Six Innovative Examples Of Connected Commerce In Real Life
Before 2020, practically every industry you can think of was abuzz with the concept of “digital transformation,” or the adoption of technology to fundamentally change the way a company operates and delivers value. But now, particularly in the retail industry, the Next Big Thing we can’t stop talking about is “Connected Commerce.” By definition, Connected Commerce is a seamless and personalized integration of online and in-store experiences that enables consumers to discover, shop, purchase, and receive goods on their own terms.
Indeed, the typical buying journey of today differs drastically from years past; according to the numbers, 90% of consumers say they use multiple devices to complete everyday tasks, while 40% say they use their mobile device to conduct research prior to making a purchase. To keep up with consumers and satisfy omnichannel demands, companies of all kinds have been forced to update their operations and adopt a Connected Commerce mindset. And typically, that mindset includes four major features: in-app shopping, home delivery, curbside pickup, and social shopping.
It’s estimated that 63% of consumers expect personalized service when they shop, and 76% are likely to support a brand that knows what they want. Not surprisingly, there are several industry players who have emerged on top of the Connected Commerce trend, and they’re helping to concretely define how others can rise to meet that challenge head-on. In this blog, we explore six companies who are currently crushing the Connected Commerce playing field, and provide specific examples that others can adopt to get in the game.
Six Companies With Excellent Connect Commerce Strategies
1) Target: Buy Online, Pick Up In Store
Praised by busy moms and COVID-era shoppers alike, Target’s same-day fulfillment “Buy Online, Pick Up In Store” program, aptly called “Drive Up & Order Pickup,” has gained momentum in recent years before it exploded in popularity during the pandemic. When you’re shopping at Target.com or on the store’s app, instead of assuming online shoppers are willing to wait 3-5 days for a delivery, the very first option that pops up is a “Pick It Up” button, promising the item you’re after will be “ready within 2 hours for pickup inside the store.” If you have your location turned on, it will also automatically populate the store that’s closest to you, or you can edit the store’s location manually. Oh, and you’ll also receive your Drive Up & Order Pickup receipt via email. Talk about a multifaceted shopping adventure.
According to Target, “Drive Up allows you to order items from the Target app, and we’ll bring them out to your car when you arrive at the designated drive-up parking spaces.” On the flip side, “Order Pickup allows you to order items on Target.com or in the Target app and pick them up for free at your local Target store.” Regardless of which option they choose, the shopper will receive an email and in-app notification when the order is ready, and they can also notify Target when they’re On The Way to the store. According to The Motley Fool, Target’s array of convenient, connected shopping options are paying off: “Target shoppers are more likely to use its same-day fulfillment options than are Walmart shoppers (38%) and shoppers overall (36%).” Additionally, Target shoppers’ willingness to try its same-day fulfillment features likely bodes well for the retailer, even after society returns to “normal.”
2) Amazon Go: Cashierless Checkouts
As if Amazon needed another reason to innovate, the introduction of its “Amazon Go” line-free and checkout-free grocery stores in 2018 proved the company really has no limits when it comes to pushing the boundaries of Connected Commerce. According to the company, the “checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning.” Additionally, the “Just Walk Out Technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart.” The cashierless nature of the store means that when you’re done shopping, you can simply leave, and Amazon will automatically send you a digital receipt and charge your account for whatever products you “bought.” Not to mention, you can easily search and re-buy those same items online at a later date if you happen to love them.
According to Grocery Dive, “Amazon Go stores are a fraction of the size of a Walmart Supercenter or Kroger, but 59% of U.S. shoppers see them as a “threat” to major grocers.” And much like the goal of Target’s “Drive Up & Order Pickup” program, the Amazon Go algorithm aims to provide a faster and more convenient experience for consumers looking to grab a few items. Looking to the future of Connected Commerce, Amazon predicts that cloud-based voice services will further revolutionize the buying experience, with 44% of their shoppers indicating that they are likely to use voice services in at least some part of their shopping journey in the next three years: “With voice being integrated into smart speakers, mobile phones, smart devices, cars, wearables, and more, we have truly arrived in an era where device dependency is irrelevant.” Listen up, reader, because if anybody’s on top of trendsetting concepts, it’s Amazon.
3) ILIA Beauty: Social Media Selling
ILIA Beauty is a clean makeup and cosmetics line, and the company excels at online and offline marketing to sell its organic makeup products. The brand’s sales have doubled every year since 2017, and WWD reported ILIA ended 2019 with $22 million in sales. Of course, the surge in demand for “clean beauty” products is partly to thank, but ILIA’s approach to Connected Commerce via social media doesn’t hurt. These days, social media is a strategic sales tool, especially for brands whose target audience happens to be Gen Z-ers and Millennials. A recent report discovered that 94% of B2B buyers conduct some degree of research online before making a business purchase, with 55% conducting online research for at least half of their purchases. Additionally, 51% say social media ads influence their purchasing decisions. Not only does ILIA excel in the social media space, but their influencer program helps connect real-life product users to people casually scrolling through their feeds.
Another way that ILIA display’s an impressive understanding of social media as a Connected Commerce tool is the brand’s ability to listen to online chatter and respond to consumer demands in fresh, never-been-seen-before ways. In particular, as the world moves away from perfectly filtered photos to embrace the rawness of, you know, being human, more and more women have been begging to see actual representation in the form of age and various skin tones and textures in social media campaigns. To its credit, ILIA has answered that ask with videos upon videos featuring older models using the brands’ makeup. According to a contributing writer for Byrdie, “the combination of watching people apply makeup in real time and seeing it on a diverse range of skin types and skin tones was refreshing to say the very least.” The response? Amazingly positive, says the brand.
