The Ecommerce Omni-channel Competency Center at the Chief Digital Office helps digital executives use websites to transform their firm’s relationships with people. It features reports, thought leadership, presentations and other assets that focus on envisioning, planning and pursuing commercial web initiatives that engage people in new ways, innovate new offerings, and create new revenue streams. The Chief Digital Office has competency centers in social business, mobile, big data and ecommerce.
Point of View
Ecommerce is a boat that has been navigating a river since the 1990s, but now it has now reached the ocean, so the crew has to relearn sailing. The online world has completely changed, and chief digital officers need to respond before their firms and brands lose relevance and competitiveness.
“Ecommerce” is the standard for online presence and sales, but the world has transformed around it, and most sites need rebuilding—or at least gut rahabs. Ecommerce is mature and legacy, so it has special challenges and opportunities as a competency in the Chief Digital Office. Depending on the organization, digital/marketing executives are probably managing many technologies, vendors and services that are key to the functioning of the firm’s website(s). This makes change more challenging, but the silver lining is that pioneering CDOs will lock in competitive advantage due to competitors’ resistance to change.
Vision: Where do we start?
One of Chief Digital Office’s core principles is that organizations/enterprises/firms/brands (hereafter “firm”) will increase their influence and profit by shifting their emphasis away from selling products toward serving people online, where interacting leverages the network effect. We are entering the “post product world” because products can be bought anywhere, so differentiation now occurs in the customer’s value of using the product. This is not a trivial proposition; it is truly transformational for most firms. Leaders who want to minimize transformation’s collateral damage begin with planning.
Optimal ecommerce transformation begins with charting the ocean, and the most expeditious way to do that is creating and testing a social business strategy. It is the fastest and most direct route to understanding the firm’s stakeholders/clients/customers/constituents (hereafter “users”) and how they want to be served. As marketing surveys have repeatedly shown, asking users directly gives inferior results because people often aren’t fully aware of how they want to be served; however, when they interact with other users and focus on what’s most important to them, they reveal their highest challenges and most exciting goals. Firms that want to maximize impact help users vanquish their dragons and win their sweetest prizes—in public, where other people can see their sincere care for users.
Strategy: How do we optimize what we have now with where we need to go?
Start social business by rigorously defining the firm’s users, ranking who’s most important and identifying how they interact online. Avoid the tendency to define “most important” by who buys the most. In this ocean, firms don’t communicate their values, features and differentiation via marketing (those are river tactics). They reflect their beliefs, value and tools (products/services) by serving key users in online interactions. Users have realized that talk is cheap and marketing’s impact continues to plummet. Of course, firms still employ mass and “targeted” communications, but those share focus with public interactions in digital social venues where users have control (that’s why users believe online interactions).
Look deep into prime users’ sharing and collaboration habits and what their outcomes are (what kind of results they want from using products/services). Read about the power of outcomes. By specifying users’ characteristics and outcomes, you can rank digital social venues and create a strategy for engaging with users in the optimal venues. Then analyze the firm’s assets and knowledge that add unique value to user outcomes, and create a strategy to share in optimal venues. Once you have a consistent process for collaborative engagement, you can reevaluate your social media investments. Social media and social business can strengthen each other. Both can have a major impact on ecommerce, mcommerce and physical store sales.
Execution: How do we invest while mitigating risk?
The social business strategy will recommend 4-6 pilots to test the strategy and educate your team about interacting and collaborating to help users attain their outcomes more easily. This increases users’ trust, engagement and commitment to the firm and brand(s) over time. Pilots are small projects that test and teach in short cycles.
Pilots last 6-12 weeks and get expanded, adjusted or shut down, but every pilot teaches the team how to engage to build trust and commitment, what tactics work, how to measure results and how to change the strategy.
After several pilots, most firms see repeatable business results, so they begin to incorporate social business and mobile interoperability with ecommerce sites. “Social” has such high credibility with users that websites consistently see better success metrics when social and mobile data is incorporated so that it serves users.
Ecommerce Omni-channel Opportunities
The core opportunity in all firms is reimagining firms’ interactions with customers and prospects (“users”) as collaborative (“how can we help people have better life experiences”?) instead of utilitarian (“how can we get people to buy our products”?). In case your business management self wants to reject the idea as silly, think about your customer self: which kind of firm would you rather buy from? Here are some general examples:
- As links on this page testify, omni-channel is a growing imperative for all firms, although user expectations vary significantly. The key to omni-channel investments is approaching with a clear long-term strategy, but executing incrementally. Social business enables you to develop and test your understanding of users’ desired outcomes and the tactics they use to try to attain them. It can cut the risk of omni-channel investments significantly.
- 7 years of client work have consistently shown that incorporating social data (conversations) into websites markedly boosts their credibility and results in people staying on the sites longer (and interacting more). Users feel more comfortable with sites that show their own voices. Social business strategy enables firms to validate strategy for optimal investments in social features and processes.
- Most firms use a technology-led approach to mcommerce, both in designing transaction features and in fielding smartphone and tablet applications, which are universally poor because they don’t take into account the unique mobile buying process and context. Moreover, website and mobile transactions are often designed and managed in isolation, which is a key demand driver for omni-channel. You can use social business analysis to create a holistic view of the buying and using process, and how specific users prefer to interact. Then your design process can be unified across interfaces (Web, mobile, in-store..).
- Firms conduct or reuse social business strategy to reimagine their online advertising programs. In brief, virtually all current online and mobile ads try to promote or sell products, but firms can sell more by using part of their ad inventory to support user outcomes. When your ads suggest how to get results from using products, users will change their relationship to your ads.
CSRA Ecommerce/Omni-channel/Digital/Transform Posts
My latest thinking on ecommerce/digital transformation:
All CSRA posts on ecommerce/digital transformation.
Ecommerce/Omni-channel/Digital Transformation “Best of the Web”
Latest links from CSRA’s curated feed dedicated to using ecommerce for digital transformation:
Even more links, the whole lot!
Chief Digital Office Directory
- The Future of the Store in the Omni-Channel Age [CSRA]
- The Big Omni-Channel Trap [CSRA]
- Winning Over the Empowered Customer [IBM]
- How Social Changed Retail: Empowered Customers & Omni-Channel [CSRA]
- Multi-Channel to Omni-Channel [Business Analytics 3.0]
- The Coming Era of On-Demand Marketing [McKinsey]
- Don’t Reengineer. Reimagine [Booz Digital]
Join these conversations in which I’m participating about using ecommerce for digital transformation:
CSRA helps CDOs, CEOs and boards to use ecommerce for transformation by using social business to create and confirm deep insight into what customers want, how they try to get it, and what role products/services play. It becomes the playbook for transforming digital sales and profits. We use digital social analysis and interaction to develop strategy and execute on it. To learn more, see How We Work or contact me.