By John Leslie, Sales Director EMEA
Steve Jobs knew a thing or two about delivering exceptional experiences. Despite running a technology business, Jobs did not believe that the technology itself was the most important factor in separating Apple from its competitors, saying “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way round”.
Under his stewardship, Apple evolved into a global behemoth with a unique brand identity that translated across all facets of the business. From the feel of its technology, to the format of its physical stores, every single design decision was made with the customer experience in mind.
Brands and marketers have long since awakened to the importance of experience. However, research from Gartner has revealed that despite 95% of business leader’s identifying customer experience as a top priority, over 70% struggle to deliver experiences which increase customer loyalty and drive results.
Now more than ever before, much of how consumers experience your brand is online. For brands and retailers, this means more than making sure your digital experience fits alongside your physical experience – it has to deliver against modern customer expectations. Research shows that 80% of shoppers will cease doing business with a brand following a poor experience.
This can seem challenging when you consider who is setting these expectations. Amazon, like Apple, has soared over the last decade because it has revolutionized the experience of shopping online and set the bar for the rest of retail. Any ecommerce business is now expected to be able to serve the most relevant products for a visitor – and then deliver these cheaply and quickly. To meet these expectations, it’s important for brands and retailers to have a clear idea of what customers want from their experience, and then identify the right technology to meet these needs.
Working back towards the technology
In the last few years consumers have become increasingly comfortable with operating and interacting with brands across multiple channels and touchpoints. Voice assistants, Progressive Web Apps and other connected devices have enabled consumers to engage with brands and retailers across an array of devices.
Increasingly, these changing consumer habits are revealing a schism between the needs of a consumer, and the goals of the marketer.
To deliver tailored experiences and offers to users, Amazon and other retailers have embraced headless commerce. In its simplest form, headless commerce is a separation of the front end and back end of an ecommerce application. This format allows brands and retailers to build a much more dynamic, personalised experience online, using machine learning to deliver highly relevant, tailored content to users based on their online behaviour.
However, this approach does remove marketers ability to control the customer journey and directly achieve their marketing targets. This means that retail marketers can actually end up objecting to its implementation and standing in the way of the evolution of their brand and the customer’s experience of it.
Of course, the goals of a marketer and the desire of a brand to deliver the best experience should be one and the same. Research shows that personalisation increases sales by around 44% and headless commerce excels in delivering this across all devices and channels.
Another key advantage of using a headless commerce platform is its ability to deploy high-speed updates without impacting the back-end systems behind the website. This means retailers can make changes to their front-end at the same speed as the development of consumer technology. To put this speed into perspective, major commerce brands using a traditional platform usually roll out an update every few weeks. Amazon deploys an update every 11.7 seconds. Less time spent updating, less time spent with your website offline, more time for consumers to browse and spend.
This is surely the agility retail marketers crave. Beyond being faster to build and easier to update – headless commerce has the capacity to support new technologies as they develop, meaning marketers and content managers are always in the driving seat and can keep their brands at the bleeding edge of customer experience.
A culture of innovation
Gartner identified that a key challenge for commerce organizations is “technical debt”. This means they are so embedded in a specific format, or way of working, that they struggle to respond to new digital commerce opportunities as they arise – missing opportunities to grow revenue, capture new customers and deliver excellent customer experiences.
Around 31% of businesses find that they are not able to innovate at a pace that meets their business requirements. The reality is that having a traditionally formatted online store is no longer enough. Retailers need to have the capacity to innovate and develop new channels and experiences that differentiate them from the competition.
Getting the new and shiny thing because it’s new and shiny is not a valid business strategy – it should always be a decision driven by business objectives. But as Steve Jobs said, everything starts with the customer experience, so this should be the number one priority for brands and retailers. Delivering strong customer experiences drives loyalty and advocacy, turning curious browsers into regular shoppers. Retail brands and marketers should be utilizing the latest eCommerce architecture and technology to bring about this end result.