We’re In The Midst Of A Digital Commerce Revolution

Commerce is currently experiencing a major disruption, so expect bold changes ahead. That was the main takeaway of the day two keynote session at Adobe’s Imagine 2019 event in Las Vegas.

Jenny Cheng, VP of global professional services at PayPal, took the stage to give a lay of the land. “Bold change is happening,” she told the audience of more than 3,500 attendees, pointing to technology such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented reality, Internet of Things, and robotics as some of the disruptors. According to Cheng, this technology was not part of our lives just 10 years ago. But today it is rapidly evolving and part of our everyday vocabulary.

“It’s the fourth industrial revolution,” she said, and it’s disrupting all industries, especially commerce.

How have things evolved in the past decade? Cheng says that disruption is evident when you look at how our parents shopped for groceries. Her mom, she said, spent a lot of time in the grocery store, perusing aisles and comparing prices. When Cheng thinks about her life today, as a busy working mother of two, technology enables her to order her groceries online and have them delivered to her front door, leaving her more time to spend with her children. The space that used to exist between thinking about a purchase and actually making it has shrunk, she said.

“Commerce is evolving,” she said. Looking ahead to 2030, Cheng said she expects a world that is fully automated, where there is no grocery shopping because AI and machine learning are predicting how much milk is left in the fridge, and the fridge is ordering it in advance, automatically. It might be delivered to your house by drone or even a robot, she said.

“Tech will evolve [in ways] we cannot even imagine yet,” she predicted.

Commerce is no longer restricted to websites or the store, she added. It’s happening wherever people are, and it is “immediate, pervasive, and increasingly mobile.” That’s why PayPal is committed to removing friction from the checkout process, Cheng said.

Embracing Digital Disruption
Gillian Campbell, head of omnichannel enablement at HP, also took to the stage. She spoke about how her organization is tackling digital disruption—and even embracing it. According to Campbell, HP saw an opportunity with digital from early on.

And while the majority of sales for HP go through partners and resellers, the company knew it needed a digital storefront to help people research and then eventually move on to buy. However, with 27 online markets for B2C and small business, and 300 million visitors online collectively, HP was serving inconsistent experiences to customers. Step one to solve this challenge was to replatform across all those markets and “enable the reflection of the brand,” not just transactions.

Customers who engage online provide HP with a great opportunity, she said. Their online breadcrumbs allow HP to take data and use it to convert people by personalizing the experience. And that experience is different across regions, since people have very different expectations and needs depending on where they are in the world.  

“We know who the customer is,” she said. “[We have that unified] view of the customer.” This unified view is what allows HP to better serve customers with the right experience, at the right time, on the right channel.  

Her advice to the people in the audience: “Keep the customer at the core of your e-commerce transformation program,” she said. “Get the platform strategy in place that is right for your organization. [And] leverage data and technology to drive consistent and personalized customer services.”

Today HP is focused on investing in customer insights, building a “customer 360 platform,” and not just understanding customers but showing customers that HP understands them. “That’s the utopia,” she said.

Building Long-Term Loyalty
Aubrey Bergauer, executive director at the California Symphony, came on stage to tell attendees how her organization doubled its audience in the past five years.

According to Bergauer, when the company first embarked on its digital transformation, 90% of first-time orchestra attendees never came back again. So, while the California Symphony was quite successful in attracting new audiences, it was not good at retaining them. And the music wasn’t the problem.

UX research showed that younger generations actually enjoyed performances. Their laments were about the experience they got on the California Symphony’s website and how the symphony communicated with them. One common complaint: too much jargon on the website.

The research also uncovered that not knowing what to wear to the symphony was a big pain point for customers, as was the information in the program book, which concert-goers found to be too dry. Small tweaks to the website and the program book helped improve website metrics by 12%, Bergauer said.

However, retention was still a burning issue. The problem, she said, was that even though the orchestra industry was an early adopter of the subscription model, it got away from incentivizing loyalty.

If you look at California Symphony’s orchestra patron journey, Bergauer said, the approach had traditionally been calling patrons after their first concert and asking them for a donation. Then marketing also began bombarding concert goers with single ticket offers and subscription brochures.

“It [was] a mess,” Bergauer said. “We decided we want a patron journey where there is one next step and one next step only.” So now patrons get just one message as they move through the funnel.

And equally important to what the California Symphony does is what the organization doesn’t do anymore: “You now have to be a second-year renewing subscriber or higher to be asked to donate,” Bergauer said. As a result, the symphony has grown its retention rate to 30%, which Bergauer said is three times the industry average. It is also seeing a 90% renewal rate for subscribers.

This success is a direct result of “a different narrative than other orchestras,” Bergauer said, as well as a deep focus and understanding of the customer journey, fueled by the right e-commerce solution.

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