Content, Community, Commerce & the Customer Experience
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In our exploration of the ecommerce landscape–the digital retail sector on course to overtake sales growth of brick-and-mortar stores in the next five years, we have noticed a need to investigate sustainable models that deliver a valuable experience for contemporary digital users, specifically online shoppers. From an online commerce perspective, audiences are more prepared than ever to anticipate, assess, and selectively tune out advertising and marketing schemes that offer no value ulterior of the sale.
Customers deserve value when they navigate to an online shop, before they even consider spending a penny (or bitcoin). Think about the “time is money” metaphor–as in “spending” time and “saving” time. Online shopping should feel like time spent on a rewarding online leisure activity, such as watching youtube or browsing instagram.
A hypothesis drawn here is that an ecommerce website needs to be a socially immersive experience built around digital storytelling and narrative. While heralding the importance of content may be old news, the key difference here is integration.
The Three Cs
Integration means combining the valued facets of customer experience on a single platform; interweaving them so that they intersect and become indistinguishable features of a unified experience. These facets are content, community, and commerce–the building blocks of a working online retail approach.
Content: Blog posts, videos, images–the media that individuals choose to seek out in their everyday digital life.
Community: The social sphere–social media engagement, site communities, and a conversation between customers and a retailer.
Commerce: Capabilities to seamlessly purchase merchandise engaged with on the site.
Digital users expect an interactive ecommerce environment that rewards them for their time spent exploring.
The Three Cs might be integrated on a functional ecommerce site as follows:
A student pulls out her tablet between classes to read an article comparing headphones on an electronics retailer’s blog. Throughout the article are images corresponding to the products highlighted. She taps on the image of a set of headphones that appeal to her and is brought directly to the product page.
She taps an associated video and watches a stream of original designs made by other customers. A carousel of images of already customized headphones appears at the bottom of the video should she want to purchase a set that catches her eye. From here she notes a call to action to register through Facebook and create an account which allows her to customize her headphones.
As a signed on user, she spends a few minutes browsing, selecting features, and uploading a personal design-image to add to her own pair. When she is done she shares it on her Pinterest page and heads to class. Later that day she checks for feedback from her network and returns to the retailer website, purchasing the headphones and contributing her design back to the site community. Once she has received her headphones she becomes a brand advocate, passing a unique referral code to a friend she invites online, to receive 10% off on her next purchase.
Integration provides the seamless progression from inquisitive visitor, to interactive participant, to customer and advocate. In this scenario a site visitor will receive value simply from time spent engaging with the ecommerce site–garnering valued product reviews, being inspired by the user community, and creating a personalized product; in return she becomes a customer and a brand advocate that is keen to spread the word to her own network.
What Have We Learned
To recap the key features of our hypothesis:
Digital users anticipate a rewarding experience on an ecommerce site before considering a purchase.
An ecommerce website needs to be a socially immersive experience built around digital storytelling and narrative.
The integration of content, community, and commerce in online retail provides the seamless progression from inquisitive visitor, to interactive participant, to customer and advocate.
Over the next few months, The Jibe will be exploring concrete application of this intersection of The Three Cs. We will cover topics such as specific case studies of successful site implementations, the offerings of open source software and Drupal Commerce in this arena, and recommendations for merchandising and social media integration to increase conversion.