Online, offline, everywhere: Coronavirus as the driver of omnichannel commerce

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed weaknesses in many areas of the economy and society and revealed the true scale of our shortcomings. The consequences of underestimated or deferred issues, such as home schooling, have become very apparent. In the past year, politicians, parents, teachers and students have learned the painful lesson that, without up-to-date learning strategies, without an efficient infrastructure, without data protection compliant platforms and without all those involved having the necessary media skills, the virtualization of education cannot succeed.

The same is true of the digitalization of sales and marketing: The coronavirus lockdown has accelerated the paradigm shift and mercilessly exposed existing weaknesses.


Coronavirus has shone a light on the challenges of selling


For a number of years, Amazon, Zalando, Apple and others have been demonstrating the advantages of incorporating both brick-and-mortar and digital channels into Customer Experience and User Centricity strategies. Many retailers and brands were already following suit before the coronavirus pandemic, others were hesitating – often with drastic consequences – as during the first lockdown, sales models without digital sales options, such as eShops, digital marketplaces, social media or affiliate platforms, came to a standstill almost overnight.

An increasing number of market players are drawing their own conclusions from this enforced “emergency stop” – but not always the right ones! As simply establishing or optimizing an online shop solution is not sufficient to set yourself up successfully for current and future sales. Branding, marketing and sales will fundamentally and permanently change, irrespective of the end of the pandemic. Coronavirus is merely shining a light on the need for action. The focus: Omnichannel.


In the future, omnichannel will be at the core of every commerce strategy


Customers interact with brands, products and offerings via different touchpoints within various digital and brick-and-mortar channels. It must be possible to address the customer’s situation-based needs by means of these touchpoints and channels – for example, providing information or product advice for positioning within the Relevant Set1, as well as the actual sale or increasing loyalty within after-sales.

Omnichannel consistently focuses on the customer. High-quality seamless networking of channels is crucial for a compelling brand and product experience. The aim is to communicate consistently with the customer across all channels and for the customer to be able to access “their” sales offers at every touchpoint at any time.

This orchestration principle2 is currently experiencing massive change as the result of progressive digitalization and the coronavirus pandemic – on the one hand, in terms of smart functionality within touchpoints and channels and, on the other hand, in terms of the role that the individual touchpoints and channels play within the customer journey.


Showrooming and webrooming are being redefined


“Showrooming” and “Webrooming” refer to typical shopping scenarios or end-to-end journeys within the networking of digital and brick-and-mortar channels:

  • With showrooming, the customer draws their inspiration from brick-and-mortar stores and then seeks advice and broadens their product knowledge within digital channels (eShop, comparison sites, expert blogs, social media) and also makes their purchase online.
  • With webrooming, the customers uses digital channels to obtain information on a product or a brand. Depending on the product, the customer also sets up a configuration online but then makes their purchase in a store.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many small, local retailers have made a virtue of necessity and used showrooming in a modified form, by specifically designing their store displays for product presentation. In this case, a call to action – for example in the form of QR codes – links to either the retailer’s own webshop or to digital marketplaces, where the customer can buy the products presented.

In recent months, larger operators, above all, have redefined webrooming: In conjunction with the click and collect model, they have transformed their brick-and-mortar retail spaces from a point-of-sale to a point-of-experience. Customers find and order their desired items via the brands or the retailer’s online channel and then collect them from their local store. Despite same day delivery, the need for this kind of shopping experience has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, because delivery services are frequently overstretched and are, therefore, less reliable. Furthermore, there is also a desire for a “hands on” product experience, which cannot be entirely replaced by virtual product presentations.

The orchestration and roles of channels are thus experiencing a distinct shift. It is largely the role of the brick-and-mortar store that is changing: The store is now primarily operating as a presentation space, in which products are staged and brought to life, with more in-depth research and the purchase transaction increasingly moving to digital channels.


Brand management, customer centricity and logistics are becoming more challenging


Not only in lockdown, but definitely amplified by changed coronavirus shopping behavior, customers, who would previously have preferred not to shop online, are also turning to digital services – and will also continue to use them after the pandemic. Brands and retailers must face up to this fact. There is therefore an urgent need for action in terms of ensuring a presence, offerings and sales options on digital channels and, if necessary, expanding them further.

