Offline-To-Online Commerce: 5 Questions For Reevaluating Your Strategy


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Shopping online and instore has been reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Omnichannel shopping — shopping both in-store and online — increased by 50 percent in 2020, according to Nielsen. People who buy online “heavily or exclusively” jumped up 133 percent during the pandemic while in-store pickup demands grew by 26 percent.

As vaccinations roll out and lockdowns ease, omnichannel shopping is likely to increase, leading to even greater complexity for retailers. Customers now expect nothing less than a frictionless experience between the physical store and digital experience.

They’ve grown accustomed to online-first retailers that offer a wide product selection, free, fast delivery, and simple returns. As stores reopen, brands should anticipate that consumers will want to keep the best parts of online shopping and layer in the convenience of in-store shopping without any hassles. Brands that cannot meet these expectations today lose out on around 10 percent to 30 percent of sales.

Many brands responded to demands for online buying during the pandemic with quickly modified or built commerce platforms. Now they are looking to reshape their strategy and technologies to create a more seamless ecosystem for the long-term. 

These are five questions leaders should be asking when reevaluating their offline-to-online commerce strategy: 

1) What is working — and not working — with our current commerce platform? 

After navigating the rapid push to online shopping and building out a workable commerce platform, enterprise leaders should step back and take stock of what is working with their current system and what is missing. 

A critical part of this is mapping out the cost of staying with your current strategy and comparing that to the cost of missed opportunities and making changes. Questions to consider include:

  • How much revenue is being driven by online shopping? How much is buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) vs direct delivery? What is the impact of returns and exchanges? 
  • What is the run rate of online sales on the current platform? 
  • Is your online cart abandonment rate higher than a broad ecommerce average of 69%? 
  • Is there a large gap between your mobile vs desktop conversion rates? 
  • Are you missing opportunities to convert in store customers to online shoppers? 
  • Is the checkout process too long, cumbersome or not integrated between channels? 

Answering these questions will help to articulate the business case for making changes to your commerce strategy and platform. It will also start to reveal opportunities to focus for the next iteration of your strategy. 

2) How do we build the right team? 

To build the right team for your offline-to-online commerce strategy, it might require revisiting your current operational structure. Often enterprise companies will keep the online store functioning separately from in-store (or offline) operations. 

With different teams responsible for the retail and online channels, companies end up with different goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), business processes and systems. Naturally, this leads to a siloing of teams, tools, data, decision-making and more. The first step in creating a frictionless online-to-offline experience for your customers is to determine how to integrate the retail and online teams and systems within your organization. 

For your internal team, be sure to have a technology leader at the strategic decision-making level. This helps to bridge the gap between your desired business goals and how to execute those from a technical perspective. 

When it comes to your development team, one benefit of embracing a headless or composable commerce approach is that you can build smaller teams dedicated to specific features or challenges you’re solving for instead of one large team that’s trying to customize a rigid, monolithic platform. 

Lastly, building the right team includes your external partners. Reimagining your ecommerce strategy will likely involve an agency partner and a mix of best-in-breed companies to help bring your vision to life. As Yvan Boisjoli, CEO, Bold Commerce said in a recent webinar: “The idea that you can build a one-size-fits-all platform that will solve every situation for every brand… there’s no way you can do that.” 

So it is important to surround your company and project with partners that have your interests in mind, are committed to trying to solve the big challenges and want you to get the best outcome from your platform. 

If you’re going the headless route, visit the MACH Alliance website for a list of certified members. 

Explore headless

3) What is our minimum viable product? 

Brands looking to stay competitive with their commerce strategy know they can’t wait months to launch a reimagined commerce platform experience. Customers are demanding certain features now. So how can they speed up the process? 

To quickly meet the needs of customers, one of our enterprise clients took a page from The Lean Startup by Eric Reis and determined their minimum viable product (MVP) for a new commerce experience. An MVP is a version of a new product that allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. 

For commerce leaders this means identifying what features your shopping experience must have to launch and then planning the rollout of others while you learn more about your online customers. For example, BOPIS might be a must-have for one brand while next-day delivery is non-negotiable for another. 

This can lead to difficult decisions about what to prioritize. But by combining this MVP thinking with a headless platform approach, you can increase your speed-to-market and identify which vendors to engage with and when to build out your customized shopping experience over time. 

Lastly, MVP thinking introduces the idea of constant optimization of your commerce strategy and platform. At a recent event with our partners about the benefits of headless commerce platforms, Katherine Jones, VP, Platform Strategy at Myplanet said: “The plan is to consistently iterate, enhance and expand the way you use digital in the delivery of commerce everywhere. Commerce platforms of the future are going to be dynamic.” 

4) What key customer journeys do we need to digitize?  

Understanding your MVP will reveal what key customer journeys you need to digitize and integrate with your in-store shopping experience. 

Consider this: 50% of consumers have decided where to shop online based on whether or not they could pick up in store and 49% made unintended purchases while picking up their items. You could be losing customers — and more revenue — because you don’t offer BOPIS. 

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Whether it’s BOPIS, mobile-self checkout, or unified pricing and promotions across channels, the checkout experience is core to a customer’s shopping journey. 

An API-based checkout experience allows enterprise brands to solve simple challenges like having the same pricing, promotions and payment methods for different channels. It also allows brands to create different but unified checkout experiences based on the channel. For example, a brand looking to offer associate-assisted shopping or a mobile self-checkout can optimize each experience to boost conversion rates while maintaining a single view of all customer data.  

A unified checkout experience can also solve for more complex challenges brands face today, such as BOPIS or inventory checks to support curbside pickup or same-day delivery. An API checkout interacts with the backend of the commerce platform to check inventory location, calculate shipping fees and direct customers to the right locations. 

A customer’s journey will always include a checkout, so it is critical that the checkout experience is easy, fast and frictionless across all channels while delivering on demanding customer expectations. Ensuring the omnichannel shopping experience is seamless can unlock revenue for brands. As recent data from Target suggests, omnichannel consumers can spend up to 10 times more than digital-only consumers, according to IMD

5) What parts of our commerce experience can we reimagine? 

As enterprise leaders revisit their commerce strategy, it is worth reimagining existing elements of the shopping experience with an eye to the future. 

Consider the following: 

A unified checkout experience in a headless commerce platform not only allows enterprise companies to address pressing customer demands quickly, it ensures they can add future innovations without having to re-platform to accommodate. 

Kelly Goetsch, Chief Product Officer, commercetools recently outlined the benefits of a headless approach for driving innovation at a Bold event: “Enterprise companies can build around and on top of a headless platform like commercetools. They can deliver a really differentiated customer experience by building one or more custom heads to the platform. That’s what we love to see. An enterprise client who wants to do something truly different.”

Elevate your checkout

This originally appeared on Bold Commerce and is made available here to educate and cast a wider net of discovery.
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