The White Whale of Retail: Keeping Up with Changing Digital Commerce Tides

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Ecommerce and the Importance of a Personalized Experience

In Herman Melville’s 1851 classic Moby Dick, Captain Ahab is compelled to kill a white whale who took his leg on a previous voyage. He is fixated so completely on that singular goal that he pursues it to his own death. For retailers, chasing profitable omnichannel commerce success is like chasing Herman Melville’s White Whale – maddening and nearly impossible to do alone. And if this success is the beast of down under, digital commerce is the tide that is always changing. Personalization as part of the customer experience is critical to digital commerce strategy. Today’s retailers need an omnichannel strategy with a digital commerce experience that satisfies customers’ demands for personalization. This in itself can seem as daunting as the deepest, darkest ocean crevices.

Time and time again merchants are failing to keep up with digital advancements and rising customer expectations. Trying to make sense of customer, business and market data to gain insights that translate into marketing and merchandising actions that engage customers makes retailers crazier than Captain Ahab. Customers expect retailers to know what they want at every stage of the buying journey, but many retailers are unable to navigate changing customer tides and oceans of data to deliver the kind of experiences and level of personalization customers demand.

A recent IBM customer experience study found that only 3% of over 500 brands across 25 countries could be considered ‘leading edge’ when it comes to customer buying experiences. What’s even more concerning is that 39% were categorized as ‘falling behind,’ meaning instead of improving they are losing ground. For some reason, retailers just cannot get it right. The more they chase this beast, the further it slips away. Even though in-store sales are currently outpacing online sales, digital engagement influences sales in every single channel, meaning having a superior digital experience will undoubtedly drive sales and brand loyalty across all touch-points.

Ultimately, digital success can be narrowed down into one defining category: personalization. True personalization, not just micro-segmentation, requires retailers to easily process a significant amount of data points, including unstructured, in a very small amount of time and put this data into action to create a unique experience for every single buyer. This would allow businesses to address each individual consumer’s needs in real-time, giving them the exceptional experience they demand.

However, with so many data points now available in our digitally-powered world, keeping up with all of it is easier said than done. Currently, traditional legacy solutions simply don’t have the scale or power to collect and analyze all data footprints consumers leave behind. There are too many options, possibilities and constraints for humans and traditional commerce solutions to even begin to address. This makes it seem like achieving omnichannel success is a feat only for novels.

But what if you had the tools to catch the White Whale?

Artificial intelligence technology allows for innovations that not only make it possible for businesses to keep up with rising customer demands, but make it simple. AI-enabled commerce can detect when an individual is struggling with their buying journey and interject with a personalized conversation or content to remedy the situation, allowing retailers to provide that one-to-one experience customers want. By monitoring competitors’ prices in real time, it can instantly give the best price changes in response to the market, balancing sales against demand, inventory and margin making it easy to optimize pricing to meet your business goals. With a solution that streamlines and organizes all content and marketing, teams can quickly deliver more efficient and personalized content. All of these elements work to create a highly personalized, effective customer journey that will truly define a business in this digital age.

Digital commerce leaders, often on the leading edge of omnichannel strategy, understand that if the customer’s expectations cannot be met, then nothing else matters. Stop chasing this White Whale with only a harpoon; the latest innovations in commerce technology and AI can help you meet customer expectations for seamless and personalized experiences, and achieve the omnichannel state retailers so desperately seek.

Check out part two in the White Whale series to find out how optimizing fulfillment operations and inventory can often be the linchpin to profitable omnichannel execution.

Omnichannel presents one of the biggest challenges to merchandisers. See how artificial intelligence and cognitive can provide the answers to the toughest challenges.

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