The Digital Commerce Leader

Businesses need new sales models and interfaces to stay relevant in decades to come

The future of commerce is hard to fathom. Old rules no longer apply, new sales models are constantly evolving, and the pace of change is so fast that organisations are constantly playing catch-up.

It’s vital for organisations and their leaders to have a sense of what’s on the horizon. But many business leaders are so busy just trying to survive – hitting this week’s, this month’s and this quarter’s results – that all too often they don’t have the time to future-gaze.

But future-gazing on its own is not enough. To stay relevant in decades to come, businesses need to plan and invest for the future.

At Wunderman Thompson Commerce, we wanted to understand more about the leaders who are shaping their businesses for this uncertain future. What do they think it will look like? How confident are they that they know what’s coming? Are their businesses ready for it? How successful are they at reacting to these changes? What makes them succeed or gets in the way of success?

So, we surveyed over 500 digital commerce leaders, half from the US and half from the UK, to learn just this. Our questions ranged from the future-readiness of their thinking and planning, and their feelings about the future of commerce in the shadow of retail giants, to how they hope to appeal to the next generation of customers. We even quizzed them about their own shopping habits and inspiration.

Our survey was supplemented by existing research – The Future Shopper 2019 and Generation Alpha: Preparing for the future consumer. Bringing together the perspectives of current shoppers, future shoppers and decision-makers in this way gave us an unparalleled view of the future of commerce.

What did we find?

  • On the positive side, we found a group of individuals who can legitimately claim to be at the cutting edge of new business models and interfaces – such as influencing, social commerce and voice. With this belief and knowledge, they must now work to get their organisations on board. 
  • Digital commerce projects are complicated affairs with numerous moving parts and stakeholders. Boosting success rates while minimising budget spent is a huge business challenge.
  • Advance planning is crucial. To be able to compete, digital commerce leaders must find a way to look further ahead than just 15.5 months.
  • Digital commerce leaders must lift their heads up and look to the future with well-thought-out and well-constructed strategies. They must work effectively across the key commerce channels. They must consider their omni-channel presence and must be aligned with what their customers want.

What are the next steps?

These are our recommendations for digital commerce leaders and their bosses:

  1. Work to identify why digital commerce projects fail and focus on where they go wrong to improve their success rate.
  2. A key reason for failure is a lack of alignment with customer needs so digital commerce leaders must find ways to understand customers’ current experiences across touchpoints – they should consider conducting CX research and mapping, and even service blueprinting.
  3. Leaders must strive to plan further than 15.5 months ahead – this is vital if businesses are to remain relevant to their customers in the future. Alongside a commerce consultancy like Wunderman Thompson Commerce, leaders should develop a strategic plan that sees their organisation winning years and decades into the future.
  4. The plan must be balanced across the four key digital commerce channels : marketplaces, retailers, direct to consumer and social commerce. Working with partners with experience across all these channels is crucial.
  5. In particular, commerce leaders must work with Amazon, while at the same time investing in and developing their D2C offerings and exploiting what Amazon can’t do (WACD).
  6. Social media, influencing, and ultimately social commerce strategies and capabilities will be the core offering of successful commerce companies. Leaders must develop their strategies, engage with the platforms and test out social commerce.
  7. Finally, digital commerce leaders must stay abreast of what customers in the future will be demanding. Plans must be constantly reviewed based on how shoppers will shop in the future.

For more in-depth insight and actions to help digital commerce leaders prepare for the future read Wunderman Thompson Commerce’s Ready or not? The Digital Commerce Leader

Hugh Fletcher

Head of Thought Leadership, Wunderman Thompson Commerce

published on

13 December 2019



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