Nina Anderson is one of three Digital Strategist MVPs in the UK

Nina Anderson is one of three Digital Strategist MVPs in the UK

As a Sitecore Gold Partner, we use their impressive commerce tools to help our clients manage the whole customer experience—before, during, and after they make a purchase.

How do your customers behave before they buy, during and after the purchasing process? How can you give them relevant information at exactly the right moment? How can you gain competitive advantages and encourage loyalty by making your communications more personalised?

For Sitecore it’s all about contextual commerce. Customer experience is a recognised trend in digital marketing and Sitecore is now bringing all the disparate experiences together with Sitecore® Experience Platform™ (XP).

Sitecore Commerce gives you the tools to understand your customers better so you can connect in a way which is more personalised, relevant and timely to them. Whether you’re a major retailer, travel brand or software producer, improving the customer’s experience means they are more likely to buy your products and give you repeat business.

Where content and commerce meet

Today’s customer can be reached through so many different channels, from email marketing, social media, your website, and of course in stores themselves. They have high expectations of your content, expecting it to be personalised and delivered at just the right moment.

So it feels odd when we buy a washing machine, only to receive a message from the same retailer showcasing the latest offers on washing machines. A friend laughs about being sent an email in August promoting men’s winter clothing, before showing off her new dress (which she’d bought as a result of a 10% discount offer based on her personal buying and browsing history).

Having the right tools at your disposal means your marketing can be much more targeted, leading to a far higher conversion rate. For the customer, it feels like an intuitive experience. They are more likely to stick with a brand which is in tune with their needs.

What are the core features of Sitecore Commerce?

With Sitecore Commerce and the Sitecore® Experience Platform™ (XP) you’re armed with four key weapons in your fight to gain competitive advantage. Building on the existing Sitecore Commerce platform, many features have been enhanced so your customer communications are even more powerful, timely and relevant.

Key features include:

  • Commerce-specific reports: Sitecore Commerce extends Sitecore XP’s Sitecore Experience Profiles with commerce interactions like product browsing, basket content and purchase history. It also integrates fully with the campaign goals and outcomes featured in Sitecore XP.
  • Ability to edit product details: power users will enjoy the advanced merchandising functionality in Sitecore Commerce. You can edit in Sitecore XP’s Merchandising Manager with a web-based and touch-enabled dashboard for editing and previewing product data and images, variants and up-sell and cross-sell product links.
  • Simple installation and configuration: Sitecore XP 8.1 makes for a far simpler installation and configuration that accelerates deployment and scalability. If you just need the catalogue service, for example, you only need to install that. If you need more capacity on the pricing engine, you only need to install that. Previously, you had to install and configure the entire product each time you added a component.
  • Commerce experience management in the cloud: Sitecore Commerce can be run on SQL Azure and with Sitecore XP and Sitecore® Web Experience Manager Cloud Editions, which removes an enormous amount of setup and configuration and delivers all the same value as Sitecore XP on Azure—you sign up and immediately start developing your solution.

Incremental improvements and big impacts

The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is currently 68.63%. That’s a heck of a lot of customers that oh-so-nearly bought your product. You may not know why they didn’t complete the transaction, but maybe with a little nudge they can be encouraged to go the distance? Getting that abandoned cart rate down can significantly increase sales. Sitecore gives you insight into why purchases get abandoned. It also gives you testing capability to quickly test and improve your conversion rate. Simple tools which plug the gaps in your knowledge and test optimisations mean you will make many small incremental improvements which have a massive impact on your bottom line.

With Sitecore you can set up an email trigger to send a discounted delivery offer, or use geo-location to send content that relates to their local store. It’s more than just personalising emails with a person’s name, it’s contextual intelligence – using Sitecore’s inbuilt analytics to discover the best time to send the message, the right channels to use and the format which will have the best outcome.

A more personalised experience shows you understand your customer

This ability to map customer profiles and track their journey across all devices and channels is what enables brands to deliver the sort of personalised, relevant content at exactly the right moment. Your customers feel like you know them.

Say you’re a major travel brand. A customer looks up prices on flights to Europe over a half-term holiday, then read your blog post about family-friendly city breaks. When they next visit your site you can personalise the experience by offering information on car hire, hotels and restaurants, coupled with relevant discounts. Staying on your site and booking that family break to Barcelona feels like a natural next step.

Pricing based on personas gives the right incentives to the right people

Being able to track your customers’ buying behaviour allows you to make offers tailored to them, offering a seamless, intuitive experience. It’s always a risk that you’ve given a discount to someone who wasn’t even looking for one, or that you send out so many offers that customers are put off buying until they’ve received the latest discount code.

As a sportswear brand, for example,  you may see someone buying running shoes, water bottles and shorts in the spring. As the seasons change you can send an email promoting high-visibility running gear with discounts on accessories like gloves and hats, plus links to helpful content about preventing injuries in cold weather. If they haven’t bought anything for a while you may send them something more general, like a free gift if they spend over £40. Something to knock them out of their dormant state!

Targeted promotions to get closer to the right customers

How sensitive are you to your customers’ needs? Do you really know what they care about? In an online commerce study carried out by Sitecore and research firm Vanson Bourne, they found that 62% of consumers are actually willing to share their preferences in order to enjoy a more personalised customer experience.

This two-way engagement is great news for marketers. Using Sitecore Commerce you can gain a 360-degree view of your customers, so you can give customers what they want right now and make an educated guess about what they’ll need next. It’s not always about discounts, it’s about sending out relevant promotions: think Waitrose promoting their £10 meal deal late on a Friday afternoon to previous customers while they’re thinking about dinner, or clothing brands analysing your purchasing history and giving you inspiration for a party outfit during the festive period.

End-to-end engagement tools to track the timeline

The point at which your customers buy from you is actually the mid-point in the whole cycle. We need to consider their behaviour in the run-up to the purchase and afterwards too, where they continue to be in touch with your brand both online and offline.

So it becomes about continual engagement. If you’re offering something more personalised and contextual, you have the opportunity to boost sales and encourage brand loyalty.