a can of chickpeas, a pot of paint, or a packet of pills, online and offline channels converge.

Here’s an example from Adidas on how they’ve understood the on and offline behaviour with the creation of their ‘Confirmed’ app which they use to release their limited edition shoes.

Adidas Kanye West app

Before the debut of a new limited edition shoe, users of the app will receive a notification that reservations are open, allowing them to reserve a size and select a store for pickup. Once the reservation is confirmed, the app provides you with a pickup window time, during which the shoes are guaranteed for you. Reservations are first come first serve, and users are allowed one pair per person. The app doesn’t process any payments, buyers pay for the shoe at the store – yet it is still an e-commerce innovation – the browsing, selecting, ordering steps are done online. The point is that it allows engaged, high value customers, to have an easy experience. They don’t have to queue outside a store at personal inconvenience, just to contribute to brand hype and publicity. To make it work, the Adidas teams have to collaborate over the fine details of the operations. Imagine turning up and your shoes hadn’t gone to the store you selected? Or they’d been sold to someone else?  It’s one of those ideas that could easily have gone in to the ‘too hard to deliver’ box. But with tenacity it’s been seen through. Could the same work for pre-ordering a limited edition whiskey for collection at a partner retailer? Or the latest shade of nail polish?

Leading companies are shifting to an omnichannel approach that embraces ecommerce, and this is not just about retailers – it equally applies to consumer packaged goods. This shift brings with it challenging capability implications. How will you deliver an omnichannel strategy in practice? How will you organise your teams and ways of working? What infrastructure supports this, and how do you create the skills in your teams to use the infrastructure to excel at customer insight, analytics and engaging execution?  How can you attract and develop the right people to help you navigate the shift – people who can lead mindset change, cross-functional collaboration and also people who have specialist ecommerce skills?

There are some fundamental areas that companies must focus on to pave the way forward.

  1. A collaborative focus on the customer. Build knowledge within the business and across all areas of the business on the customer/shopper journey and the impact that it will have on their respective functions.
  2. An integrated strategy with silo-busting KPIs that is driven by the C-suite. Being customer-centred needs the most senior leaders to drive, demonstrate and reinforce collaborative delivery of the customer experience. The strategy needs to have measures in place which encourage collaboration without removing accountability.
  3. Shifting investments to focus on delivering a clear digital footprint. This is not about establishing a presence (e.g. a website or social media) but rather integrating digital into the operating model. This can include data analytics and a clear omnichannel strategy that understands the role that their products have in the eCommerce marketplace
  4. Cross-functional operating teams. Those who know Brand Learning’s work well will recall the customer experience engine model – with agile cross-functional teams to deliver consistently, quickly and engagingly. We’ve moved on from housing the ecommerce team in a separate office space. They need to work with colleagues in marketing and sales to activate the entire customer journey.
  5. Partnerships and relationships to create new ways of delivering for customers – leveraging digital technology but making it operate within a practical, cross-channel experience that can drive conversions through stores, through e-commerce channels (owned or participated in).
  6. Talented teams – with a constant emphasis on building knowledge and skills within the organisation to stay ahead, or at the very least, keep up with the fast moving nature of the digital space.

The shift has already begun. CPG companies are already beginning to restructure their organisation. For example, at Reckitt Benckiser, they have taken eCommerce out of the sales function, created a team with a specialist and focused skillset and positioned them geographically next to the Digital Marketing function.

Equally, businesses that began as Pure Play internet enterprises are moving into Bricks and Mortar to deliver a customer experience that will ultimately help sell their product.  

Look at Warby Parker, an online eyewear company which opened physical stores in the US to capitalise on their online success but also as a response to changing consumer behaviour. The company now turns over $100m a year which is remarkable given the company was founded 5 years ago.

Ecommerce is one frontier for the joined-up agenda Brand Learning has been supporting companies to deliver. You may also be interested in our articles on joined-up challenges, strategy and planning, and activation.   

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