Candyspace MD Matt Simpson looks at how a content platform as part of a composable stack is transforming retail. This is an extract from a joint Candyspace/Contentful/BigCommerce white paper which you can download for free.
“Ultimately, customers don’t care about what channel they’re shopping in, or about how we deliver them a product or service. They simply know they’re shopping with Walmart,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon back in 2016, championing the concept of “seamless shopping.” Or as it’s better known, omnichannel: the integration of all offline and online channels to create a seamless, positive and unified experience for the customer.
Six years later and, as McKinsey reports: “Offering a compelling omnichannel experience used to be the bleeding edge of retail. Now it’s a requirement for survival.”
Customers are demanding omnichannel shopping. A survey by the CMO Council and Pitney Bowes found that 85 percent of consumers over the world agree that their ideal channel is actually a blend of channels, opting for a mix of both digital and physical experiences. And they also demand that those experiences are personalised, with McKinsey reporting that 71 percent of online customers expect personalisation when interacting with brands and 76 percent are frustrated when it isn’t delivered.
But retail brands are still struggling to deliver the omnichannel experiences their customers are demanding. For example, less than half (46 percent) of shoppers believe that store-based retailers offer consistent experiences across their digital channels, according to this survey by Bizrate Insights.
Meanwhile Forrester reports that “Most personalisation in retail today happens largely on websites and in email marketing. Limited metrics, the inability to track shoppers across multiple touchpoints, and incomplete marketing attribution hinder deeper content personalisation efforts.”
The modern retailers’ challenge
Solving these challenges is made exponentially harder with legacy technology — systems that take substantial time and money to evolve, so are often crippled by technical debt. Legacy systems weren’t built to manage content across websites, mobile, apps, etc. Ecommerce and content platforms got stacked on top of each other over time to support new channels, creating silos and systems all balanced precariously on top of one another.
This forces teams to manage content at the channel level on different CMSes, sucking up both time and resources. Even an army of editors cutting and pasting across platforms can’t keep up with demand indefinitely and teams then have to deal with the organisational gymnastics required to keep all that fragmented content synchronised.
These trends are driving retailers towards agile ecommerce solutions – adopting a stack of tools that work together seamlessly – that empower them to integrate huge amounts of content and data in creative ways and scale quickly. According to a recent report from Accenture, the top 17 percent of marketing leaders are “rewiring their organisations to enable better integration and collaboration and deliver superior customer experiences.”
“You need to ask yourself, are you investing your budget maintaining, ‘feeding and watering’ outdated legacy systems or are you spending your tech resources building out the next generation of cutting-edge user experience,” says Adam Davey, director of technology at Candyspace.
Better content management is critical
One component of this agile ecommerce stack is a content platform — a single hub that enables retailers to unify their content in one place and distribute it across all channels.
By using a content platform instead of a series of CMSes, retailers can deliver a unified brand experience across all channels. They can reuse content easily, so every piece of content a brand builds works harder. When tied to personalisation tools, it’s easier to deliver relevant content to individual customers across every touch point: web portals, mobile apps or in-store kiosks.
Put simply, an enterprise-grade content platform helps scale your omnichannel customer experience. It makes content flexible for any digital platform, ready to deploy for changing business needs, and extensible in almost any language or framework.
That’s powerful stuff, because in a world of content, context is king. When you unify content with data from your customer relationships, product information, enterprise resources and personalisation technology, the result is a powerful, personalised message to customers.
“The key is to not start with form and apply it to the funnel. Instead, start with a story (or content value) and apply multiple outputs to that content. Then test like the Dickens,” Robert Rose, founder and chief strategy officer at The Content Advisory, states.
Unifying technology also helps build bridges across teams. When both business and technical stakeholders have a seat at the table, rather than one team in service to the other, it’s far easier to align on the customer engagement strategy, plan and collaborate. Ecommerce initiatives move faster and can iterate and scale quickly.
Where to begin?
Like digital transformation, the move towards agile ecommerce can start in many places. A modern content solution is a good place to start or accelerate progress towards an agile ecommerce strategy. Content touches every channel, every part of the funnel and every phase of your buyer’s journey.
When choosing a content solution, headless CMS options such as Contentful are typically more flexible than traditional CMSes. They easily support new channels and toolsets with a “create once, publish anywhere” content model and open API framework. Built to integrate with almost anything, a content platform gives you the most flexibility in how you create, manage and deliver your content.
It empowers editors to target and control content, and gives them speed achieved by deployment capabilities. Developers move from making website edits to focusing on strategic integrations, fueling competitive advantage.
As content is created, it becomes available in real time, so developers can pull it into a build, ecommerce managers can use it to augment product descriptions, marketers can use it as nurture pieces. The final products can look vastly different and still use the same content. What’s more, if you need to update the content, you can update it in the content hub instead of tracking it down and editing every end point.
And retailers are seeing results. Ulta Beauty customers who engage on more than one channel spend 2.7 times more than store-only shoppers, and Kohl’s attributed their double-digit growth to omnichannel investments.
Similarly Nordstrom-owned Trunk Club moved from trying to juggle multiple CMSes to a Contentful single content repository, putting the focus back on creating killer content and reducing technical debt by 50 percent.
“Omnichannel is an imperative in a post-Covid world where all the eyeballs went online,” says Sharon Gee, VP of Revenue Growth & Omnichannel at BigCommerce. “If you don’t have an omnichannel strategy, you’re busted. You’ll be disrupted by a competitor that does.”