Callum Campbell, CEO, Linnworks
Commerce is increasingly happening in multiple online environments, wherever consumers are spending their time. Effortless commerce was already emerging as the next phase of online retail, but this has accelerated over the past 12 months, as online shopping broke record after record – particularly in categories considered essential, such as online grocery sales, which grew by more than 79 per cent in 2020 according to ONS. Consumer expectations to shop whenever and wherever they wanted to, combined with time-pushed buyers looking for frictionless shopping journeys, mean consumer choice has increasingly followed the path of least resistance.
Effortless consumption – the growing expectation for convenient shopping experiences – was also a key finding in Linnworks’ recent survey of 1,000 shoppers. The overriding takeaway from the research is that consumers want seamless, connected shopping experiences, and convenience is the main priority for most shoppers when choosing a retailer.
So what does this mean for retailers looking to grow, or merely be competitive? It means that brands need to be everywhere their customers want to shop. At Linnworks, we call this Total Commerce – the ability to be present in the many environments where your customers are. Delivering an omnichannel experience through your selling channels and creating a frictionless experience so your customers can create a shopping journey based on their needs is the first step. For example, buying online and collecting in store, or offering a range of payment or shipping options at checkout so your customers can choose key elements of their transaction journey that are most convenient for that purchase.
But Total Commerce means staying fully connected to your customers, taking your selling strategy one step further to a complete multichannel retailing strategy where your brand is present in multiple commercial environments. This can include marketplaces, social commerce, and any other emerging selling platforms. Rather than expecting your customers to seek you out, you need to be present in the channels where they operate day to day. Facebook has coined the phrase “discovery commerce”, which is about connecting the right product to the right person to win the sale – a reverse of the e-commerce trend for businesses to expect customers to actively search for them.
Delivering Total Commerce presents two key challenges for retailers.
Firstly, staying connected to your customers by accessing multiple commerce environments requires both specialised capability and knowledge. You need to understand what your customers want in each of these channels and how to serve their needs. For example, a customer looking for your product on a marketplace may just want to find your product quickly for a frictionless repeat purchase, delivered as fast as possible, but may come to your website for a more involved brand experience or to be rewarded for their loyalty or for more complex delivery options. To understand and build the right customer experience and product mix for each selling channel requires a detailed level of understanding and constant analysis and optimisation of each channel.
Secondly, continuously adapting and controlling commerce in all these environments simultaneously is complex, costly and technically challenging. Being able to maintain and manage all your selling channels with their individual logistical requirements is essential to maintaining overall control over your commerce operations. Running inventory management, order management and shipping operations efficiently is key to not only having the right product in the right place at the right time, but also to maintaining your customer experience and capturing every selling opportunity.
The key to successfully implementing Total Commerce is integrating your commerce technologies and multiple selling channels into a single selling and operations platform such as Linnworks. Having full visibility and control by connecting your major carriers and fulfillment services, alongside your own technology stack, will allow you to sync your operations across all selling channels. Automation of tasks across the logistics process, and complete visibility over business information, are essential for demand planning and stock management to ensure maximum profitability.
The effortless economy and evolution of selling platforms offers a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to scale up and grow. To achieve this, brands must commit to a Total Commerce approach both in their selling strategy and right across their operations to ensure they win the sale every time.