Six Things E-Commerce Leaders Excel At

By James Johnson | 23 May 2017

The data reveals six critical attributes that today’s e-commerce leaders share. Two provide the foundation for omnichannel success, pervading the whole organisation and setting it up to become network-centric.

Retailers and brands all over the world have invested heavily in the tools to become more customer-centric. Yet it is still difficult to keep up with customer demands, competitive pressures and the accelerating pace of technological advances. While we at Salesforce Commerce Cloud have recently seen some established retailers fall by the wayside, others are reporting record results. New research reveals four things these leaders focus on, and how they are transforming what lies at the very heart of the successful e-commerce businesses.

New insights into the way successful e-commerce brands and retailers are rising to the challenges of the market reveal that organisations need a radical change to the way they do business – and the way they (and others) see their business.

Simply building on existing ways of doing business involves some outdated assumptions, which won’t get you very far. When everything is changing at an unprecedented pace – customer demands, competitive pressure and the technology to keep up, it’s easy to get left behind.

Accenture and Salesforce conducted a survey and in-depth interviews with executives from retailers with high online penetration and from brand manufacturers with high direct-to-consumer revenue.

These innovators are carefully and deliberately expanding the customer-brand relationship. The consumer is still at the centre, but the organisation is transforming. Mark West, CEO of LLX Global Business Services (Jimmy Choo, Bally, Belstaff) articulates the new organisational model required to keep up with the customer:

“Organisations will look and act a lot differently in the near future. They must transform to open and adaptive networks that orchestrate the experience from myriad partners on behalf of their customers. Retailers and brands will become stewards of customers, and deliver personalised and relevant experiences wherever they choose to engage.”

So what exactly is it that retailers and brands need to get good at?

The data reveals six critical attributes that today’s e-commerce leaders share. Two provide the foundation for omnichannel success, pervading the whole organisation and setting it up to become network-centric:

  • They have a clear vision that everyone understands, and everyone activates.
  • Their organisational culture is firmly aimed at continually improving customer experience and everything is measured by its contribution to lifetime consumer value.

As well as this foundation, those paving the way have a purposeful infrastructure strategy that tackles the pace of change and market disruption head on and fosters these four high impact game-changers.

  1. Market insight is rich, deep and influential.

These pace-setters are focused on tracking customer demands, technological innovations and competitors to generate actionable insights. They have clear processes for gathering and sharing information from customers, front-line employees and the market, and their data systems ensure that this knowledge directly influences business strategy.

Suitsupply is a fast-growing global brand delivering a personal experience for every customer. It is using cloud-based technology to build 360-degree customer profiles, leveraging intelligence from in-store stylists, online design services, transactions and customers’ social feeds. Other strategies revealed by the research are:

  • Build a real understanding of customer expectations and market trends, harnessing multiple data points.
  • Have formal processes to follow key competitors as well as newcomers to protect against any market threats and take advantage of new opportunities.
  • Gather information from front line employees to foresee and understand the need for operational improvements.
  1. Innovation is genuinely nurtured, executed and evaluated.

Leaders have defined processes that seek out and foster new and different ideas from inside and outside the organisation’s four walls. Innovation extends across product development to the customer experience and all aspects of operational efficiency. For example, Under Armour has grabbed headlines with its innovative approach in fitness apparel and shoes, transforming customer service and market insight into a genuine concierge service. Other strategies include:

  • Executive teams encourage new ideas from employees, suppliers and customers.
  • A willingness to invest in innovations with longer-term payback.
  • Processes in place to launch and evaluate innovations frequently, learning from experience.
  1. Data Intelligence is embedded within the business to provide a single view of the customer.

They have robust systems to consolidate, extract and contextualise data intelligence. It is widely shared with key stakeholders in a format that is optimised to support decision-making, so all business decisions are based on consistent data. For example:

  • Everyone in the organisation can use data analytics.
  • Routine operational decisions are automated, based on analytics embedded within an eCommerce platform.
  1. Processes and systems are agile.

Business processes and data systems are purpose built for rapid responses to change, threats and opportunities. For example:

  • Employees are empowered to make decisions.
  • Organisational structures are flexible and adaptive.
  • Effective change management is in place so the business can learn from and thrive on change.

Many retailers and brands are chipping away at organisational change in a piecemeal way and underestimate the level of change that’s required. In contrast, research for Retail Organisations: the next stage of transformation shows us exactly where transformation is needed to power up e-commerce success.

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