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The Changing Tides of E-Commerce: Where the Consumer Now Lives

July 12, 2023
By Connor Mahon

E-commerce, while hardly a nascent industry, has yet to meet peak maturation. Like most grumpy teens, it’s still communicating in monosyllabic grunts — but this won’t cut the mustard in a landscape dominated by rapidly evolving technologies, sustainability issues and ethics concerns. It’s time for e-commerce businesses to step up their comms strategies to cement their places as the future of retail. All in, e-commerce platforms should rethink their core purpose in a circular economy, one which is rooted in ethics and sustainability principles. It is critical for brands to not only listen to their consumers but to respond — whether that be through investment in technology to improve the customer experience, or to hang some big brand goals around sustainability. In a world where culture is currency, the ones that can’t keep pace with shifting demands and expectations won’t survive.

Is Retail Really Innovating?
Investment in technology went into hyper speed as brick-and-mortar stores shuttered in the face of COVID-19, and it shows no sign of slowing. Innovation and transformation that previously would have taken years, happened overnight. While this has helped spur the next generation of multichannel touchpoints, it presents its own problems. The everyday consumer has yet to truly understand the benefits technologies such as chatbots, analytics and AI can bring them. Consumers expect seamless interactions that ultimately benefit them; whether it’s personalized recommendations, loyalty programs or easier, more efficient check-out. The businesses that can articulate their brand promise will, ultimately, be the ones that win out.

E-commerce businesses need to be clear about how and why they are using technology to improve the customer experience; they need to think about what true innovation is. It could be argued that solutions are tacked on without any real thought, just a simple application of technology that already exists — we must question what the real revolution in e-commerce will be in this era of digital transformation.

Commitment Issues
This piecemeal approach to e-commerce needs an overhaul – one that is cemented in the commitment to become vital to consumers through far deeper levels of connection, both online and offline. Delivering on this vision requires companies to put e-commerce strategies at the center of their organizations so they can choreograph experiences that meet customers’ ever-rising expectations.

But this is no pipe dream. Some brands are generating vast amounts of revenue through a continued commitment to digital transformation and they’re doing it quickly. And it isn’t just legacy players doing so; newer entrants lack the burden of disparate, siloed systems and can, therefore, be much nimbler in attaining their goal of being true customer-led, digital-first platforms. However, many others continue to languish in an innovation no-man’s land for fear of cost, change and concerns — or more accurately, a combination of all three.

Know Your Consumers
The consumer experience is rapidly evolving from a transactional process focused simply on shopping and buying, to a model built on deep, enriching relationships at every step of the customer journey. Retailers and brands must become a key staple in their consumers’ lives. But first, they need to build a sophisticated understanding of the way consumers live, eat, shop, work and play — and use this knowledge to provide value in the right place, at the right time, via the right channels.

An experience-led consumer journey is no small feat. It will require a consumer-centric view of the entire business, from supply chain and operating model to content and marketing, all the while being propped up by technology ecosystem powered by real-time consumer data. With a marriage between infrastructure and brand, the e-commerce of tomorrow is ripe for the taking today.