Electronic commerce is king….but for how long?
For 15 years, businesses large and small have embraced the concept that e-commerce, primarily through the Internet, has fundamentally changed the way that goods and services are transacted. As late as 1997, people still used the Sears catalog, the Yellow Pages, or an airline timetable to conduct business. Not any more.
But there is a change underneath the feet of e-commerce that companies need to be preparing for, now. Clockwork is focused on this next change, what is called digital or d-commerce, and how it can affect your prospects for growth, efficiency, and success.
My first experience with an e-commerce environment came in the transportation industry, where a web site was seen as a means of moving people from a higher cost per transaction (i.e., having to buy a ticket with an agent at the counter) to a lower cost of sale, by having them perform the same basic keystrokes through a computer. A customer didn’t need to be trained in the duties of an agent, as the web site performed many of the same tasks behind the scenes.
Fast forward to 2012. A travel customer wants more than the ability to book a ticket. He or she also wants gate information, hotel bookings, car rentals, upgrades, on-board snacks…and not from a personal computer, but a phone, or a tablet, or a device at their seat.
The simple act of commerce electronically is evolving into a much more customer-focused and customer driven process. If companies aren’t responsive to that change, they risk losing the very customers who so effortlessly (and at very little cost to the client) migrated to the new platform.
It’s also more than just buying something. Consumers increasingly see commerce as a fluid process, and want one means—one payment process, one refund process, one consumer interaction process—to drive their product decisions. iTunes is one example of emerging digital commerce. Netflix is another.
It’s still a little too much for some customers to get their hands around, however, and the industry isn’t doing its part to make it simpler. I visited a marketing web site that attempted to define what they did in the d-commerce space. They wrote:
“Our proactive and practical advice targets the unique challenges created by the integration of customer-centric solutions into the technology landscape…We create immersive, loyalty-inspiring, consistent and persistent branded experiences that bridge platforms, devices, location and spontaneity. And we do it while remaining true to project parameters including budgets, resources, timeframes and revenue projections.”
(In English, please. Our customers do not speak advertising-ese.)
“We build engaging customer experiences across multiple touchpoints that use the breadth and depth of technologies available in the commerce ecosystem.”
(Yes, much better.)
Digital commerce is about a range of islands in the consumer stream—awareness, shopping, purchase, post-purchase, repeat business, customer loyalty and ultimately retention—that expect the same level of service in one as they get with any of the others.
Plenty of companies offer great sales experiences online and next to no post-purchase support, little or no customer loyalty, and little chance at retention. The concept of “churn”, the marketing buzzword of the 1990’s which reflected the inevitable loss of customers to better-positioned opponents, does not apply in d-commerce. If you do it right, you keep your customers for the long haul. Apple gets this. Dell, unfortunately, does not.
Digital commerce has significant consequences for today’s business climate, and it’s more than just building a web site.
The king is dead. Long live the king.