Monday, February 24, 2014

Experience Driven Commerce Brings the Storefront to Your Consumer

As 2014 opens and we reflect on 2013, I want to talk about a topic which I spent most of last year working on, Experience-Driven Commerce (EDC). EDC is a concept that enables customers to have a personalized, immersive digital experience that blurs the lines of discover, share, shop, buy, and serve. Databases, web content management, and commerce can now be unified to deliver unprecedented experiences. For example, a consumer can watch a video and buy within the video from a tablet while storing to ‘my favorites’ and share via twitter all at one time without ever leaving the video. EDC marries content with several different technical platforms to maximize data on a consumer in order to bring a dynamic and immersive shopping experience to consumers. Big data dominated many technical discussions in 2013 and I don’t see any reason why it will change in 2014. The one thing I know and most of us understand about big data is extracting and using fine grained pieces of that data is not a trivial affair. We’ve spent decades using relational databases to store and retrieve information. We are very good at using relational databases, but they can only serve up the information that we put into them. And thus the old axiom, garbage in garbage out. We must be careful what information we use to market to a consumer, because there aren’t many chances to serve an effective advertisement before it becomes redundant and forgotten. This is the great challenge of big data, to get only the relevant data and use it effectively. Now imagine a world where brand experience is not separate from, but in fact, the front line in our eCommerce endeavor. The marketer already owns a toe-hold on content sites, with the banner space above the header, in the right rail and perhaps as an overlay in a video. Experience driven commerce is not some new ground to be tilled. Instead I like to think of experience driven commerce in the same way as we think about and recognize predictive email marketing. Experience driven commerce requires a high level understanding and focus to market goods to consumers via the internet. Retailers have been selling goods and services via the internet for well more than a decade and a half and they have continually struggled to differentiate themselves and drive sales. It’s easy for a brick and mortar retailer to cross sell, up sell a consumer once they are in the store. The concept has been perfected for decades, but consumers continue to abandon traditional retail channels in favor of eTail. New channels are still being defined and picking which ones that are here today, will be here tomorrow is a challenge every digital marker faces, especially in 2014. There is so much content on the internet today, there are an infinite number of opportunities to attract a potential consumer. The eTailer has already struck up a relationship with the content providers through banner ads and perhaps through service providers for in text links and sponsored content. This however is too easy for a consumer to avoid. I like to think of this as the elementary start of experience driven commerce. Last spring we showed a potential customer how they could weave a nearly endless set of eCommerce opportunities on their site through subject matter tutorials they had already created. They liked the idea and we continue to work with them on both technical implementation and digital strategy planning. In the same way a product marketer associates their goods with a popular intellectual property in order to gain the consumer’s attention and drive an impulse buy; we can attempt to use content to draw the site visitor into a new experience for conversion. This kind of experience needs to tightly couple content and commerce together as we move into a new golden age of digital marketing. No longer will eTail be able to stand on only one good leg. A site with good content, but a poor commerce experience will be left behind. In truth, even good content and good commerce still need strong analytics, predictive email marketing and an integrated effort serving customers laser guided product suggestions. Take the Geometrixx demo which Crown developed this past summer, where we combined compelling content with commerce, analytics and highly targeted product recommendations. The demo starts with a video that is entirely content driven. This video follows a snow boarder down a mountain side. There is nothing to suggest that it’s an eCommerce experience, until the viewer is invited to view the gear the snow boarder is using. By the time the site visitor arrives at this video, you know a decent amount about them. You know about at least one of their special interests and perhaps whatever other information you might have been able to extract from various cookie swaps and shares with the content host and other content providers. Perhaps this person has already patronized your business, so you know their purchase history and can highly customize the eCommerce experience you are presenting to them on the fly. You may even have access to their social graph through their activities on your site or a partner’s site. While a new snow board or pair of skis might not be a typical impulse purchase, a pair of goggles, gloves or another less expensive item might be. By allowing a site visitor to add items to their cart, mid-experience and then allow them to continue their experience with minimal distraction, they can complete the immersive video and checkout. In architecting the Geometrixx Experience, we used flagship Adobe products like Test & Target, Recommendations and Search & Promote to refine the retail experience for our notional shoppers while serving a state of the art web content management authoring experience for the content authors in CQ5 and Scene7. The result is to provide marketers a bleeding edge system that allows for easy customization and rapid refinement of the eCommerce experience by delivering best of breed tools to create marketing content that will redefine the organization’s digital marketing. When I architected the Geometrixx Experience I took the approach of allowing the marketer the same level of control in creating content as I have had over the last three years architecting Adobe CQ5 systems for content authors who were just taking control of content for the first time. CQ5 provides a platform which enables the content author to have more control over their content then they ever had in the past as well as the agility to instantly deliver new content eCommerce to sites. Marketers can quickly and intuitively refine the products they are highlighting and update floundering products and campaigns quickly. In a mission critical situation, this could be a matter of minutes or less to publish new content or product offerings. I’ve seen other retailers enhance their eCommerce experience by offering the customer the chance to add “the look” to the cart or highlight related items through typical cross selling modes. While this is an enhanced cross sell experience, its not an experience that’s necessarily going to drive new customers to an impulse buy. Call it a higher level of awareness, but it’s not the experience which is going to yank a customer out of their seat and into your virtual store. In order for this mode of marketing to be effective, consumers need to already have arrived at your site with a general want in mind. You might not even have any useful information about this shopper when they arrive. There is little opportunity to refine the pitch you’re going to make to them. Blind marketing is still the most rudimentary form of marketing. The effective marketer needs to go to where the customer is consuming content and market to them right there in a highly focused manner. Only through a carefully crafted and managed set of experiences where the marketer can customize the pitch to the person behind the web browser in a dynamic manner can we leverage the big data tools to deliver a highly personalized and effective internet shopping experience. Using tools which allow the marketer to introspect the user browsing and shopping history to deliver to them the experience they want while consuming a more effective marketing approach is going to be the key for the next generation digital marketer. By focusing on delivering commerce connected with content, the storefront can be virtually “pushed” or “presented” wherever content may go – including social sharing, apps and more – extending your “storefront” to the entire web. At the end of the day, an experience driven approach to eCommerce gives a good marketer with great tools the opportunity to maximize conversion. You’re going to get out of it, what you put into it.


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