Originally published at Acquia.com with co-author Alex Dal Canto, Director of Product Marketing, Acquia.
Today, the greatest aim for a brand is not just making a sale; it’s building a relationship with their customers that makes them feel understood and drives a genuine connection. People are researching, browsing and making purchasing decisions online more than ever before and their expectations for businesses will continue to change. A recent study by Retail TouchPoints that was commissioned by Lucidworks found that retailers must prioritize their technology, personalization strategy and use of customer data to create a better customer experience (CX) that satisfies shoppers.
Building a successful digital commerce practice requires that businesses craft the right messages and deliver them when they’re most needed. Rather than prioritizing pushing products and slashing prices, the brands that will prevail in this new era of digital commerce are the ones that invest in a data-driven mindset and treat each interaction as an opportunity to win a customer’s loyalty. Here are a few of the essential pillars that Acquia and Lucidworks recommend brands focus on when creating personal and meaningful digital commerce experiences.
1. Start with Scalable and Reliable Technology
The digital landscape is always evolving and customers expect that brands will be able to communicate on demand and pivot quickly in order to accommodate any changing circumstances. Despite so much uncertainty in the market, your digital presence needs to be reliable. According to Lucidworks and Retail TouchPoints’ survey, “73% of retailers say site downtime, degraded site performance and poor customer experience are their biggest worry during peak demand times.”
When it comes to fast content delivery, a content delivery network (CDN) is often the preferred solution for delivering experiences fast and at scale. Acquia’s Drupal Cloud automatically scales to accommodate even the most demanding experiences. Equipped with an out-of-the-box Platform CDN and application-level support, brands can rest assured that all of their sites are offering optimized performance.
AI and machine learning solutions can also increase site performance dramatically by proactively alerting retailers to traffic spikes and increases in product demand so they can react in real time. To quickly deliver ambitious and relevant customer experiences, Acquia’s Customer Data Platform (CDP) employs a machine learning framework with a data pipeline that ingests real-time events, web traffic and data spikes to deliver customized experiences instantly even as customer needs change.
2. Turn Customer Intelligence to Insight with a First-Party Data Strategy
In the past, digital advertisers and marketers would purchase third-party customer records (such as email lists or demographic info) from data vendors in order to segment their audiences and target them with different offers. However, as more concerns are raised regarding consumer data privacy, digital leaders like Google are planning to phase out third-party data usage. Therefore, it’s crucial brands put in place a strong first-party data strategy. Having a centralized way to manage and activate all of your customer data in-house, via solutions like a customer data platform, has risen in popularity due to the power it gives marketers to view all of a customer’s interactions and preferences in one place, while offering greater control for complying with privacy requests.
Without a CDP serving as a single source of truth, brands either have to custom-build data processors to handle such requests or outsource requests to third parties. This time-consuming process isn’t efficient when it comes to customizing and adjusting customer experiences at the speed customers expect. Just gathering data about your audience isn’t enough to create a truly effective data-driven digital commerce strategy. You need to change the culture throughout your organization to focus on how to unlock key insights from that data to create individual, meaningful customer experiences that support lifetime customer relationships. AI tools and machine learning give marketers the power to understand the context and intention behind each individual customer interaction at scale. AI-powered tools can generate intelligent recommendations and improve segmentation and targeting tactics that connect with people at a deeper level than a simple one-off transaction.
3. Build Connected Omnichannel Customer Journeys
Just like your business, real life doesn’t take place in silos. Customers are moving constantly between channels and interacting with brands beyond just web pages through things like conversational interfaces and wearable technology. According to the aforementioned research, the majority of shoppers (60%) visit a site or interact with a brand up to four times before making a purchase. Therefore, brands who want to boost more conversions need to accelerate that path to purpose by making it fast and simple to find what they need in the moment.
Businesses need technology that is open and composable by design. A digital platform with a composable architecture empowers brands to create and activate customer experiences across every channel, both online and offline, to stay connected with people anywhere and everywhere. Rather than frustrate customers by having them re-enter their shipping data multiple times or be made to repeat their request to customer service reps and digital chatbots, brands need to unify their digital experience by having customer data flow easily between all sides of the business. When all team members have access to the data they need, it becomes simpler to provide the best offer at the best moment.
4. Prioritize Discoverability and Convenience
Above all else, customers expect to find what they need as quickly and conveniently as possible, without having to navigate a bunch of complex or irrelevant material first. If customers can’t easily find a product or get their question answered quickly, they’ll move on to another option. Improving product discoverability is a top priority for digital retailers with 48% of top retailers investing in AI to improve their search intent capabilities.
Natural language processing (NLP) or technology that can interpret human intent and context in search phrases to leverage the most relevant results is a prime area where AI can be used to improve search and discovery. For example, Lucidworks’ natural language search engine uses advanced machine learning to combine things like sentiment analysis, semantic vector search, phrase detection and self-learning to continuously improve the results presented to customers.
Customers shop on their own terms and brands need to communicate with them as people first. By investing in the right technology that can turn data into customer insights, it’s possible to create more intelligent, fully immersive commerce experiences at scale.
To learn more about how to create compelling digital commerce experiences, get Acquia’s latest e-book: Reinventing the Digital Commerce Experience.