Think about life back in 2006. That was the first directive Jason Goldberg, SVP of Commerce at SapientRazorfish, gave the audience at the beginning of his Modern Customer Experience general session around the next era of commerce. As we all time traveled eleven years back, we were walked through realizations like: Ecommerce, now a daily habit, used to be a once a year event: Cyber Monday. And, although once told, “Don’t get into a stranger’s car,” we now use mobile Apps to put us into strangers' cars – the epitome of digital transformation.
The Uberized world we live in emphasizes that the pace of change in the next five years will be faster than the last fifty. Constant changes in technology have created a new buyer journey and new ways for customers to engage with brands – and, commerce businesses need to realize what it now means to interact with them. Goldberg believes there are four principles fundamental to succeed in the next generation of commerce: Trust, Social Proof, Absolute Value, and Transparency.
Today, trust can be an expensive thing to create, but it’s necessary to win and retain customers. Goldberg gave a great example of how much trust impacts the buying experience: Walmart has the option on its ecommerce site for customers to “Buy Now, Pay in Cash Later” in case customers prefer not to use (or don’t own) a credit card. But, what ends up happening? Close to 50% of those who select the option will go to the store and pay with a credit card! They don’t trust giving their credit card details to Walmart online. The streak of hacks and breaches keeps rising, and these hacks erode brand trust. The more trusting the ecommerce environment, the more customers will be keen to buy online.
In general, people want to be reassured that other people have made the same decisions before them, and that those decisions worked. Think about how many Yelp ratings and reviews the majority of us look at when choosing dinner, or go to TripAdvisor before booking a hotel, or use the reviews-mecca Amazon when buying, well, anything. In the business of ecommerce, reviews are a highly compelling attribute, but Goldberg highlights some other forms of social proof that weigh heavily on buying decisions.
Online social proof like user-generated content and “busy shops” as seen on Jackthread’s site are most commonly thought of, but physical store locations are adopting clever ways to use social proof too. For instance, companies are showing Pinterest feeds on digital in-store signage, creating displays of highly-rated products from online reviews, and adding QR codes on products that take customers directly to ratings and reviews – all ways any commerce business can begin incorporating social proof into the next-gen buying experience.
Goldberg’s session reiterated historically a customer’s affinity to a brand was a shortcut to its value. In the past, people purchased items based on what they knew about a brand from previous experience – the amount of choice was limited and straying from brands was uncommon. Now, with a small tool called Google, that way of shopping has changed. With access to tons of information at our fingertips, we have immediate help with buying decisions. We’re able to discover new brands and better offerings. Brand affinity has been replaced with objective data and actual value. The absolute value a company can provide is fundamental in today’s buying choices.
As mentioned above, search engine kings like Google have opened up a whole new world of shopping behavior. Customers are not so easy to trick anymore – brands can no longer influence customers by telling them what they want to hear. Digital disruption has created “Always On” customers who have access to any information they’re looking for with the ability to avoid direct interaction with a brand. So, how do brands win? By being completely transparent with customers. Goldberg brought up Meh.com as an example of a site that leads with transparency – an imperative trait all brands need to aim to emulate.
Goldberg’s session reinforced that, if they haven’t already, it’s time for companies to realize that customers now interact with a palette of touchpoints and high expectations. The need to deliver complete, connected, and engaging buying experiences will only continue to grow, with a foundation based on Goldberg’s four principles of commerce.
For more techniques, best practices, and insights from leaders in the commerce industry on designing commerce experiences for the future, download The Executive's Handbook to Modern Digital Commerce.