Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Forbes as part of the Forbes Agency Council.

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The methods have dramatically changed over the past 50 years, but the end result has not wavered. Whether it was a Don Draper-era TV ad or a mobile app reward in 2019, the ultimate outcome for marketers—and the top reason marketing exists—remains to entice and influence a transaction.

No matter how wide marketing’s reach expands within a business—from operations to customer service—commerce remains at the center of the customer experience, influencing and motivating every other marketing channel. And the transformation of the consumer experience we are witnessing only reinforces this fact.

Like marketing, commerce’s purview has never been more vast, and thus more challenging to nail down. But if you want to truly focus on providing the level of experience customers expect, commerce is the place to start.

Closeness to your customers

The key to impactful marketing is providing the most relevant content at the right moment of the customer lifecycle. Successful marketers strive to ignite meaningful engagement at every step—from first awareness to well after the purchase is made. That is achieved by understanding the customer’s context and behavior surrounding that moment in the lifecycle. Are your customers swiping through Instagram while on the morning commute? Searching for a lunch spot within walking distance? Researching furniture for a child about to head off to college?

Brands cannot meaningfully transform themselves digitally without centering on the customer, and the most intimate way to do that is through commerce.

Marketers will never get closer to a customer’s heart, and wallet, than during the purchasing stage of the journey. In turn, marketers will not get closer to the psyche and rationale of customers, understanding what is fueling their behavior, than at the moment they decide to commit their hard-earned money to your brand.

A digital transformation must include a commerce transformation

Herein lies the critical function commerce provides for brands in 2019 and beyond. We are in the midst of a digital transformation, with brands scrambling to meet consumers in the channels, devices, and locations the new customer experience demands. Brands cannot meaningfully transform themselves digitally without centering on the customer, and the most intimate way to do that is through commerce. A digital transformation without a commerce transformation is no transformation at all.

This is why the idea of “commerce” as we know it continues to expand. Having representations of in-store commerce, ecommerce, and mobile commerce on their own is no longer enough. Commerce has become an omni-channel function. Whether it is social selling, abandoned cart emails, or purchasing online and picking up in-store, a seamless and holistic experience has become a requirement to keep consumers engaged. And we are witnessing how brands that fail to realize the need for connected commerce are suffering the harsh realities of business in the digital age.

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Customers want to make purchase decisions at their chosen time and on their chosen device, and no two journeys will be the same. Some will be on a whim and others will be after 20 touchpoints. And unless your commerce program is equipped to capitalize on every experience a customer may embark on, they will find another brand to meet their needs.

The perceived performance of marketers is still very much tied to commerce success. Customers’ expectations around commerce continue to grow, and it is marketers’ responsibility to keep up.

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