Remember when e-commerce was all we talked about?
Ten years ago, it seemed as if every company in the world was trying to figure out its "e-commerce strategy”. Analysts were touting the newest 3D catalogs, where shoppers could twirl images around to check out sizes and colors from all angles.
And it seemed like every day there was a new startup offering e-commerce related solutions. Then, the talk turned to social and content, and the search for e-commerce optimization declined.
Going Down, Down, Down
In fact, according to Google Trends, interest in e-commerce is roughly 60 percent of what it was seven years ago.
But does that mean the e-commerce problem was solved? No. In fact, e-commerce is being as disruptive as every other space.
Does it mean that e-commerce is losing steam? No. In fact, in the digital content and commerce industry, one of the things that tends to get lost in all the talk of managing experiences — and the need for brands to evolve into more sophisticated ways of presenting them — is just how rapidly e-commerce continues to grow.
As Forrester just recently predicted, there will be $249 billion of e-commerce sales in 2014, almost doubling to $414 billion by 2018.
And certainly that growth is partially due to successful companies evolving related trends including mobile and social.
Revving the Revenue Engine
More e-commerce brands are creating powerful buying experiences online. Consumers who were once cautious about purchasing something online now find every reason to shop from myriad devices. The competition for those buyers' attention is rising just as quickly.
Whether it’s an online magazine on a tablet platform, a social e-commerce experience or even a more traditional content-driven web site, today’s e-commerce providers must be faster, more flexible and more relevant than ever before.
In fact, a recent comprehensive study of e-commerce driven businesses done by MarketingSherpa found customer acquisitions costs are rising more broadly. Businesses that had decreasing customer acquisition costs were more likely to rely on organic search or content marketing than those with steady or increasing costs.
To put it simply, creating a multichannel and relevant e-commerce strategy is now truly about creating a multichannel and relevant content and marketing strategy.
Every business these days is faced with the challenge of multichannel engagement. Whether it’s a web site, mobile smartphone, tablet, social or even kiosk interfaces, today every business is in the digital content business. Content and the ability to manage it strategically is a critical component in creating impactful customer experience.
Content In The Driver’s Seat
E-commerce solutions, historically, support the consumer’s transaction. They facilitate the mechanics of the buying experience. They handle catalog display, logistics, discounts, shipping, pricing management, payment, taxes and more.
Conversely, the web content management systems (WCMS) have evolved into creating and facilitating the customer’s buying journey to get them TO that transaction. The WCMS facilitates digital experiences, social conversations, content targeting, multi-lingual capabilities, multichannel content optimization (mobile, social and so forth) and the personalized delivery of relevant experiences.
Look simply to examples such as Lands’ End – and its Apostrophe magazine. The company includes fashion style guides, and how-to information as well as “stuff to do” that integrate e-commerce functionality seamlessly into engaging, experiential content.
Or, look to a company such as Daltile. It's extensive tile and flooring products are also available in how-to guides that are enabled through mobile apps and web sites.
Where Do You Want to Go?
For every business now, creating content-driven experiences is an imperative. As Tim Walters, an analyst at Digital Clarity Group states:
In the era of the empowered consumer, business success depends upon offering consistently outstanding customer experiences across multiple touchpoints and over the entire customer lifecycle.”
But for e-commerce businesses specifically, this means that the marriage between e-commerce system and WCMS is a critical component of creating these experiences.
Managing the company brand image by being able to offer products in context to the buyer’s needs and wants (such as a blog, mobile, tablet or every future interface to come) will be a critical capability to differentiate.
Offering beyond-the-catalog-content that creates customer engagement and creates a reason for users to continually return to the brand will be key for loyalty programs. And as social media and conversation enters into every business’ strategy -- a flexible system that enables that one-on-one consumer interaction will be critical to humanizing the company.
So, if e-commerce is truly going to power the business going forward, then content and the business’ ability to create, manage and optimize it will be the driver.