The rate of change in industry today is unprecedented - from connected devices, to a proliferation of new channels, to a diversification of product offerings and changing consumer expectations. The technology ecosystem supporting ad-tech, mar-tech and commerce is getting more connected as points of inspiration and points of transaction are coming together. The rate of change is driving new technologies and data analytics to be smarter, ultimately transforming the relationship between content and commerce, shopping and storytelling.
Meanwhile we are witnessing exponential growth in commerce. ecommerce is anticipated to have 20% annual growth for the next three years, and will account for nearly 13% of total retail value by 2019. Many businesses are still working out their response to this shift in customer behaviour, where the scale in the number of digitally connected consumers has hit critical mass.
This has led to a fundamental shift in designing customer experience with utility, but this has also had a knock-on effect for agencies, brands and businesses. At Isobar we have developed a commerce practice in response to this changing landscape and client demand for global, insight-driven commerce expertise, delivered at a local level.
There are five specific drivers of the need for agencies and brands to adopt a new approach to commerce today.
The impact of channels of fluctuating influence
New channels are emerging as existing channels are declining, which is expediting the need for businesses to clarify their commerce and user experience strategies.
As highlighted in Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report, Voice is beginning to replace typing in online queries, with twenty percent of mobile queries made via voice in 2016 in the US , with accuracy now at about 95 percent. AR/VR/Mixed Reality is increasingly moving from the marketing campaign landscape and innovation showcase to becoming a commerce channel. Also highlighted in the same report, wearables are gaining adoption with about 25 percent of Americans owning one, up 12 percent from 2016.
New gig economy
The sharing and gig economy is gaining momentum, and it’s disrupting enterprises who had previously dominated their verticals. The democratisation of business through technology has enabled upstarts to ride the sharing trend, which by virtue, scales itself.
An example of this is TaskRabbit and is one of several companies that have collectively helped create a novel form of business. They typically have ratings-based marketplaces and in-app payment systems, and they give workers the chance to earn money on their own schedules, rather than through professional accession.
Beyond TaskRabbit, service platforms include Thumbtack, for professional projects; Postmates, for delivery; Handy, for housework; Dogvacay, for pets; and countless others. Home-sharing services, such as Airbnb and its upmarket cousin onefinestay, supplant hotels and agencies. Ride-hailing apps—Uber, Lyft, Juno—replace taxis.
Commerce beyond the sales funnel
As most of Retailers are reaching a level of maturity in their ecommerce offerings, they are looking at customer retention and influence as the next step in their transformation journey that evolves commerce and marketing tactics beyond sales funnel optimization and conversion.
Certain brands are looking to accelerate by adopting co-op models and federated loyalty platforms like Plenti and Caesars Total Rewards to share Customer Value and become part of shared retention play.
Brands are no longer competing with traditional players. They can't predict who will disrupt their space next. Amazon just entered the brick and mortar business with the acquisition of Whole Foods. Google rebranded as Alphabet to focus on business beyond Search Engine. Nike’s ongoing transformation from Sporting Goods company to Health and Wellness focus.
The change in the central value of these companies has diversified - their focus today is to drastically disrupt using new commerce models.
Increased customer expectations
While this is all happening, there is increased customer expectations. Retail is experiencing the brunt of this disruption: product and brand messaging, promotions and pricing need to consistent across all owned, partner and paid channels. They need to be personalized using known and observed customer data. However, platforms like ecommerce, order management, fulfillment, product management, pricing and promotions is still evolving at an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) speed.
Through the Isobar Commerce Practice, Isobar will accelerate the process of integration and leverage our propitiatory data platforms to deliver results quickly. We will increase businesses and brands confidence in leveraging technology that they have invested as a key differentiator.
This collective and continued industry change requires a specialism in commerce, not to compete in the crowded market place, but to challenge the status quo of the industry at large.
As an agency, digital is in Isobar’s DNA, so it has naturally evolved by bolstering its technology and data capabilities. Our latest announcement is the next step in codifying a specific commerce expertise, bringing together our 1,000+ commerce and technology specialists from around the world to create an Isobar Commerce practice. The teams will work on the full spectrum of client challenges including advising on commerce and retail strategy, designing and managing commerce technology platforms, as part of a wider strategy to connect customer experience with the opportunity to transact and deliver business results for clients and create new products for our clients that add value to their bottom line.
Many businesses are building while flying the plane. With the launch of Isobar Commerce, our goal is to join our clients as co-pilots on their journey in the digital economy.
Vikalp Tandon is SVP, global technology and data, at Isobar