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Meeting digital commerce consumer demands with omnichannel CMS

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Bakhtiar Zein)

In our post-Covid world, consumer expectations for e-commerce are shifting rapidly. Recent research from Salesforce has shown that the vast majority of customers now believe that the experience a brand provides is just as important as the products they sell, and that is incumbent on those companies to innovate in order to get those products (or services) to their customers in light of the pandemic.

This means that it’s not enough for enterprise e-commerce organizations to simply pivot away from outdated digital experiences. They must also develop the omnichannel capabilities (be it content or commerce-focused) that are necessary to deliver accurate, personalized, and speedy interactions.

In short, modern commerce means brands need product search and discovery technology that caters to shoppers at every stage of their journey, not just the shopping cart. 

As a recent report from Gartner Research, Composable Commerce Must Be Adopted for the Future of Applications, puts it: 

“As business needs change, organizations must be able to deliver innovation quickly and adapt applications dynamically — reassembling capabilities from inside and outside the enterprise. To do this, organizations must understand and implement the “composable enterprise.” 

Many brands are eager to modernize their omnichannel experience(s), but are – understandably - hesitant about the time and cost of e-commerce transformation.  One way to tackle this issue is to start with a headless content and commerce solution that can deliver immediate results without undertaking an exhausting re-platforming project. 

The core of the problem – static e-commerce solutions vs. dynamic markets 

Brands have already seen dramatic shifts in client expectations when it comes to product discovery, in terms of wanting more choice, faster delivery, and of course, keener prices.

But despite cranking out more content, adding more products, and maybe even reducing prices — some businesses just can’t seem to gain the traction needed. The question is why?

The answer is because these brands miss a vital point.  Giving customers more to choose from is great, but with unlimited choice at their fingertips, what online shoppers really need is help discovering the products or services that are perfect for them. And they will judge this by their experience of the brand.

Consequently, enterprises need to deliver immersive, omnichannel e-commerce experience that not only leads to the right product selection but also delivers the just-right content at the just-right time.  And this needs to happen regardless of if the customer is starting a transaction via smart speaker or completing it via smartphone. 

The problem is, the monolithic e-commerce tools many brands work with simply cannot support these kinds of interactions. Traditional suites are inflexible and struggle to merge content marketing, merchandising, and product catalog information to deliver a modern shopping experience. And trying to force them to do so often requires an awfully expensive duct tape project — one that is likely to bust IT budgets and risk downtime that could lose millions in sales. 

Compounding all this is the fact that e-commerce teams don’t have the luxury of pausing business to revamp their technology – these changes need to happen immediately and without causing interruption to ongoing operations. It can be thought of as needing a solution that provides the freedom to transform the experience without a major re-platform.

One option to square this circle and help brands accelerate engaging commerce experiences without having to replace core transactional engines is the MACH movement.  

The term describes technology that is microservice-based, API-first, cloud-native, and headless. By layering a MACH-first headless content management system (CMS) and product discovery engine over your existing technology, a business can quickly provide a modern, content-driven e-commerce experience. 

The question is of course how?

Updating content architecture to create modern e-commerce experiences 

From the MACH perspective, there are a few key aspects to inject more value into the shopping experience and consequently explore new revenue channels.

Because there’s no room for unplanned downtime in e-commerce and there is no room for delay – the timelines to adopt a headless CMS  should be measured in a matter of weeks, not months – and as such many aspects can be started simultaneously. 

Integrating a headless CMS into a tech stack and migrating over content marketing campaigns decouples functionality and frontend, so businesses can immediately get started on new customer-facing experiences with no risk to critical backend systems.

Consequently, at the same time as putting a modern content architecture in place, businesses can begin integrating a MACH search and merchandising platform.

Tools such as Constructor power the discovery of products (and content) throughout a site, ensuring customers see the right personalized products and content for them when hitting a category page, throughout their search, even extending to recommendations for what else to buy, both on and off the site. 

This combination allows businesses to create an experience that blends products and content together, using AI-driven search to deliver the most attractive information on any channel, and guides shoppers through unlimited choice to the items that are perfect for them. 

Search can be liberated from the traditional grid style and blend results in different combinations, sizes, and formats. This creates an intuitive, human feeling experience whilst still enabling a business to take full advantage of the technology.

Powering e-commerce with content marketing means teams will need to create a decent amount of high-quality, well-organized content.

Developing rich content — which includes videos, infographics, and even other media like podcasts and webinars — gives consumers more with which to engage.  It also demands more of the smart content delivery tools that then create customized experiences. 

This is why it’s key for brands to choose tools that make it easy for merchandisers, editors, and developers to quickly, and autonomously, create and manage content. Content creators should not be shackled to the developer team and vice-versa.

The direction of digital commerce 

The Gartner Research report on composable commerce states, “Digital commerce platforms are experiencing ongoing modularization in a cloud-native, multi-experience world. Application leaders responsible for digital commerce should prepare for a ‘composable’ approach using packaged business capabilities to move toward future-proof digital commerce experiences.”

Whilst this composable future is all but inevitable, and consumer demands will do nothing but grow, businesses don’t have to go all-in on an expensive and time-consuming re-platforming project to build a cutting-edge e-commerce experience. Flexible MACH tools offer businesses the option to migrate to composable, omnichannel systems at their own pace.

It will be this combination of going at their own pace, plus the rapid ROI and likely market dominance, seen by early adopters that will drive the mixture of headless technologies throughout many industries and markets.

Varia Makagonova, Director of Marketing, Contentstack

Varia Makagonova is Director of Marketing at Contentstack.