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Integration vs. Separation: Understanding the New Commerce Paradigm

Chris Williams

Solution Architect and Sitecore MVP, EPAM
  • Retail & Consumer

In today’s digital climate, retailers need to identify, define and meet consumer demands by leveraging the latest tech innovations. Experts in commerce emphasize the importance of a consumer’s purchase and search history to deliver highly personalized experiences, while marketers will gravitate to personas and email marketing. Marketers will also refer to a traditional marketing approach of building email lists in customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to send targeted, personalized emails based on a customer’s persona. That said, consumers expect a combination of what marketing and commerce professionals individually deem most important.

As recent as last month, a customer posted on social media about their experience with a retailer that used the traditional marketing approach:

A man purchased a pair of men’s jeans from the clothing retailer's eCommerce website. Somehow, he was classified as a female within the company’s distribution list. Perhaps his name sounded feminine, or maybe his daughter visited the same site and clicked on clothing items for herself. Either way, he was targeted and categorized under "people interested in women's clothes”. As a result, the man received a personalized email for women’s clothes and aired the outcome on social media. This opened up a chain of comments from other consumers who have experienced similar situations.

In this case, part of the solution would involve combining marketing and eCommerce approaches into a unified experience. Had the CRM tracked purchases directly or if the content management system (CMS) handled the entire experience, the proper weighting could have been applied, and a purchase triggering the appropriate marketing list. Changes in consumer expectations have introduced a paradigm shift.  For example, consumers are now accustomed to personalization and seamless omnichannel experiences. The traditional paradigm keeps the CRM and commerce sites separate. In the new, modern paradigm, the CRM and commerce sites are tightly integrated and, in most cases, within a single-site experience.

The traditional paradigm can have different levels of segmentation. In some cases, segmentation means entirely separate systems, but it could also mean partially integrated systems. For simplicity, we will focus on separate systems. Let us consider a popular toy company. When you navigate, you can view and search for products, however when you click the shopping cart icon, you are redirected to a different website, shop.popular toy What does this mean?

  • If a new product is released, marketing would have to create all of the marketing materials and schedule it to go live once the product is available in the eCommerce store.
  • When a product is no longer available, marketing either has to adjust the content so that the shop button disappears or when the user clicks shop, they are told an item is no longer available.
  • Marketers would know the products that customers looked at but not necessarily the ones they purchased.               

The modern paradigm is focused on integrating CRM, CMS and eCommerce platforms as much as possible. There are levels of integration. However, we will assume that, at minimum, the marketing system integrates with the eCommerce platform and both connect to the CRM. Let's consider the same toy company but in this case, everything lives under the same site or, at minimum, the customer is considered a single profile. What does this mean?

  • Products live in one place in the eCommerce system, so when a product is no longer available, the content can still exist but the shop button would disappear and you could indicate that the product is not currently available or on back order.
  • When a new product is released, a display rule could only make the product visible when the product becomes available.
  • From a marketing perspective, a purchase would be part of the same profile and some CMSs would consider that purchase as part of the equation in determining their persona and/or marketing list. This means the customer is more likely to receive the proper marketing materials.

As you can see from this simple example, some level of integration is necessary between commerce, CMS and CRM systems to successfully provide the customer with personalized content and product recommendations. The tighter the integration, the more consistent journey the customer will have with less manual work and more accurate personalized marketing to customers.

Chris Williams has been a Sitecore MVP since 2012, and in 2018, he became the only Sitecore Commerce MVP in Canada. He has worked on several Commerce projects, including Active Commerce and uCommerce. You may know Chris as @SitecoreGuild or the Sitecore Commerce Mentoring Guild, as he is an active mentor in the community.

Chris will be attending Sitecore Symposium 2018. Schedule a meeting with us or stop by our booth (#801).

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