Think You’ve Nailed Omnichannel Commerce? Think Again
If you thought implementing omnichannel commerce was tough enough, just wait until later this year. At its recent “Google I/O” conference for developers, Google announced two significant products that will impact your omnichannel commerce strategy: digital payments and search commerce. On the digital payments front, Google has pulled the wraps off its Apple Pay killer, Android Pay. Like Apple Pay, Android Pay allows mobile users to simply tap their phone against a near field communication-enabled (NFC) terminal in a physical store (there are more than 700,000 physical stores in the U.S. with NFC at point-of-sale machines), and voila, payment is made quickly and seamlessly from mobile device to store terminal to bank system, and back again. Google hopes its monster-sized installed base for Android Pay of 1.6 billion devices will help make the payment solution a serious contender for the digital wallet, if not the de facto choice of the lucrative millennial shopper. CMOs and CIOs looking to develop a winning omnichannel strategy must carefully consider digital wallets such as Android Pay as another piece of the omnichannel puzzle. If Android Pay and Apple Pay manage to reshape consumer expectations of how super easy in-store checkout can be, then it raises the bar for retailers everywhere, and places new demands on executives to update their omnichannel strategies. Google also announced it will start commerce-enabling its ubiquitous search results. Now, when a consumer searches for “Breville juicer” or “Garmin running,” they’ll see a little “Buy” button next to the corresponding text ad. Google plans to host the commerce checkout page, making it easier for consumers to quickly search for and purchase products on their smartphones. Being able to adapt to changing technologies like Android Pay and the search Buy button — and the new expectations they set in the minds of shoppers — is instrumental to a sound omnichannel commerce strategy. It’s this ability to adapt that will separate the omnichannel leaders from the laggards. A flexible commerce and marketing platform, preferably driven by API technology, allows retailers to take advantage of new developments and a shifting marketplace. For example, a commerce integration platform designed to handle the emergence of new touchpoints could “plug into” the new Android Pay functionality, allowing a retailer to take full advantage without having to rebuild an entire mobile commerce site or app. Sadly, most CMOs and CIOs are relying on outdated commerce platforms that were designed for the era of static catalogs, and are therefore unable to meet what will eventually be new consumer expectations. The proliferation of mobile devices, digital payments and social media has transformed shopping experiences. A retailer is at a disadvantage if it doesn’t offer a seamless experience across digital and physical realms. Unfortunately, as consumer expectations for omnichannel experiences increase, retailers are struggling to deliver. An omnichannel strategy should revolve around the notion of an “experience.” Being experience-driven means that an organization is brave enough to rethink how online and offline channels are integrated. Today’s digitally empowered consumers are shopping everywhere. To most retailers, these opportunities represent separate channels (e.g., web, mobile, tablet, in-store, wearables) that are often managed by different departments in their companies. Customers don’t see “channels,”; they only see your brand. This makes having an experience-driven commerce strategy with a focus on omnichannel retailing more important than ever. An omnichannel strategy or omnichannel experience delivers interconnectivity between every touchpoint from the consumer’s perspective. What distinguishes the omnichannel customer experience from the multichannel customer experience is the true integration between channels on the back end. This integration doesn’t come easy, and what’s missing for most retailers is an e-commerce platform to make it happen. Matt Dion is vice president of marketing for Elastic Path, an e-commerce platform provider.