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Retail is an important ever-changing industry. Together with Salesforce, Cognizant is attending NXT, where we will see how technology enables you to achieve outstanding customer experience and how it can help you to realise desirable and profitable sustainability initiatives.

Retailers tangle with a new set of complexities to become future-fit. It will take a renewed push for data-driven insights, cross-sector partnerships and managing the talent shortage to carve out a path for the future.

In many ways, retail remains at the frontline of digital transformation, sitting closest to changing consumer demands and with the lowest barriers to entry for disruptors.

But nobody could have prepared retail executives for the virus-induced global lockdowns that confined shoppers to their homes and reduced physical trade to practically zero. These sudden new dynamics forced retailers to rethink how they could operate in digital-only, low-contact environments, and underscored the need for agility and resiliency. Cognizant has taken a closer look at this together with Economist Impact.

New e-commerce channels are constantly emerging and offer new opportunities for how to reach your customers. Businesses have been aware of this for a long time. However, it’s not always easy to navigate through the different existing channels of online shopping. Join us as we’re taking a closer look at what’s going on within e-commerce today.

For a long time, there has been steady growth within the e-commerce business. Today, more and more people are shopping online, and during the pandemics even more customers found their way to the web shops. The pandemic forced many businesses to move online in order to survive, which has accelerated the development of new channels, where businesses can interact with their customers.

New media channels offer new ways of communicating with consumers, and this is also highlighted in Salesforce’s State of Commerce report. In the report, the shopping behaviour of 1 billion customers was analysed, and more than 4,100 retail executives were asked about current and future trends.

88% have invested or are planning to invest in cloud solutions - Read the report from Cognizant/ Economist Impact

Leaders are investing in new channels and digital commerce

As commerce is digitalised and consumers are becoming increasingly technology savvy, the demands on the shopping experience are increasing. For the past few years, businesses have been forced into rapid transformation to meet the demands of digital customer experiences. The Salesforce report shows that 69% of the digital leaders have invested in new digital channels during the past two years. Before we take a closer look at which channels that are emerging and currently trending, we will briefly define what we mean by a digital leader and what that means.

The leaders in the State of Commerce report are put into three different respondent groups based on what type of organisation they represent.

  • Digital leaders: Consider their businesses to be at the forefront when it comes to digital commerce, and also that the overall success of their businesses is linked to digital commerce. 
  • Digital laggards: Consider their businesses not to be successful within digital commerce, and therefore this cannot be linked to the overall success of their businesses.
  • The digital mid-segment: Encompasses all other respondents, who didn’t fit into any of the other groups.

Therefore, most of the digital leaders have invested in new media channels during the past two years, which give them competitive advantages. As commerce goes digital, the shopping journeys become more complex. A previous report from Salesforce shows that consumers within B2C are involved in on average 9 different touchpoints when interacting with a business. This is a trend digital leaders can benefit from by making sure they are present at each step of the customer journey.

More importantly, half of all the organisations, even those less digitalised, are planning to invest in new digital channels over the next few years to be able to benefit from this growing market.

New digital channels like TikTok create problems

As many new channels for digital commerce emerge, it also becomes more difficult for businesses to grasp and take advantage of all the sales opportunities. Several channels are actually running the risk of coming into conflict with each other, and this causes problems for the businesses.

New digital channels, such as TikTok, require you to develop your own strategies for each individual channel. To many digital leaders, the challenge of managing all the new digital channels can be overwhelming. According to Salesforce, this challenge is even greater for digital laggards whose responses indicate they are three times less prepared to handle the new channels.

There isn’t just one right strategy for how to deal with the new channels. The reason is that it varies from business to business depending on which channels make the most sense to invest in. Social media offers countless channels, where you can reach different target groups. Overall, however, it is essential that the company's brand identity remains the same, and that the same tone of voice is used across the channels.

The growth of B2B e-commerce

The B2C market is not the only one riding the wave of online shopping. B2B businesses are also expanding their e-commerce and largely use digital channels to sell their products. According to the Salesforce survey, 40% of B2B businesses indicate that digital commerce generates more than half their turnover. If we look two years ahead, 52% of the businesses estimate that online shopping will account for the majority of their turnover. This encourages B2B businesses to increasingly use digital channels to sell products and services in the future.

All in all, if you want to offer excellent customer experience, it seems to be a good idea to invest in digital channels within B2B as well. 46% of the respondents in the survey highlight increased customer satisfaction as one of the advantages of using digital channels, and 40% believe that this also contributes to better customer understanding.

Knowing your customers is crucial to achieve success in online shopping. Through knowledge of your customers, you can plan your marketing efforts to target the right segments every time. This can be done, among other ways, through B2B marketing via social media channels, or through investment in the right tools and technology. An example could be using tools, such as Pardot, where marketing automation is used to optimise and streamline processes – putting the customer at the centre.

For retail, the future is far from certain. And in a tough market, there is little room for failure, and even less for those who hesitate. Recent Economist Impact research supported by Cognizant suggests a tough road ahead for retailers, albeit a road peppered with opportunity, beginning with their technological investments.

Without a doubt, there are a lot of exciting and challenging things going on within the e-commerce industry nowadays. If you would like to find out more about current trends on the market, click on: Salesforce’s State of Commerce report and Cognizant’s report Ready for Anything: What it Means to be a Future-ready Business

Cognizant Nordics

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