From accepting digital currencies to setting up shops online, retailers have been through a rollercoaster ride over the past two decades. Adapting is important for not just survival, but also growth.
For instance, eCommerce is expected to account for over $6.5 trillion in sales by 2023, representing 22% of global retail sales. Any businessperson with ordinary prudence will attest that not capitalizing on this opportunity is like watching a giant pile of cash burn to ashes.
But capitalizing on eCommerce shouldn’t cross-subsidize a business owner’s attention; brick and mortar are very much alive. Omnichannel strategies will drive businesses into the future. And businesses will need tools that provide agility to tackle omnichannel challenges.
This is where commerce platforms offer value.
What is a Commerce Platform?
A commerce platform is a platform that uses tech to connect various channels of commerce, both online and in-person. It’s similar to the main junction that administers all channels of a business from a single, unified dashboard.
The dashboard of a commerce platform offers a bird’s-eye view of all data that travels through a business’s channels. This allows businesses to identify key metrics where they can invest time and money to boost their ROI.
They also reduce friction for multi-channel businesses. For instance, when an eCommerce uses APIs and integrations, it bridges the eCommerce store with the business’s brick-and-mortar operation. This allows retailers more control over data.
It’s not just about sales data, though. From loyalty programs to the movement of inventory, a commerce platform consolidates all of the business’s data.
Think of a commerce platform as a treehouse from where you can view everyone that walks in and out of the area. For an even deeper understanding,
give Lightspeed’s guide on commerce platforms a read.
Key Features of a Commerce Platform
Commerce platforms can give businesses an edge over competitors by allowing them to deliver a transformative customer experience. It helps integrate content across channels and allows marketers to use tactics that far outshine conventional methods.
Following are the features that help commerce platforms and marketers accomplish these goals.
1. Customer management
Commerce platforms track and compile data generated from the activities of a customer. Using this data, businesses can act on the customer’s behavior and categorize them based on their specific interests and buying patterns.
Businesses can then analyze and strategize using this information, and fine-tune the delivery of commerce experiences to their customers. Over time, better customer management leads to higher retention and lets those dollars roll into your bank account.
2. Inventory management
A retailer’s inventory is spread far too wide to track with just one set of eyes. Since the movement of inventory isn’t always visible, businesses should use a centralized tracking system. And it’s easy to guess how that can be done—commerce platforms.
A good commerce platform allows tracking, organizing, and managing inventory, both offline and online. Using a commerce platform, businesses can monitor the availability of sellable items sorted by channel, inter-channel transfers, and shipments.
Commerce platforms also make it easy to identify slow-moving products, and notify the responsible person about low stock situations well in advance. For businesses that sell perishable goods, a commerce platform can also help track inventory’s shelf life.
But commerce platforms can do more about inventory.
3. Catalog management
Inventory in an online marketplace can move shockingly fast. When it’s peak season, blink and poof! Everything’s changed.
A commerce platform ensures that a store’s product catalog reflects these changes in real-time. It allows organizing inventory items into various categories and catalogs, so businesses can apply relevant promotions.
It also helps categorize the inventory and establish hierarchies between items. For instance, shirts can be divided by gender as well as style. A properly managed catalog gives visitors the correct information so they don’t have to jump through hoops to accomplish what they came for.
For an online store, furnishing accurate information is mission-critical. If inaccuracies creep in, that could mean lower sales, or worse—increased returns.
Think about it.
What happens if a visitor looking orders a size 42 shirt but receives a size 40? Sure, they can return it and get the money back. But it also means lost sales, and more importantly, loss of reputation. This is exactly why a commerce platform must offer robust catalog management functionality.
4. Strategizing promotions
Promotions are perfect to add a personal touch to customer relationships. Having the right commerce platform ensures the flexibility to customize product-specific promotions and provides more control over the time, place, and the way that shoppers interact with the promotional offers.
Businesses may choose to make offers based on several parameters like customers’ history with the store or the current season, among other things.
For instance, stores may use a retargeting strategy for abandoned carts and offer a flat 10% off on shipping. This makes customers feel exclusive and goes a long way in nurturing customer relationships.
5. Content management
It’s a little annoying for customers to receive emails selling them products they’ve already purchased. Commerce platforms help remedy this by integrating purchase data with content management. This allows businesses to send more relevant content to their customers.
Once a customer has placed an order, they’ll be interacting with the brand first-hand. Commerce platforms are also a great asset for taking customer experiences up a notch through relevant content, which can include videos, tips, or product suggestions based on a customer’s previous purchase.
6. Custom pricing
Merchants price their products based on several factors like expected events, time of the year, and customers’ previous purchases from the store. A no-fuss customizable pricing solution helps the merchant efficiently customize pricing for different customer segments.
Picture this. A customer has just purchased a silk gown from the store’s wedding collection.
Since it’s summertime, the store sends an email shortly after the purchase educating the customer about how to remove sweat stains or food stains from the dress—along with an offer on a cleaning agent, which they can purchase from the store.
Why Businesses Should Consider Investing in a Commerce Platform
Managing multiple channels can be overwhelming. A platform tool can make life easier by facilitating program implementation across physical locations and online.
For instance, think of a program that allows customers to seamlessly execute online orders with in-person deliveries at the store.
Commerce platforms can help businesses position themselves better as they tackle the challenges of multi-channel retail. An updated inventory, accurate details, and automated pricing allow customers to confidently shop across channels.
Businesses can also track the ROI on their marketing campaigns more effectively, and accurately attribute campaign-drive revenues to the online and in-person channels.
A customer now has more options than ever. A business that doesn’t offer a range of payment methods, ways to experience the product, and the flexibility to return or pick up the purchased product, is unlikely to survive the competition.
A platform that fails to meet the expectations of a diverse customer group will begin to see retention numbers plummet over time.
How it Offers Value to Customer
Customers aren’t typically aware that a business they’re interacting with is using a commerce platform, but they’ll certainly be direct beneficiaries of it.
All customers dig convenience and consistency. Using a commerce platform to create an efficient retail ecosystem helps deliver top-notch customer experiences across channels and locations.
When a customer is confident that they can trust the product’s availability and the price they see on a given channel, their journey from beginning to end is much smoother.
For instance, a customer may choose to order a product online, but pick it up from the physical store in person. Or they may choose to only reserve the product online and visit the store for pick up.
A commerce platform ensures that regardless of what the customer’s purchase process is, they can complete the purchase successfully.
In essence, a commerce platform equips all channels with the same capabilities. Tools used for any channel or the business are readily usable on other channels as well, ensuring consistent customer experiences.
The retail landscape is changing at a breakneck pace. Those that don’t hop on the bogey of change will see its impact manifest on their top line.
Entrepreneurs need a consolidated way to oversee all channels of their business, not only to ensure that the processes are in order, but also to deliver an outstanding customer experience.
From managing data to gauging the effectiveness of campaigns, commerce platforms are the perfect tool. Think of them as the next layer of management for the business, that collects relevant data from all the moving parts of the business and compiles it on a dashboard.
As omnichannel becomes the new norm, businesses that have already equipped themselves with a commerce platform will outperform others with agility. They’ll have the tools they need to assess, adapt, and improvise.