In the not-too-distant past, if you saw something you liked in a magazine, on television, or in a store, you probably had limited options for acquiring that product. If the format were a magazine or on television, you’d have to search for it online or go to a store, and look for it. If you saw it in a store, you could purchase it there—if it was in stock.
Even in the early days of the internet, if you found something on a website you liked, you would have to open a new page to find the product’s home page; the speeds were a lot slower too! Overall, the customer journey to the checkout process hasn’t always been the easiest, affecting shopping experiences.
Recently, there’s been a shift in customer experience thanks in part to mobile devices, social media platforms, and online shopping trends. Businesses rely more on a distributed commerce business model to minimize the number of customers lost before the checkout process.
What is Distributed Commerce?
In a nutshell, distributed commerce is about anticipating where your customers will be when they’re online, and giving them plenty of shopping options. The idea is to minimize the number of steps customers take to purchase your product once they discover it.
For example, if a customer is browsing their Instagram feed and they see a set of kitchen pans they like, a distributed commerce strategy would be to have a link directly from that post to the product page or even to checkout, with the product details ready-added. In many ways, distributed commerce effectively creates shoppable content in varied online marketplaces.
Is Distributed Commerce Effective?
There are numerous steps in a traditional checkout setting before you can complete your purchase. You must enter your payment info, shipping address, shipping preferences, and more. A glitch in one of those steps, and your customer will be annoyed or give up altogether.
Distributed commerce improves upon this process by offering a greater chance of checkout completion, equalling happier customers and more revenue. So yes, distributed commerce is effective, especially if you’re running a new business just starting out, and looking to build a loyal customer base.
Benefits of distributed commerce
Distributed commerce has many benefits, and they’re not limited according to the size of your company. Small and large businesses alike can benefit from distributed commerce. Retailers and brands can connect with customers on various social media platforms, like Instagram or Facebook, directly contacting their customers who are already using these platforms.
Additionally, customers on social media platforms will have fewer barriers to purchase since they can buy an item as soon as they see it, otherwise known as the point of inspiration. They’ll also have fewer clicks or checkout steps before they complete their purchase.
And finally, one of the main benefits of distributed commerce is that it makes it much easier to make purchases from your mobile phone.
Even websites modified for mobile phones can be glitchy during checkout; so the fact that consumers can make a purchase from their favorite social media app on their phone is a huge boon for the online commerce experience, and retail management as a whole.
5 Steps to a Distributed Commerce Strategy
Once you commit to developing a distributed commerce strategy, the steps to make it a reality are straightforward.
Make distributed commerce your life.
Short of eating, breathing, and sleeping everything to do with distributed commerce, ensure your product is everywhere it needs to be. Limiting availability to your website or a physical store will do you no favors, so make sure your product is on multiple feeds with frequent updates.
Solidify your technology plan.
Moving towards a distributed commerce model will fundamentally change how you use technology on your platform. Beef up your platform, and existing tech stack as you progress in your distributed commerce strategy so you’re always ready for the next big thing.
Similarly, ensure your inventory tracking and management systems are up to date, and prepared for distributed commerce. Inventory management can often be overlooked when adapting new strategies. This can have significant negative consequences, like missed orders, and unhappy customers.
If you haven’t already, set up an inventory tracking spreadsheet or purchase inventory tracking software so you’re prepared, and not playing catch-up.
Firm up your digital marketing strategy.
Your digital marketing strategy will be the backbone of your distributed commerce plans. As such, you should ensure your digital marketing strategy addresses your new model and that your products and brand feature in various forms of digital content.
If customers can’t find your product, or it’s not presented well, they’ll be less inclined to purchase at the point of discovery. The best e-commerce website design can help boost conversions, but it can’t make an impact if customers don’t discover your offerings in the first place.
Don’t forget your customers.
As you introduce your distributed commerce strategy, customers will undoubtedly reach out with questions or concerns on multiple channels.
Adapt your customer support team to meet this influx, and ensure they’re aware of all the new changes to best support customers. If you don’t have a retail omnichannel communications solution, invest in one before launching your distributed commerce strategy.
Look to the future.
Distributed commerce isn’t the only change in the business landscape you need to be ready for—new technology, and cultural shifts, are always around the corner. Look at the push toward automation, self-driving vehicles, and 90s nostalgia.
Ensure your business can scale with your industry and evolve with your consumers, and you’ll be prepared for whatever is thrown your way. Adopt software and systems before you think you need them, like multichannel inventory management or customer relationship management software.
The Final Word
Distributed commerce is a fantastic way to get your product out there in front of more eyeballs, especially if you’re a new brand or start-up. This strategy can increase revenue, build your brand following, and keep your business relevant.
Ultimately, you won’t have to worry so much about customers finding their way to your product via a magazine, television ad, or shopping trip to the mall. With a distributed commerce strategy, you’ll be able to make sure you meet your customers where they are in the online experience.