The retail hero out of COVID was by a long shot the ecommerce players, or those that quickly shifted to online.

According to the World Health Organisation, Australian ecommerce grew more than 80 per cent year on year in the 8 weeks after the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, the Australian Bureau of Statistics flagged that online sales last December surged 55 per cent year on year with more than 5.6 million Australian households having shopped online during the month.

Beyond the pandemic, it is now clear that Australian retailers have realised ecommerce wasn’t just something they needed to make it through 2020, but rather a long-term avenue for new opportunities and growth.

GlobalData’s most recent report showed that e-commerce sales in Australia are set to reach a compound growth rate of 10.3 percent through 2024, Amazon just passed $1bn in revenue in Australia, while Woolworths just a few weeks ago announced it will be retraining 60,000 staff in e-commerce operations to meet expected online shopping demand.

But amid this positive move, glaring gaps have emerged: content and ecommerce are more divided than ever and customer journey mapping is starting to show its limits.

Two keys to success lie in better aligning content with commerce, as well as moving beyond customer journey mapping and into experience journey mapping.

Content and commerce: moving from a divided house to a glorious union

Most ecommerce platforms are poor matchmakers, resulting in ecommerce experiences that are difficult to manage and difficult to make profitable. Instead of highlighting the strengths of a combined content and commerce approach, they accentuate the drawbacks by stretching themselves too thin.

Many retailers use a dozen different systems to cover every aspect of the overall ecommerce experience. Typically, a CMS oversees the web experience, an ecommerce platform handles the selling process, then there are all sorts of systems caught in the middle, from product information management to invoicing.

In most cases, this translates into more of an “entanglement” than a “marriage” with a bunch of different systems doing their own thing tripping over each other constantly.

While many do-it-all ecommerce platforms do provide a smattering of relevant capabilities, it comes at the cost of the depth that sacrifices being able to streamline and scale ecommerce operations while creating a frictionless online experience.

To build successful e-commerce strategies in 2021, Australian retailers need to build integrated content and commerce strategies.

Detangling the ecommerce experience

The marriage of content and commerce can empower retailers to control every aspect of the ecommerce experience from payment processing down to content publishing—all from one place.

Retailers need to look at platforms that are built around the concept of extensibility. This is important because, just as no two businesses are the same, no two ecommerce experiences are the same either. Organisations need a platform they can mold to fit specific business requirements and strategy—all while being easy to implement and cost-effective.

This approach enables organisations to focus on breaking down the silos that hinder selling capabilities and prevent the delivery of richer ecommerce experiences.

As part of that approach, retailers also need to look at new ways to better integrate rich-content platforms and tools such as chatbots, digital portals, CMS capabilities and more as those are set to become the norm and serve a complete digital experience.

Moving beyond customer journey mapping, into experience journey mapping

While managing a compelling website is super important in an ecommerce age, it’s only one tiny piece of the ecommerce puzzle. Being able to manage the entire shopping experience with ease is equally important.

Crafting personalised and meaningful digital experiences in retail requires moving beyond the traditional customer experience journey view and into experience mapping.

The purpose of customer journey mapping is to identify potential pain points they might encounter throughout the process of moving from the buyer cycle’s first stage until after making a purchase.

Customer experience mapping is about taking a holistic and all-encompassing approach to visualise the customer’s experience, looking at the customer’s experiences from beginning to end without focusing on a specific department or product.

Instead, the map focuses on a person’s behaviour by determining their experiences and thought processes during every stage of the buying process. It analyses the customer’s experiences deeper, and emphasises the experiences customers might encounter beyond that of a journey they take with a specific product.

This approach, combined with a deeper integration of commerce and content can inform a proper personalisation of content and the wider digital experience. This is what retailers need today and tomorrow to connect more directly with their customers, create winning digital experiences and foster customer loyalty.

John Yang is vice president for Asia Pacific and Japan at Progress