Ready, set, buy: Winning the billion-dollar commerce cart race

"Commerce is not the end of the customer journey, but very much every part of it."

Today, you can buy from anywhere. With a tap, swipe, smile or a emoji. In social, gaming, emerging tech like AR and ‘human’ experiences like voice. And let’s not forget, cash.

There’s more buying than ever before. This year, the world’s largest shopping season, China’s Double Eleven, saw USD$1 billion in sales in the first 68 seconds. At the end of just the first hour, USD$14.3 billion was transacted. That’s about half of the total record USD$7.4 billion in sales recorded for 2019’s Black Friday. All mind-boggling numbers that will surely grow year on year. And now it’s time for holiday shopping.

Today, eCommerce has transcended occasion, time, location and method. But one thing has, and will always remain the same. The customer is boss, buying on her own terms. Though choices and media complexity have made the customer harder than ever to reach, technology and data can help brands understand their audience’s intent and preferences better, enabling brands to put the customer in the centre by designing omnipresent, connected, personalized and differentiated commerce experiences. 

Commerce is not the end of the customer journey, but very much every part of it. In Isobar’s recent ‘Headless Commerce’ report, we showed how a connected commerce approach is reconciled with the data collected across a brand’s customer touchpoints. Which includes understanding a person’s behaviors and preferences on an Alexa Skill, Apple Watch, video views, search, social, chat bot conversations, site, cart items and retail visits which includes the fulfillment, for example in optimizing grocery store operations with 1-hour delivery services.

But how can brands ensure sustainable and exponential success? At Isobar, we believe digital experiences, powered by creativity, can transform brands. In a world of sameness, creativity supercharges never-before commerce possibilities.

Growing competition has made the gap between inspiration and transaction, often called ‘the last mile’, feel more like ‘a million miles’. And creativity is the silver bullet that can close that gap to get customers closer to transaction. When our best minds from design, strategy, technology, data and commerce come together, every experience we create for people can be the best experience possible. Each orchestrated to build the brand, with innovative creativity, craft, consistency and purpose. 

A recent example is the digital platform overhaul for Zwilling Group by Isobar US. For context, Zwilling Group acquired premium brands like Miyabi, Demeyere, Staub and Ballarini over the years. With that, the clients took the strategic decision to architect a single house of brands for Zwilling Group. In partnership with Isobar, a brand new narrative of ‘Complete Kitchen Inspiration’ was born and we created more than a direct-to-consumer website. Isobar’s expertise combined with the client’s robust social strategy fueled with a continuous audience flow, bridging site design and transaction. The entire ecosystem was connected and seamless, creating a consistent brand experience no matter where you connect with the brand.

Working in partnership since 2015, the KFC and Isobar China teams have rewritten the commerce playbook many times over. With the creative application of technology, and putting the customer in the centre, the brand has transformed the commerce experience through deep understanding of consumer truths, needs and pain points. With a fast-growing loyalty club membership of 185 million Chinese, KFC China has enjoyed 12 consecutive quarters of sales growth.

We may need an entire Master Class to cover KFC China’s commerce transformation, but here are some highlights:

• Pay with a Smile: Choose your meal, smile, payment done! KFC China’s marketing team introduced this in 2016. 

• High-Speed Train delivery: Now in 24 cities, KFC China partnered with the China rail system to enable customers to order their meals from their seats and get them delivered at the next earliest train stop, right to their seats, thanks to train schedule integration. 

• DUMI dialect recognition ordering robot: China’s 56 ethnic groups speak 80 dialects. DUMI A.I. Robot, in partnership with Baidu, allows everyone to order meals in their original dialects. 

• Christmas Pocket Stores: Tapping into the new phenomenon of ‘social commerce’, customers can now be virtual KFC franchisees on WeChat. KFC Pocket Store owners enjoy discounts and vouchers when they order from their friend’s Pocket Stores. Recognized with a Cannes eCommerce Gold Lion, over 8 million Pocket Stores have been opened in the last twelve months. 

• Rainy Day Menu: Food brands struggle to keep up with the unpredictable spike in delivery orders when it rains. Leveraging real-time location and weather data, a ‘pop up menu’ is activated in the KFC app when it rains. Simplified combo meals that reduce preparation and delivery time by 25% are helping the brand win the lucrative food delivery war.  

At this time of year when spending peaks globally, brands should investigate if they’re truly capitalizing on the unlimited potential of the modern commerce universe. The most successful examples have always put customers in the centre by understanding their behaviors, needs, pain points and rewarding them for their loyalty. Powered by creativity, we can augment the human experience to inspire transaction, build long term brand love and create customers for life.

Ronald Ng is global chief creative officer at Isobar.

Start Your Free 30-Day Free Trial

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free