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Feb 1, 2018 | 5 minute read

Building a Digital Experience Platform for Modern Commerce: 5 Must-Have Pillars

written by Harry Chemko

The forces of modern commerce have changed all the rules. Lessons learned back in the days of single-screen ecommerce did not adequately prepare us for selling in the age of mobile, augmented reality, conversational commerce, or “thing” commerce. These channels are creating opportunities to monetize products and services along the path to becoming a modern commerce business.

Let’s look at this from the customer’s perspective.

A customer’s interaction with brands takes on many shapes. The brand should recognize the customer, their purchase history, and interests regardless of the channel. In experience-driven commerce, the conversation between a company and a customer is fluid, moving from one touchpoint to another seamlessly. This is what defines modern commerce: a consistent brand experience that recognizes and addresses individuals on a personal basis with 1:1 pricing, product, and promotions.

Here are the five must-have pillars a digital experience platform should include to make modern commerce possible.

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1. Content management

Content management systems allow companies to manage content across touchpoints in a unified application. One system fuels customer experiences for web, mobile and tablet applications. The most modern content management systems can even fuel Internet of Things, marquis, and social media-based customer experiences.

When you shop online, you are likely receiving information from a content management system. It organizes and stores all the content that touchpoints “show” you. Because a single content management system fuels all the different media you use to interact with a company, your experience is consistent.

Without a content management system, each touchpoint requires its own system which interacts with legacy frontend and backend systems. Bringing a new digital touchpoint online is costly and takes a long time because the integrations required are complicated.

From a business perspective, without modern content management, speed to market with each new touchpoint and the ability to test new marketing strategies are severely limited.

2. Headless commerce

With the underlying content management system fuelling many different touchpoints, the question becomes: “How can a company build transactional capabilities into all these customer-facing experiences?”

That’s the role of the commerce system. Traditionally, commerce systems were tightly coupled to a particular experience. There was one system for mobile, another for web and yet another for in-store purchases. Today, “headless” commerce systems decouple commerce capabilities from the presentation layer.

Instead of creating a full stack system to sell products and services for the mobile experience, and another siloed system to sell via the website, a single headless commerce system can connect seamlessly to any content management system, custom frontend applications, and any other touchpoint or technology in the presentation layer. Separating the presentation layer from commerce logic gives marketers agility and freedom to create new transactional capabilities through any touchpoint. And customers are delighted with consistent and in-context experiences.

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3. Analytics

To present prospects and customers with the right information at the right time (and price) along their buying journey, companies are mining their databases along with other sources.

Analyzing data presents a more accurate way to segment customers for targeted content including product and services recommendations, promotions and other marketing efforts.

For digital experience platforms, analytics solutions can look at aggregate purchase behavior to identify patterns and anomalies that marketing may want to exploit.

The analysis might, for example, determine that customers who purchased ski boots also purchased tennis rackets. Marketing can then create offers based on the segment “people who bought ski boots” instead of the less precise “people interested in sports gear.”

The bigger the data sets, the higher the probability that recommendations will be appreciated by a greater percentage of customers in that segment.

Another example of how a company might use data is to identify people who are sales “influencers.” By looking at sales transaction data, a company might find that a certain individual makes many purchases and that she belongs to many different segments. This buyer may have a significant influence on others. Then marketers can tailor campaigns to augment the natural influence that buyer has within her network of friends to encourage those to buy alongside her.

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4. Personalization engine

Personalization engines use machine learning to go a step beyond segment-based recommendations offers and pricing. Personalization engines combine individual behavior with macro information to hone recommendations and offers at the individual level in real-time.

Behavior tracking across all customer touchpoints allows personalization engines to suggest products and services based on past and current customer interests. The personalization engine will combine known customer information with intent information based on analysis of current and past conversations and behavioral tracking— incorporating clicks, mouse movement, scrolling, inactivity and time spent per page to indicate preferences and interest levels.

The personalization engine employs a cascade of basic and more sophisticated algorithms to generate custom recommendations and configure a chain of “next best offers” to seal a sale. Each offer and each recommendation “learns” from the last. The more an individual “shops” with a brand, the better personalization becomes, creating a self-fulfilling circle of value for both the company and the customer.

5. Campaign management

To run campaigns that capture customers at the right moment in the right context, marketing needs a way to identify, create and present offers and campaigns to customers as close to a one to one basis as possible. The campaign manager maps customer journeys by segment—all the way to segments of one, if it can access the right data for personalization.

The campaign manager must also be capable of cross-channel delivery to enable conversational and contextual commerce. Campaign testing and measurement are fundamental and if combined with machine learning can be very powerful in creating personalized offers sent through a customer’s medium of choice.

The perfect foundation

When a brand builds a digital experience platform blending these technologies to create the perfect foundation, customers can’t resist. What these five pillars have in common is their contribution to business agility in a fast-moving digital world. They comprise a digital experience platform that supports modern commerce—personalizing price, product, and place in a way never possible before.

Along the way to becoming a modern commerce business, there are many routes. Not all of them lead to success. If your company is looking to adapt to modern commerce, start by reading this eBook The Future of Commerce.