The vendor’s own online shop is not sufficient for this, but rather the omnichannel principle described above must function properly. The availability of products on digital marketplaces and a presence within suitable social media channels is crucial. It is important to achieve an intelligent balance between the loss of control in terms of brand management and becoming an authentic part of the customer dialogue, by highlighting the relevance and usefulness of the brand, product or offering for potential customers and continually adjusting it. What is absolutely essential is a precise knowledge of target groups and their persona, as well as an understanding of the individual customer’s actual requirements during the particular phase of the customer journey.

In terms of technology, the challenge is to consolidate data from all the systems in which user information is collected and stored (e.g.web analytics, CRM, eShop, ERP, etc.) to establish a “Single Point Of Truth”. All market players, regardless of their size, are facing this challenge i.e. in future, retailers and brands without appropriate digital infrastructures and platforms will barely be able to compete.

Product information, the individual customer’s needs profile, as well as logistical aspects, such as inventory management for the various touchpoints, must be available across all channels – both digital and brick-and-mortar. It must also be possible to flexibly adjust orchestration of the channels to changes in the customer’s shopping behavior – in order to ensure in the future, in situations such as lockdowns, that trade does not grind to a halt.


And what about B2B?


The same paradigm shift also applies to the B2B market. When sales representatives or consultants are no longer allowed to visit their customers during a pandemic, or on-site appointments need to be reduced for economic reasons, sales dialogue needs to take place virtually via digital platforms. And, in doing so, the customer expects exactly the same shopping experience as for private B2C shopping – but with the special characteristics of a B2B sales process, such as shopping lists, bulk discount prices, purchasing limits for employees, bulk consignments, etc.


The recent experience of the coronavirus pandemic makes it essential for all retailers and brands to face up to the “Sales Shift”. The digitalization of marketing & communications, sales and business processes is a must. What is absolutely vital is a digital infrastructure, which is based on intelligent and powerful software solutions. The first step is an intensive analysis of the customer journeys of target groups and the development of an omnichannel strategy based thereon.



1 In Marketing it is a phrase for a brand or product of interest to a potential customer. A product or brand which is in the relevant set is likely to be bought.

2 The principle of harmonizing all channels in terms of communication, branding, interaction and transaction options.

The highest bid wins...or does it really?

If you are involved in digital advertising, you probably know that Facebook’s advertising delivery is based on an auction system. In short, this system determines which ad will appear in a user’s feed.

In a “regular auction”, the winner is usually the one who places the highest bid – this is not the case with Facebook. If you are aware of the factors that determine who is the winner in this type of auctions, I am convinced that you will create a better foundation for successful campaigns. Are you curious to find out what these factors are? Continue reading!


2 winners, or maybe even 3?

Facebook’s ads have two goals that aim to make two specific target groups winners. First and foremost, they want their advertisers to reach their set goals for the platform. Without advertisers, the platform’s revenue would be modest as the majority (98%) comes from advertising revenue. The second objective is linked to the users of the platform. Facebook strives to deliver positive and relevant content for each unique user.

If we combine these two factors, it is quite easy to see that there is a third winner in addition to the advertisers and users – Facebook themselves.


How does the auction work?

When your ad ends up in Facebook’s auction system, it will compete against other ads aimed at the same defined audience. Because the number of ad slots is limited, the winner will be chosen based on three factors that together make up a total value. The formula for this is as follows:

[Bid] x [Estimated activity rate] + [Ad quality] = Total value

So what determines if your ad will appear is completely based on the “total value” factor. This includes your bid, Facebook’s estimate of how your target audience will react to your ad and how relevant the target audience will find it.


Ad Quality

If we take a closer look at [Ad Quality], it takes into account the relevance and quality of your ad for the specific audience. To get an indication of how well your ad is tailored to the user, you can use the metric “Quality Score” in your columns. However, Facebook itself states that the measured value does not directly affect the auction – but can be used as an indicator.

From Facebook’s side, the value is based on data from how users reacted to historically published content on the platform, organically as well as paid. It is important to keep in mind that the measured value “repetition” is also included. If a person has seen the same content several times, the user value is reduced. What happens after a click is also included in the equation, ie how your website performs.



