What the Content+Commerce Equation is Missing: the Customer and Their Context

The following is a guest article from Brenna Johnson, Principal Product Manager, Oracle Commerce:

There’s been a lot of talk about content and commerce and the role of each in the customer experience. But we think there’s a lot to the story that isn’t being addressed. So, we’ve joined the conversation – and brought a unique perspective. This perspective is what drove our major product release last week, and a new whitepaper on content and commerce environments.

It’s no secret that content and commerce have collided. Enabling brand exploration and selling product should now be thought of as the same process. But the unification of content and commerce goes beyond having a single website URL or videos on the product detail page. Shoppers want to see rich content in context of their product searches – and in turn, they want to be inspired to explore brands in new ways. Bottom line: how consumers engage is not predictable. Researching, buying, advocating or seeking help is no longer tied to specific steps in the funnel, or to touchpoints. It’s all just interactions, filtered by their need at that moment.

But delivering this type of experience is hard. Inside of organizations, legacy ways of thinking about Marketers telling authentic brand stories (inspiring) and Merchants as being the eyes of the business (selling) has forced everyone to ask: who and what should drive our collective experience?

It’s not just org charts that create confusion over what path to take at this crossroads, it’s the technology each team has separately invested in over the last decade. Marketers have historically used WCM/WEM (Web Content or Web Experience Management) systems to inspire, and Merchants typically leverage the eCommerce platform to sell. Over the years, each technology camp has evolved to include capabilities that now overlap in certain areas, creating more confusion over which technology to use where, especially when it comes to powering the “glass” of the customer experience. Some firms lead with WCM/WEM, others with commerce, others with a hybrid side-by-side approach.

But the question people aren’t asking is the most important one. It shouldn’t be about what group or what technology should drive the experience, the focus should be: how can we leverage the customer and their context to deliver relevant experiences. We believe this is what the CX movement is all about, and its what drives our product, and our customers’ results.

A predetermined page shouldn’t define what’s delivered, the consumer’s context should. This is the core of the Oracle Commerce product, and the basis of our stance that content and commerce is only part of the equation.

When the goal is to generate revenue online, Oracle Commerce should take the lead in delivering experiences that inspire and sell. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Content and commerce are only a part of the equation

Content is an important part of the customer journey, but so is data and material coming from dozens of other systems. More important than content or commerce is the notion of the two other Cs: the customer and their context. If these are not known, content (alongside many other things) cannot be relevant.

To deliver inspired selling experiences to meet an infinite number of unpredictable customer needs, the digital experience needs to have everything available, ready to dynamically filter and adapt in an instant. Content like copy, PDFs, video, and rich imagery that WCM/WEM systems handle well needs to be readily available, but so does data and content coming the product catalog(s), CRM system, customer profile, user reviews, search and navigation, ERP system, social content, personalization engine, local inventory availability, in-store data, PIM system, merchandising, order management, recommendations, pricing, service, the shopping cart, analytics and more.

Not only should your digital experience technology be able to leverage the unpredictable cocktail of data and content the consumer requires in in real-time, it also needs to dynamically present this unique experience in context of the moment and across time. WCM/WEM systems are designed to allow Marketers to deliver engaging, personal brand experiences; not to integrate with dozens of systems and scale large volumes of data to drive online sales. Oracle Commerce is already the “glue” that aggregates data and content coming from any system and presents it in a relevant experience.

Again, the page shouldn’t define what’s delivered, the customer’s context should. Their context at that moment (even if they’re anonymous), across time, online and offline, in light of their social tendencies, explicit and implicit behaviors – is all leveraged together to deliver the most relevant, engaging experience at any point in their journey.

The only thing we do know about the future is that the amount of data and content that will need to be leveraged will only grow. Oracle Commerce was purpose-built to solve these problems.

2. The ability to scale is key to success

The scale required to deliver relevant content versus the scale and power required to deliver contextually relevant selling experiences (where content is a component) differs by orders of magnitude.

When Marketing’s role was to build a unique brand destination, curating pages to showcase aspirational brand stories, scale was not as big of an issue. In the new era of inspired selling, creating static pages for every potential customer path simply cannot be done.

Beyond scaling the online desktop experience, there’s scaling in to new digital touchpoints, new sites, new business models, and new geographies. How could this be done in a WCM/WEM system without starting over from scratch, or expensive and timely integrations with the commerce system? Investing in a commerce solution with an open, multisite framework cuts down substantially on having to start over as your company grows and evolves. Oracle Commerce enables customers to launch new brands and extend in to new geographies in a handful of weeks, leveraging the existing infrastructure and assets.

Enabling total dynamic delivery of everything needed in the customer experience, and sharing data from across the enterprise (online and offline) is critical in this time of unpredictable shoppers and demands. This is why a unified experience delivery tool like Oracle Commerce Experience Manager should take the lead in experience delivery for inspired selling experiences

3. Marketers and Merchants must work hand-in-hand

Keeping totally separate technologies for elements of customer experience delivery is redundant, expensive, and results in broken customer experiences. Today, depending on the organization and their online goals, a huge percentage of online selling is likely already done via the eCommerce platform tools.

If you’re using separate WCM/WEM and eCommerce systems, you may be able to manage today’s demands in the short term, but what about scaling for the unpredictable needs of the future? WCM/WEM systems simply were not designed integrate with dozens of systems to drive online sales.

We’ve done the hard stuff first. Adding content creation and management capabilities in to the commerce infrastructure is a far more viable approach than the other way around. Having content and commerce capabilities in a single platform that easily integrates to any system to leverage content or data is the way to go.

Let’s use an example. It’s time to create a holiday campaign. A Merchandiser and Content Marketer work together, leveraging a single toolset to ensure inspired selling experiences are delivered. Together, they update the catalog and any pricing or promotions, create a landing page, add elements like video, community content, and imagery, update the page attribution, and personalization of the entire experience (including search, content targeting, promotions, product assortment, merchandising and more). All of these activities are done as one update: one approval workflow and one publishing process, viewed in the authoring environment as well as a single preview environment. With Oracle Commerce 11.1, we are closer than ever to delivering this to our customers today.

We don’t believe that if you do one or the other activities, it means that you should have either WCM/WEM or eCommerce deliver the customer experience. If Marketers or Merchants currently own your site experience, if you have any requirement for personalization, do any revenue online, have a need for any type of discovery (product or brand) and want to deliver across any touchpoint, Oracle Commerce is uniquely suited to solve these challenges.

Be sure to check out the new content-commerce whitepaper for more details on the benefit of a commerce-lead customer experience – and please, share your perspective on this topic. 

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.

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« November 2015