At one point in time, in a world much less complex than our own, the heart of every town and village was Main Street: a vibrant road with various shops and services on offer. A place where folks would buy their goods and where vendors would sell.
Today Main Street remains there structurally; its shops and storefronts reflect the wants and desires of their customers. And they are very much part of a more modern approach to retail. Yet there’s been a hollowing out of these king and queen roads of commerce. Customers have begun moving out of Main Street and seeking products via alternative avenues — the rise of online shopping and mobile shopping gobble up an ever-increasing slice of commerce pie, in which 63% of purchases begin online, whether it’s via a spontaneous search or well-planned comparison of different sites.
Now there is further movement given the monumental shifts in retail. Customers are connecting further away from a company’s own website. In a recent report published by Salesforce, among online shoppers, 26% enter through retailer websites (Walmart, Carrefour), 18% from direct-to-consumer businesses (typically born, raised and maintained only over the internet), and 47% from online marketplaces (Amazon, Alibaba).
The remaining 9% come via emerging touchpoints such as social media platforms like Instagram, messaging platforms like WeChat, as well as voice assistants like Alexa. Essentially, customers are discovering and buying in spaces that are at the margins of brand engagement. These emerging touchpoints also include tech that enhances a brand’s website, such as chatbots.
Emerging touchpoints are a favorite of one group in particular: young people. For millennials and generation Zers, they are three and a half times more likely to use new digital touchpoints, with one in four wanting to shop on gaming consoles. And what younger generations do typically carries into adulthood and is normalized by customers.
So what does this mean for Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware)? And how can the platform take advantage of this?
Firstly, data drives progress, and simply having number crunchers and in-depth research means that companies know the direction of travel, and can adapt accordingly.
From the customer’s perspective, shopping at the edge means a quicker and easier experience when it comes to researching and buying products. And websites can look outwards and meet customers from further afield. Take ASICS as an example, the sportswear company that acquired the fitness-tracking app Runkeeper. This move widened their borders as a retailer and expanded it into the lifestyle zone. They pushed their brand onto a platform where runners register and track their progress, so app users can reach ASICS at their edge.
Consider also voice interfaces, which can be integrated almost anywhere via customer relationship management (CRM) software with a strong injection of Einstein artificial intelligence on Salesforce Commerce Cloud. They can be designed for customers to take care of troubleshooting issues, tracking items, finding products, etc. Or you can set up your company for voice assistants like Alexa to spread out to the world.
This is also a job that clever chatbots are born to do, which can seamlessly provide customer support immediately, 24 hours a day.
And while customers are spreading out, using new pathways to payment, it’s key for your company to keep a foot in all of these roads — and you’ll need a lot of feet, because shoppers use 7.6 different touchpoints to engage with brands. It’s not only the standard Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin pages you need to keep on top of, but also smaller ones, and platforms where younger people gather, such as Snapchat and Tiktok. Salesforce Commerce Cloud can be fully utilized by creating effective campaigns that are specific to each social media platform.
While shopping at the edge opens up more pathways for customers to discover and shop, this expanding and complex network becomes even more critical to maintain. Keeping on top of all your itinerary, inventory, content and prices, and ensuring they are all synced across all platforms will become a more challenging task moving forward.
Despite many customers moving further and further away from the traditional centers of commerce, they’re very much at the vanguard of change, splintering off into the future frontiers. But if this small unit is persistent while technological advancement in emerging touchpoints improves — like voice recognition software that truly comprehends even your uncle’s strong accent — then the groundwork will be secure for the main forces to arrive… i.e the majority of customers! So while it only currently occupies 9% of online purchases, the trend is set to spread far and wide. Watch this space. But not idoly. Take advantage of it!
PS: UV is one of the world’s leading Salesforce Commerce Cloud (Demandware) consultancies. Contact us to see how we can work together.