Retail Redefined: What is Digital Commerce?

With the rapid rise of digital platforms, specifically in the retail sphere, businesses have had to quickly evaluate and adopt new technologies to remain competitive. But this conglomeration of solutions is more than online shopping. Digital commerce is a term coined to encompass all digital elements that bring a customer into a store—be that a brick-and-mortar or virtual storefront.

What is digital commerce?

More than a single solution, digital commerce refers to the complete ecosystem of digital platforms, initiatives, and processes that bring a shopper into a physical or online store and transform them from stranger to paying customer.

This can include any combination of online and offline digital channels, product and customer information, analytics, and order management. The convergence of these various channels enable customers to interact not soley on digital platforms, but for retailers to bridge all channels with digital tools. Some key pieces that support digital commerce are:

  • Online digital channels: social media, online marketing campaigns, customer support
  • Offline channels: in-store marketing, point-of-sale processes, the physical storefront
  • Resource management: product lifecycle, digital assets
  • Customer management: customer information, CRM tools, marketing automation that connects systems to ensure information accuracy
  • Analytics: insights, metrics, and goals that measure success
  • Order management: purchase orders, tracking, fulfillment, ERP tool

In the Bloomreach explanation of digital commerce, it explains that analytics and order management are specifically connected through business intelligence, and order management and product information are specifically connected through commerce. However, these pillars don’t operate in silos: it takes a robust, and sophisticated set of solutions (or in some cases, a single powerhouse solution) that operate the many areas interconnectedly to reap the benefit of digital commerce.

But what about e-commerce?

Referring to online commerce transactions that occur over the internet. When a customer browses an online store and complete the purchase through that same platform, that is where e-commerce occurs. While some businesses may have websites that showcase inventory, like a virtual product catalog, without being able to facilitate a purchase, true e-commerce is not achieved.

E-commerce is likely the most well-known term in the online retailing sphere. Yes, online retailing is an essential part of digital commerce, but it no longer accounts for the only piece of the puzzle. The digitalization of retail is set to continue and to keep up, other areas of business, beyond the transaction, have had to embrace its new digital nature.

Why is digital commerce important?

Digitalization is a huge part of the increased need for digitally powered retail. Mobile device user numbers have increased, the demand for convenience has gone up, and the general modernization of the world demonstrates the this isn’t a fad, it’s a cultural shift.

The result of these changes is that customers have greater expectations in speed, agility, and service of the businesses they patronize, but also with product availability and selection. The online world opens the door to a near-infinite number of businesses for a customer to choose from, so a customer’s brand loyalty is far less saturated. Retailers have to work exceedingly hard to acquire, retain, and capture the loyalty of customers.

By implementing digital commerce tactics, retailers can prepare for the next step in their business. A Qualtrics report showed that 82% of customers turn to mobile to help them make a purchase decision. In the same study, 65% of customers said that a digital experience was highly influential in them recommending the brand to others.

The importance of digital commerce shows up as:

  • Being able to provide a more consistent customer experience. When systems are connected and meet customers along the channels that they use most, a customer is more likely to have a positive retail experience. This then translates into a positive association with your brand through your digital commerce platform and will strengthen the loyalty they have to your brand
  • Improving agility to add new solutions to your stack. Whether this is new methods of payment like the ability to take payments from anywhere, or whether you’re testing out new marketing tactics to re-engage your existing customers, many digital commerce solutions can integrate with existing platforms to make the addition of software as easy as possible.
  • Maintaining a competitive advantage. Search trends for digital commerce are rising because retailers are eagerly seeking out ways to protect their market share, their customer base, and their opportunity for growth. The digital commerce ecosystem leaves room for growth as the requirements to stay competitive change.

The benefits of digital commerce

Responding to this shift in retail isn’t easy, but it helps to understand how digital commerce can benefit your business.

If you’d like a deeper understanding of the digital commerce benefits, start by understanding how each piece would support you.

  • Online digital channels can be both transactional and non-transactional and are the digital pathways connecting your message with your audience. Integrated online channels connect the right promotions to support new products
  • Offline channels are the non-digital channels that support digital commerce. The physical workstation point of sale, the brick-and-mortar storefront, and the Internet of Things are all the in-person necessities that are a destination for a customer once they’ve interacted with digital commerce.
  • Product information remains consistent across all spaces with digital commerce implemented. No matter the channel, offline or online, the customer will always know what to expect from your business.
  • Customer information is essential to supporting a consistent experience and making a customer feel like they’re valued. Digital commerce keeps customer accounts and transaction history accessible so they can be supported in their next purchase.
  • Analytics power insights that drive your business forward. When digital commerce powers analytical functionality, it captures the full picture of your operations.
  • Order management is streamlined with digital commerce with the right pieces of information pulled from the right areas at the right time.

Digital commerce is the platform that bridges the transition from the “old” to the “new” retail. As the digitalization of the industry continues, businesses that enable parts of all of this ecosystem are taking leaps and bounds into preparedness for the future—near and far.

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