Let’s face it, today’s retail landscape is pretty confusing. Some brands are closing brick and mortar locations while others are reopening after a multiple-year hiatus, all while having to provide solid customer experiences regardless of where they’re taking place. Today, we’ll take a closer look at the role technology plays amid all of this chaos and bring to light some solutions for brands to apply as we kick off the new year.
In this Q&A, we’ll hear from Marcel Hollerbach, chief innovation officer at Productsup, an ecommerce data integration company, on why this industry in particular is faced with constant anarchy and how brands can learn to cope.
Gary Drenik: It’s no secret the retail landscape is evolving. Can you outline some of the most common challenges brands are facing today?
Marcel Hollerbach: In 2021 alone, our industry received a complete makeover. Digital natives like Amazon expanded their in-store presence, supply chains were strained, shopping on social platforms moved mainstream, and the metaverse took on a new level of prominence – 32% of US consumers are interested in shopping in the metaverse, according to Raconteur’s Future of Retail report. Ecommerce is booming, and brands are realizing more than ever that they need a long-term strategy to seamlessly integrate online and in-person selling channels to maintain a competitive edge.
The hybrid shopping experience requires brands to cultivate enjoyable customer experiences at every consumer touchpoint that the ‘shopping’ takes place – ranging from social channels like TikTok to marketplaces like Google Shopping, retargeting platforms, price comparison sites, and more. But this is easier said than done, as the path between a company and its customers has become significantly complex with thousands of marketing and selling channels.
To complicate matters more, companies have been using a piece-meal approach, adding on a tech solution here and there to ‘optimize’ their omnichannel strategy. But new research shows business decision-makers are concerned with the consistency of product information passing through their tech stack. Inconsistent, inaccurate, and incomplete product information across channels prevents brands from creating a compelling presence on the various platforms their consumers spend time on.
Without a firm strategy to navigate this chaos, also known as commerce anarchy, brands are susceptible to slowly losing credibility and distinctiveness. Brands can thrive in the chaos by embracing this concept with a clear understanding of the problem and developing comprehensive solutions that tackle it head-on.
Drenik: You mention ‘commerce anarchy’ as a term that accurately describes the daily struggle brands experience as they navigate omnichannel B2B, B2C, and D2C processes. What are some current, real-life examples of commerce anarchy in the industry?
Hollerbach: Commerce anarchy is everywhere. We see it in our everyday lives but often don’t realize these results from mismanaging product information value chains. You can identify commerce anarchy through inaccurate product descriptions, low-resolution images, or price errors, which can cost brands money and customer loyalty. Keep in mind, product information is usually handled by an average of four systems in each organization, creating data silos and the potential for a misinformation disaster.
Even some of the most prominent players have fallen victim to commerce anarchy, like Nike messing up the use of Greek letters on one of its shoes. Or on the micro-level, someone accidentally sold a Bored Ape NFT for $3,000 instead of $300,000 because of a misplaced decimal point.
Drenik: Thanks for outlining some examples of the chaotic retail industry. I think it’s safe to say every brand has experienced commerce anarchy in some form! In fact, recent Prosper Insights & Analytics data found only 13.6% of US adults had an ‘excellent’ in-store shopping experience this holiday season. How do you propose we fix this problem? In other words, what can brands do today to get ahead of the commerce anarchy issue?
Hollerbach: I mentioned that organizations use four systems on average to manage product information. This inefficient operation is a perfect opportunity to streamline communications and tackle commerce anarchy head-on.
To address the need for a fresh approach, Constellation Research recently identified a new category of technology solutions, product-to-consumer (P2C) management, that aims to simplify the process for companies to reach consumers with their products. Many brands are missing opportunities to expand into new channels, like social media, because not only do they lack a comprehensive understanding of the product data requirements to sell in those channels, but they also don’t have the human resources or technology to tailor product experiences. P2C enables companies to manage a two-directional flow of product information across more than 2,500 marketing and selling channels in a single, centralized system. Cutting a straight path for data to flow between suppliers and buyers can eliminate up to 50 different categories of applications inside organizations.
Drenik: We’re familiar with B2B, B2C, and D2C strategies. You mention P2C management as a winning strategy for brands looking to tackle new and established retail challenges. Can you share more about what a P2C strategy looks like and how brands can adopt them effectively?
Hollerbach: A successful P2C management strategy helps brands of all sizes maximize the information flowing throughout their commerce ecosystem to enhance customer experiences and minimize miscommunication. There are three crucial components of this strategy necessary to yield the results brands need to drive sales and maintain long-lasting customer relationships.
First, it is imperative to optimize consumer reach by implementing real-time product content syndication to every channel customers use to find inspiration, browse, compare, make decisions, and ultimately complete transactions.
Then, ensuring the information communicated across these platforms is up-to-date, consistent, and accurate requires regular improvements. This process happens through automated tracking, analytics, reporting, data mapping of system flows, and syndication.
Finally, brands need the complete picture of every information source involved – including sellers, manufacturers, and customers. A successful P2C approach allows companies to incorporate all key messaging, product data, and customer feedback into one streamlined portal that distributes one clear, consistent story.
Drenik: According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, new consumer shopping trends are taking flight, with over 40% of US adults regularly using ‘shop now’ features to buy products advertised on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Can you share a few predictions you have for the 2022 retail landscape? How long are we likely to see commerce anarchy progress, and does it have the potential to transform into something else?
Hollerbach: 2021 was a preview for what we’ll see more of in 2022 – both as it relates to commerce anarchy and the transformation of brands. I see this being the year of customer experiences – a time where brands are forced to implement strategies like P2C management that work with them rather than against them. We know this evolving landscape is ripe with opportunities, so the brands who gain control over their current tech stacks will be in a good position to explore new technological advancements, thus staying ahead of the competition. For example, moves toward a metaverse future will be the big plays to watch in 2022. While it isn’t clearly defined yet, the development of the metaverse is moving rapidly, prompting brands to take it seriously. Think back to the rise of ecommerce or the internet – many organizations are still paying for the mistake of not adopting these trends early on.
What’s certain is that more and more consumers will immerse themselves in digital environments this year, and they will be eager to see how their favourite brands get involved. This migration to digital is already happening in the form of NFTs, where brands can leverage digital products to fuel a more exhilarating customer experience. Some major brands are already doing this. For example, Asics introduced collections of digital sneakers to the NFT marketplace, and Adidas Originals followed suit. Cavalry Ventures also recently launched an NFT collection using Productsup’s Metaverse enablement solution. But commerce anarchy will only heighten as digital assets become mainstream, so brands wanting to take the leap into the virtual world need to get their P2C strategies in check.
Drenik: Thanks, Marcel, for giving us the lowdown on today’s retail landscape. There are certainly a lot of moving parts, but with some of the tools and solutions you named, brands can feel prepared to tackle commerce anarchy in 2022.
Feature Image Credit: AdobeStock_430022528
I cover consumer-centric insights and analytics that provide executives with solutions needed to drive strategy. I am the CEO of Prosper Business Development where, for more than 20 years, we have provided market leadership and developed contemporary solutions to help Fortune 500 companies navigate change that impacts their business. I got my start in the radio industry.