Roadmaps to customer excellence through e-commerce innovation

Roadmaps to customer excellence through e-commerce innovation

Tue 20 Sep 2022

Most leaders are acutely aware that e-commerce plays an essential role in businesses today. Globally, the e-commerce market is projected to reach $6.17 trillion by 2023. But not all e-commerce initiatives are created equally, and often it is used as a buzzword, unattached to a well-thought-out strategy. So, how can businesses ensure they are on track to deliver e-commerce success? It all starts with a comprehensive strategy.

Making sense of the e-commerce revolution

E-commerce is experiencing unprecedented growth – just in the US, 2022 will mark the first year where online sales exceed $1 trillion. It is seen as both an opportunity and an ultimatum for businesses: adapt quickly and prosper or watch opportunities disappear as competitors grab a hold of the market share. Even in retail segments that were previously dominated by brick-and-mortar stores, such as cosmetics, food, furniture and even garden supplies, we are seeing an increase in businesses that are developing more compelling e-commerce strategies. Contrary to widespread beliefs, it is not just about B2C ­–  by 2025 it’s estimated that 80% of B2B sales will also take place through an e-commerce model.

The pace of change in e-commerce can be overwhelming, with tightening regulations on data security and privacy (e.g., elimination of the usage of many types of third-party cookies) on one side, and innovations in marketing and social media on the other. For both established and new brands, current business opportunities span digital and physical retail scenarios that place a premium on delivering omnichannel shopping experiences. This is becoming increasingly true for businesses across the spectrum – and is even the case for a 200-year-old premium fine wine business.

Avoiding common mistakes during implementation

Companies embarking on an e-commerce journey must be able to support customer insights, offer a real-time AI orchestrated journey with intelligent search and discovery, ensure connected e-commerce, and maintain omnichannel options, as well as an effective internal control environment. While there are powerful customer experience platforms, like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce, which offers retailers extensive capabilities, many companies are poorly prepared to leverage this technology.

The reason is often fragmented digital systems that have been adopted at different times with different priorities. For instance, in a common scenario, a company may have multiple business systems including separate POS, finance, and warehousing systems. In turn, a customer ordering a product online may struggle retrieving their order because the store has an order number that does not match the one within the e-commerce system, forcing store associates to stumble as they attempt to serve the customer. This could have detrimental effects on customer satisfaction levels and increase customer churn propensity.

Successfully planning the e-commerce investment

In an ideal world, a company would deploy its systems strategically, starting with finance and proceeding to procurement, sales, and e-commerce in a logical order. Yet this does not necessarily mean that a company must gut its previous systems to achieve its goals. Needs vary and a company equipped with the right plan – based on careful analysis of priorities, could still adopt a POS system before adding new financial capabilities. To succeed, this requires alignment across different business units and teams as successful investments often build on integrated systems and include a broader range of personnel. To ensure successful implementation it is especially important to engage end-user teams so that they feel a sense of ownership and are empowered to become system advocates.

Defining the right customer journey

E-commerce customer journeys can vary by industry, type of customer, geography and more. At the onset, the customer journey often begins with an internet search or a social media touchpoint. A well-placed ad or redirect can initiate the customer engagement process, linking that person to an online store.

Increasingly, the customer journey may take place through an omnichannel model spanning multiple online and in-store interactions. For instance, after browsing an online store, a customer may decide to physically visit the store. During their visit, the company can deploy contextual ads and mobile notifications to better target them. Also, in-store integrations can support omnichannel scenarios such as in-store kiosks, customer VIP profiles and coupons, as well as online pickup notifications for orders.

Supporting future purchases

The key to success is understanding the customer or business buyer. Rich customer data informs future customer data, retail planning and the next best action. It informs the company about key metrics like a customer’s propensity to reorder, in addition to analysing their past purchase behaviour or complaints. To engage with loyal customers or to prevent churn, companies can follow up with special promotions or customised marketing campaigns.

Learn more about e-commerce innovation with Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce.