As an industry, we love our buzzwords. ‘Social’, ‘conversational’, and ‘embedded’ are just a few of the latest additions to the ever-growing list. But, at the end of the day, all that digital-first consumers are really looking for are smarter ways to shop.
This is where iCommerce comes in. iCommerce – which stands for intelligent commerce – refers to multifunctional ecommerce that offers intuitive and integrated experiences and is the real killer omnichannel trend. While it doesn’t mean ecommerce isn’t already intelligent, it does mean taking a data-centric and logical approach to how retailers do business. But can fast-growing brands connect the numerous enterprise functions needed to deliver it?
What iCommerce means for retailers
Besides the fundamental data side of things, iCommerce is about creating diverse and appealing customer experiences using all the best technology available to become an omnichannel powerhouse. Retailers don’t need an in-person store for omnichannel; with the metaverse and other channels, iCommerce means looking inwards and discovering the best way to appeal to customers.
That could be opening a store in the metaverse or creating more seamless experiences between a brand’s website and its physical store. For example, having a mobile app with a loyalty programme that allows the user to redeem things in-store, or letting shoppers localise their location online so they can pick up an order directly and avoid delivery fees. And for these, retailers need powerful and accurate integrations.
Amazon’s room decorator is a great example of intelligent eCommerce. The feature sits on the Amazon mobile app, letting consumers view products using augmented reality and place items with their full dimensions in their homes, to see how they’d fit in real life. Not only does the tech giant demonstrate through this feature the value of taking advantage of every available channel, but it has a tangible benefit to customers, who might normally be put off buying things such as furniture online.
Saying goodbye to restrictive systems
Modern ecommerce is a new industry. It was only around 30 years agothat the first store featuring a fully online storefront and transaction platform appeared, yet there’s been so much progress since then.
Most recently, the industry has started to recognise the benefits of composable commerce; moving beyond the boundaries of legacy and inflexible ecommerce platforms to take a microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless (MACH) approach.
The demand for iCommerce runs alongside this trend. Companies are, rightly so, no longer content with sticking to their restrictive systems and instead want to build more bespoke experiences to expand their growth opportunities. And with a market that’s becoming increasingly more populated, it’s essential to strategise intelligently.
For retailers, iCommerce means thinking about how to leverage data across integrated channels, and whilst implementing integrations in-house has its benefits, there are better ways of going about it which can drive powerful results.
It’s also about a business’s general strategy outside of integrations. It starts with retailers identifying a problem or need and finding ways to solve it. Brands shouldn’t settle for the status quo just because that’s what everyone else is doing – they must take risks and be intelligent.
iCommerce’s role in improving efficiencies and saving costs
iCommerce is all about improving performance, using intelligent tactics and strategies. However, it’s a flexible approach that greatly depends on each brand’s needs and journey so far.
Let’s use integrations as an example. Taking a careful and considered approach to data connections, by thinking intelligently and by actively participating in bettering the business, can be the difference between success and disaster.
Understanding data, across multiple channels and utilising it to its full potential can have massive cost savings for retailers. Not only that, but it also boosts efficiency through reliable order processing, and helps brands take greater control of data by increasing transparency and legal compliance.
This will be of even greater importance as retailers battle the cost of living crisis. Just recently it was reported that ecommerce accounted for just over a quarter (25.3%) of retail sales in June – the lowest proportion since the Covid-19 pandemic started in March 2020. Consumers are shopping across a number of channels and retailers must provide an integrated experience.
It’s vital that they have the right inventory planning, pricing, and promotion strategies across channels in place to avoid their cash being blocked in the wrong inventory later down the line. Difficult to navigate without the right technology to hand. All retailers will be battling inflation for the next couple of years, which is why taking an iCommerce approach now, will be their golden ticket to providing agility in making quick, reactive and smart decisions.
Taking intelligent risks
iCommerce is easier said than done. The concept is all about taking a deep dive into a retailer’s entire eCommerce operation and making it more intelligent and strategic. But sometimes the current infrastructure can’t support the desired changes.
More and more retail businesses are moving away from legacy ecommerce platforms, building bespoke operational and tech stacks which work for them. Often they have decades of siloed customer data stored in technology. However, many are only now waking up to the fact that by utilising software, they are able to bring all of this data into one platform, finally giving them a true understanding of their customers.
What will ultimately transform ecommerce to iCommerce is the easy integration of multiple data sources to power a seamless experience. Clicks and bricks will come closer together as digitally savvy brands will meaningfully integrate CRM, loyalty, and POS data to enhance online shopping.
The benefit of iCommerce, in a nutshell, is supercharged growth. By intelligently improving all the individual parts of a business, it creates a well-oiled machine where every part works in synergy.
The boundary between physical and virtual worlds is becoming even more blurred, but being able to connect them and understand a customer’s journey will be paramount as we transcend into the next era of ecommerce – iCommerce. By treating digital and in-store touchpoints as part of the same customer journey, rather than as distinct silos, retailers will be able to provide the customer journey that consumers are beginning to expect.
Without taking an iCommerce approach, retailers could be stuck in a state of arrested development. To stay on top of the game, brands need to be willing to future gaze, putting their efforts into improving operations.
iCommerce is about taking risks, but intelligent risks. If we look into the future of retail, brands must use data, brainstorm, and research new strategies, systems, and solutions to fit their needs, if they are to compete.
Smashing marketing, operational and finance silos is key to driving footfall, boosting efficiency and saving costs while making commerce even smarter.
Eduardo Silva is chief revenue officer at Patchworks