What is the impact of digital commerce on the customer experience?

There was a time when digital commerce meant brick-and-mortar stores. If you bought something from a store back then, you almost certainly spoke to someone along the way – either in person or over the phone. Perhaps it was the cashier at your neighborhood grocery store or the account manager at your neighborhood bank. You might have even known who they were. Even if you didn’t, you’d expect the staff to be taught a variation of the phrase “the customer is always right” as shorthand for “we want to deliver an experience that brings you, the customer, back.”

Consumers expected this experience to meet certain expectations, which businesses attempted to meet or exceed by delivering processes, standards, and policies that encouraged customers to continue purchasing from them. While delivering an excellent customer experience is no easy task for businesses, the relative lack of distinct touch points with customers allowed for a narrow focus. When compared to today, it is clear that digital commerce has transformed the customer experience.

Customers nowadays expect to be able to interact with and buy from firms via a variety of digital channels, including direct mobile and web channels, online marketplaces, and even social commerce.

Each commerce channel can present its own set of problems for organizations to solve in order to improve the consumer experience. Consumer conversions for high-consideration items may be hampered by website design that does not provide enough information. Mobile commerce may limit the branding aspects required to foster long-term loyalty. A lack of technological maturity could jeopardize efforts to provide a positive social commerce experience.

Digital commerce also provided new options for customer experience distinction. While customer experience used to be highly personalized and supplied through a limited number of channels, the increasing number of touchpoints means that most firms would likely fall short of expectations, creating opportunity to outperform competition. According to a recent Gartner study, as much as 87 percent of businesses anticipate to compete on customer experience in 2021.

Businesses must follow strategies that identify each separate area to play in, how to provide an exceptional experience in each, and what resources are required to do so in order to succeed. This can be compared to performance indicators to improve over time and rebalanced as consumer preferences and company needs change. Customer experience leaders must make an ongoing effort in this area. What constitutes a “best in class” customer experience will continue to evolve as commerce channels evolve, affecting different industries on different timescales as organizations seek to address the major pain points of their client profiles.

Finally, the picture is so different now than it was before digital commerce became ubiquitous that it’s difficult to say when customers had it better – but it is possible to claim that the task of supplying it is far more difficult. The good news is that it gives customer experience leaders more possibilities than ever before to add meaningful value to their companies.

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