The State of Content-Driven eCommerce

Consumers expect simple eCommerce solutions on every company website as the desire to buy online has become so integrated into the way people purchase products today. While the primary purpose of eCommerce is to allow buyers to find what they want, put it in a shopping cart and make a purchase, supporting online sales has become such a common utility that just about anyone who wants to sell online can do so easily. This ease of entry makes it more difficult for merchants to differentiate themselves, attract buyers and drive sales. 
The challenge for merchants - and the way they will distinguish themselves from their competition - will not be to simply build a store that offers lots of transactional features, but rather to create a rich and engaging user experience that influences what people purchase, whether that be online or locally at a store. Retailers that target and personalize content with offers based on user behavior keep users engaged and immersed in the brand long after point of sale.
Today’s smart brands are creating eCommerce sites built on top of a content management system (CMS) to stand out from the crowd, resulting in an evolution to solutions that truly support content-driven commerce.  

The future of eCommerce is changing, and there are a few emerging trends that will influence how merchants sell online and the solutions that they will implement to support this transformation.


Trend 1 Content-Driven Commerce 

As consumers, we all understand how content and social interaction influences what people buy. An engaging experience, easily available information and social circle feedback from others greatly influences purchases. 
Content and engagement with others drives greater trust and credibility, and so it only makes sense that buying within the context of this experience yields better results. Whether buying online or simply researching what to buy at a physical store, a rich digital experience is important to shoppers. This experience is driven by the CMS, not by the ability to make a transaction online. 
Yet most eCommerce platforms today see themselves at the center with minimal CMS capabilities to create, manage and target content to users. To differentiate themselves and drive greater online revenues, merchants need to focus more on the user experience in ways that connect with their customers and allow them to purchase within the context of this experience. This shift will place greater emphasis on the CMS solution as the core of the online sales strategy, and weave in eCommerce capability wherever it makes sense. A content-centric approach to selling online matters because;
  • Search engine ranking today is increasingly dependent on having an effective content marketing strategy, so it is vital to create more interesting content and easily create relationships between that content and the products being sold. Without a powerful CMS to create engaging content and drive user interaction, search engine ranking will suffer.
  • According to Forrester, web-influenced offline spending is more than 5x that of online spending. This means that a large majority of customers are making buying decisions online that they ultimately purchase offline at local stores. The key driver influencing those buying decisions is a content and community centric experience.

Trend 2 Merchandising to Target & Personalize 

With feature parity among most eCommerce solutions, and the ease with which anyone can create an online store, it is increasingly important for merchants to merchandise better and have a single view of their customer. Merchandising is simply serving up the right content or offering to the right person at the right time. As easy as it may sound to do, it requires retailers to know more about their buyers, how they interact with content, how they engage with others and what they purchase. This is particularly challenging when one system handles content and another system handles transactions, making it difficult to leverage all that is known about a user. 
Having a single view of a customer is challenging when there are disparate platforms managing content and commerce. A single system, its core infused with content and social tools and the ability to handle transactions of any kind, results in a single database - a single view of a customer and less complexity.

Trend 3 Commerce Anywhere

Online shopping today often ends with the customer leaving the site immediately after their transaction - they search for products, put them in their shopping cart, check out and leave the website. Enabling buyers to purchase in context anywhere within their experience on the site is ideal since the customer stays engaged with the brand and remains on the website. 
Merchants are often faced with implementing large and resource-heavy eCommerce solutions that require integration with existing ERP and Order Management Systems, often resulting in unnecessary complexity and duplication of data and effort. A flexible Commerce Anywhere approach that allows transactions to exist anywhere and acts as a conduit for existing information, rather than another "container", streamlines the impact and resource requirements when adding eCommerce capability. 
Scott Dahlgren's picture
General Manager, North America
Posted January 13, 2014

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