4) Lowe’s: Early E-Commerce Expansion
Lowe’s specializes in home improvement, and the brand averaged $90 billion in sales in 2020. According to CEO Marvin Ellison, the company has invested extensively in e-commerce since he took over in 2018 – a strategy that paid off big-time when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Part of Lowe’s early adoption of Connected Commerce included its new store app and a shift to a Google Cloud e-commerce platform, both of which helped the company pivot to an increased demand for home-improvement sales during stay-at-home orders. Indeed, during an August 2020 earnings call, the company “reported that Lowes.com saw a sales spike of 135% in online sales year-over-year along with a ‘higher than expected’ rate of downloads of the store’s mobile app.” Another thing that helped the company fulfil so many e-commerce orders was its dedication to improving supply chain management with the development of two new distribution centers.
Of course, Lowe’s status as an “essential business” helped to keep its profits afloat during mass store closures. But if the company didn’t have the foresight to invest heavily in e-commerce alternatives before 2020, who knows if their sales would have been so impressively high? According to Fortune.com, Lowe’s approach to Connected Commerce includes “better search capability, more stability, and better interaction with employees’ handheld devices so they can tell customers in real time on the store floor if something is in stock or online.” Additionally, the company’s dedication to enabling curbside pickup of online orders and giving customers the ability to schedule a delivery in a narrow time window helped the company adapt to serve shoppers who were reluctant to go in-store. Lowe’s is one of the best examples of the positive change that can happen when you embrace digital transformation early-on.
5) Samsung: AI-Powered Shopping
Samsung has long been leading the industry with its “Connected Spaces” pop-up store solution, which was developed to help retailers gain e-commerce-like insights into customer visits to their stores. That early move aimed to blur the line between URL and IRL and take advantage of the best of both worlds; the experience of in-store shopping with the insights of its e-commerce counterpart. According to the company, “this enables retailers to better understand the customer journey from entrance to purchase, and use the information for Pop-Up store layout, product placement, staff scheduling and inventory management.” Additionally, Samsung’s “Connected Spaces” delivers an Internet of Things-ready solution that provides retailers with data and insight on key store factors – including customer traffic, dwell time, and shopper demographics.
Not only is Samsung helping to change the way that consumers shop for its own electronic products, but its new Samsung Family Hub refrigerator is also helping to change the way that consumers shop for FOOD. According to The Verge, Samsung’s new AI-powered fridge/freezer combo “can scan what’s inside and let users know what items they’re short on, even making meal suggestions based on the ingredients they still have.” Samsung’s Family Hub smart fridge was first unveiled at CES 2016, and since then, the company has been rolling out updated iterations with Bixby support, SmartThings integration, and AKG speakers. The latest edition adds software upgrades to enable AI image recognition with its “View Inside” cameras. If you’re a lucky owner of a Samsung fridge, it will actually enhance your grocery shopping experience, whether that’s from your phone or inside a brick-and-mortar store.
6) Walgreens: App For On-The-Go
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Walgreens announced via press release “an expansion of its strategic partnership with Microsoft and Adobe to launch a world-class digital experience and customer insights platform to deliver personalized healthcare and shopping offerings.” According to the company’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, the decision was driven by a mission to deliver extraordinary experiences that enrich customers’ lives. With key features of Walgreen’s digital transformation program, customers can now engage with the health, wellness, and beauty retailer on their own time, in their own way. According to HubSpot, “Walgreens has created an omni-channel pharmaceutical experience by using its mobile app as a primary tool for brand communications.” Within the app, customers can check on the status of prescriptions and request refills without having to call the pharmacy. They can also set up reminders that will alert them if a prescription needs to be refilled by a doctor.
Although a large part of Walgreen’s profits depends on its pharmacy division, the move towards Connected Commerce also applies to the company’s photo prints and loyalty program. According to Medium, Walgreens’ photos business allows users to print copies of their digital photos through a kiosk at the store, the Walgreens website, and also through the app. Regarding the loyalty program, Balance Rewards, customers can choose to receive a physical Balance Rewards card or they can use a digital card through the Walgreens app. Walgreens also tracks its consumers location with “geofencing,” so that when a consumer is near a Walgreens store, they’ll receive an alert that opens the app and displays a list of relevant coupons for that location. Walgreens opened for business in 1901, and 120 years later, it’s continuing to blaze a path for other health and wellness stores nationwide.
Connected Commerce Isn’t One-Size-Fits-All, But The Goal Is The Same
Not every “Connected Commerce” strategy is created equal, but the collective goal should always remain the same: to meet customers on their own time and terms to enhance the buying journey – online, offline, and on-the-go. There are various tactics to consider when developing a Connected Commerce strategy; app development, social media selling, BOPIS, same-day delivery, you name it. The key is to really get to know your customers first and foremost, and then develop solutions that will be most effective for them, the end-users. If you need assistance with your own Connected Commerce strategy, BDS has your back. We have an array of retail, experiential, digital, and virtual selling solutions in our wheelhouse for you to pick and choose from to create a unique, future-proof sales approach.