The seamless integration of online, offline, logistics and data, across the entire value chain, will define next-generation commerce. Products must succeed in a primarily digital environment, and recognising this is essential. The aim is to redefine commerce by creating seamless experiences across diverse channels, while making more meaningful connections with consumers. The sooner this happens, the sooner we can move from fragmented to frictionless retail. 

Omni-brand not omnichannel 

Consumers are pledging their loyalty to the provision of services, solutions, and experiences. They are using their increased control to create personal retail ecosystems, populated with those best able to deliver the personalised, seamless, integrated experiences they are learning to expect. 

Many brands are already doing this, preserving valuable retailer relationships, and growing direct connections with consumers. 

All this is putting an end to standard shopping processes and changing the relationship consumers have with retailers and brands. Consumers want good experiences. As they see and shop the brand, it’s irrelevant which channel this occurs in. Success depends on making meaningful, relevant, and appropriate connections with consumers. This requires creating omni-brand not omnichannel experiences. This means providing integrated, constant brand experiences at every interaction, connecting with consumers one-on-one, while enabling unified online and offline engagement. 

Perfecting experience fundamentals 

When a “sales campaign” and actual “sale” are separated only by one click, brands gain the opportunity to reach consumers in new, exciting ways. Shift focus from sales fundamentals to perfecting experience fundamentals, generating smart content to deploy everywhere to forge new connections, facilitate sales conversion, and boost loyalty. Constantly refine and reinvent messaging for new missions and occasions. 

In the world of social commerce, every consumer might be a mini-influencer; an active partner in social selling. Marketing capabilities and budgets should include the creation of engaging, relevant content for deployment on social media, either directly or indirectly. Sales teams and media agencies should think of online and offline touchpoints as media platforms, while marketers must care more about selling. Adopting a more integrated approach, learning as you go, will transform marketing from a brand expense into a brand asset. 
Adopting smarter shopper-centricity  

The best brands place the shopper at the heart of their operation, by considering the end-to-end experience, from awareness to purchase to referral. Better consumer connections can be enabled by embedding data and smart technology into operations, breaking down data silos for cross-functional interconnection, and extending links into the broader ecosystems of Alibaba and Amazon. The final building block in joining up all the dots is leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to identify meaningful insights from the plethora of data collected across the path-to-purchase, creating a holistic view of an individual consumer. This is smart shopper-centricity, and it is essential in providing omni-brand experiences. 

Thinking like a retailer

Understanding the complete value equation, and extracting the best results from it, is essential. For many consumers, saving time is as important as saving money, and we increasingly expect friction-free shopping. At the same time, we want experiences that engage and inspire, and are tailored to our needs and appropriate to the shopping mission. Amazon – the brand the UK trusts most with its personal data – constantly tunes its value equation to ensure the best results. To compete, brands will need to be more entrepreneurial, willing to fail fast, and act with flexibility and speed. In other words, they should be more like a retailer. Or more like Amazon. 

Acting as a one demand team 

Winning in this new world of retail requires rethinking and redesigning operations; creating integrated teams, with sales and marketing working in harmony, is a basic requirement. Success requires working effectively in cross-functional teams which include marketing, sales, consumer engagement, ecommerce, store, data analysis, and supply chain. Supply chains will need to be sufficiently flexible to adjust in real time based on sales results, and will increasingly incorporate a range of emerging technologies, from AI to the Internet of Things, to voice technology, and eventually blockchain. Successful brands will transform their operations to exploit the opportunities represented by all of this, making them both more effective and more efficient. 

Modernising route-to-market and retail formats 

Old retail is fragmented, defined by multi-layered distribution networks, and riddled with pain-points. Costs are high, brands have limited control, poor transparency into sales, and legacy systems that are unable to accommodate new routes to the consumer. In the age of frictionless retail, distribution networks will be simplified. The leading brands will cut out pain-points, remove middle-men, and create streamlined digital-enabled route-to-market models. Costs will fall because value chains will be less complex, coverage will be expanded thanks to greater supply chain flexibility, and sales performance and channel relationship visibility will increase thanks to real-time inventory and sales data. With greater control of the value chain, brands introduce targeted retail formats, and reduce communication costs, while increasing SKU productivity. Messaging is tailored, and insights generated from sales data relied upon to optimise product portfolios within a retailer. 

This is a journey, not a destination. To thrive, brands must acknowledge that the changes they make now, the capabilities they develop, and the operating models they devise, won’t produce instant results. Incrementality is the wrong mentality, with success requiring brands to constantly refine and reinvent themselves for new missions and occasions. By thinking omni-brand over omnichannel, and focusing on experience not sales fundamentals, we’ll begin to erode the pain-points that irritate shoppers and enable the factors that win their loyalty to take over. As a result, fragmented retail will become frictionless. 

Read more from Kantar’s FragmentNation series.  

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