In a world where consumers can shop from anywhere, at any time, the traditional purchase funnel is moot. How, then, do we move customers along to purchase, no matter where their journey starts?
During “e-commerce and the customer journey,” the third session of Campaign Tech Talks’ virtual event, experts unpacked strategies for success in a changed landscape. Sponsored by Reprise Commerce and Initiative, participants included:
- Will Margaritis, SVP digital and global e-commerce, Reprise Commerce
- Stacy DeRiso, US CEO, Initiative
- Jay Picconatto, head of global commerce and media, General Mills
- Moderator: Sabrina Sanchez, reporter, Campaign US
E-commerce has changed dramatically over the last several years and exponentially since the onset of the pandemic. Many barriers for consumers — namely shopping for groceries — were eradicated with grocery stores and restaurants altering their communications, occasionally partnering with brands to help with messaging. For Will Margaritis, SVP digital and global e-commerce at Reprise Commerce, one of the biggest changes behind-the-scenes has been a renewed interest in cross-platform.
“Back in April of 2020, many retailers saw their supply chains sort of just fall apart,” he said. “This led to the adoption of DTC as a rising channel. The other major change has been the erosion of the traditional paradigm of consumers engaging with media first, then moving to conversion. We’re now seeing brands consider all of their media from a transaction perspective, wondering what retail media can do to drive the brand, but also what can awareness media do to shift the consumer to that transaction?”
At Initiative, whereas media was once “a message vehicle,” during the pandemic, it evolved into “a vehicle for the whole customer experience.”
“Brands and consumers are now able to engage and transact in media vehicles and units, which has increased expectations from brands and clients now that media must get closer to purchase and transaction” explained Stacy DeRiso, US CEO of Initiative. “Today, it’s about the entire consumer journey.”
Speaking to some of General Mills’ recent strategies, Jay Picconatto, head of global commerce and media admitted, “Acceleration came and we weren’t ready for it. Nor were our retailer partners. So we are now fast-tracking, building capabilities behind-the-scenes and upskilling the organization and our ability to measure performance. The goal is hyper-personalization and performance marketing through a lens of data around search, content, availability, navigation, and ratings and reviews.”
At some point in our lives, even before technology, we all experienced the frustration of someone trying to sell us something way outside of our wheelhouse. Today, with ads and pop-up suggestions flying at us from every corner of the media landscape, what stands out is when a brand has done its work and tailored the messaging to us. At Initiative, developing personalized e-commerce strategies is all about shelf space.
“One of the things we talk about is how the aisle has transformed,” said DeRiso. “How does media make it easier to navigate those new aisles and new shopping experiences?” Noting that buzzwords such as “data technology” and “personalization” have been around for a while, she adds, “They're real now and they’re rapidly increasing through technology. I think the secret sauce is how you use that technology and the insights gleaned to gauge people’s behaviors in order to customize products and offers accordingly.”
Secret-sauce best practices she relayed included: “Leverage demographics to ensure that when a customer gets to the website, they’re receiving a customized experience rather than seeing products that are outside the category of the data you have on them”; and “Remember that your brand is doing a lot of audience work with their marketing. It’s critical that you nurture that handshake to ensure that whatever is being built on a product detail page, reflects back to make the audience feel special.”
For Margaritis, it’s the handshakes shared behind-the-scenes that ensure a seamless personalization. “It’s about making sure the sales team is working with the same information the brand marketing team and shopper marketing team are,” he explained.
The future journey
We all know how things used to be. We know what we have to do now, but what about the future? Wrapping up the discussion with thoughts on some of the new opportunities in e-commerce, DeRiso exclaimed, “There are so many! I think mostly of the myriad purchases and types of transactions on social media and the categories that are using those spaces differently are really exciting.”
Margaritis imagines a hybrid future in which a return to the funnel paradigm will include even greater, more evolved personalization. “The consumer/brand/e-commerce relationship doesn’t end when the money is collected,” he said. “It includes how the product is packaged, how quickly it ships and how quickly it’s delivered, followed by incentives for the consumer to come back and leave ratings and reviews.”
In full agreement, Picconatto added, “I think we’re moving to a world of connected commerce where it really is a deep understanding of the personalized journey. As we keep working with our retailer partners, we’re going to see more and more overlap with e-commerce platforms driving greater personalization and delivering on consumer’s terms.”
Learn more about Reprise Commerce here.
Learn more about Initiative here.