There are a number of different ways to operate when it comes to bidding strategies and the possibilities are many. Instead of writing a novel here, I encourage you to get in touch with us, we are happy to tell you more and maybe write an article about this area in the future.


Estimated activity frequency

Each ad has an optimization goal, usually a conversion that you want a person to perform, such as driving traffic to a website or generating reach. Estimated activity frequency shows how likely it is that someone will meet the goals you set.

The metric is based on what a person has previously done and the ad’s previous performance.


5 tips on how to join the auction

  • Create landing pages that load quickly and with good quality content. Good quality means that the page is not filled with advertising, sexual material or other content that Facebook’s advertising policy does not appreciate. This probably feels pretty obvious, but it is always important to keep in mind that what happens after a click is also valuable to include in the equation.
  • Place the correct bid. Automatic bidding usually works very well, but if you have a good understanding of what you can pay for a click / view / purchase, it can be smart to also A / B test what works best for you.
  • Customize your content according to the goal of the campaign. If, for example, your goal is to get a certain reach, then use content that can contribute to this. Maybe in the form of a video with something that attracts attention and creates a desire to share the content with friends.
  • Create engagement! Use texts and images that encourage you to take a certain action. This action should of course be based on the target group and where in the funnel the potential customer currently is. For example, if the target audience is unknown to your brand, you should not ask them to buy anything from you, on the contrary – offer them something of value and encourage a discussion instead of making a purchase in this first step. It is important to point out that you should avoid attempts at creating “click baits”. Facebook’s AI will automatically detect this, leading to poorer results for the ad.
  • Think about the frequency! In a target group with cold traffic, you should not exceed 2-3 views, as you can be perceived as annoying. In a retargeting campaign, however, we can allow a slightly higher frequency as we know that the target group has shown an interest in the offer. Imagine that a completely unknown person repeats the same message to you several times, compared to your best friend doing it – who are you willing to listen to?

Create value for the entire customer journey by maximizing your digital advertising

It is said that only 3% of your potential customers are ready to buy right now. If you then start your marketing at the “buy now” step – it means that you could lose the remaining 97% of the traffic that is not there, yet. Maybe they need to get to know you first before they are ready for a purchase?

I suggest we take a look at the famous funnel.

Valeur parcours client 1

To reduce the risk of potential customers going to a competitor when a purchase is in progress, we need to start higher up the funnel with our advertising. Whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, Google or in another medium. Some platforms are better suited for earlier steps in the funnel and others closer to the end, the important thing is that you have decided on the purpose and goals of each specific channel.


How to get started

If we start looking at the beginning of a customer contact, we can compare this with the contacts that take place in real life. Imagine for a second you are out on a first date. You will probably not propose marriage to the person you are with on that first date (and if you should decide to do it, your chances of getting a yes are probably quite low…). Instead, you need to start by creating an interest and gradually show who you are. Whether it is in an entertaining, inspiring or educational way. It works exactly the same when it comes to digital marketing.


What type of content is suitable for each target group?


1. Cold traffic

Suppose you are a brand new acquaintance of a person who has never heard of you before. Which is the optimal way to introduce yourself? Would you start by asking the person for something or would you instead choose to start by offering the person something? I know which approach I would choose (at least in advertising). In order to try to capture the interest of the person I would definitely start with offering something. Now, I’m not talking about material things. There are lots of other things such as knowledge, entertainment and inspiration you can use to create an interest.

By offering something, you not only create more interest, your advertising costs will most likely also decrease.


2. Cool traffic

When you advance from the first “cold” step, a person has seen your ad and received a first message. Then it’s time to talk about who you are and what your company can offer by demonstrating knowledge about your products / services and create trust with the members of your target group. For example, you could show a “how-to video”, create a quiz or link to a blog post where you offer more knowledge and experience. It’s all about building trust and thereby creating traffic to your website to capture the visitor with a pixel.


3. Hot traffic

So-called “hot traffic” consists of people who have visited your site, scrolled around (maybe even on a specific product), but have not yet made a purchase. In these cases, it is time to convince the visitor that they are about to make the right choice, ie purchase something in your shop. The question you should ask yourself now is how you can show that your particular product / service can make a person’s life easier and more hassle-free. You can do this, for example, by clearly showing what advantages your offer has compared to your competitors’ and why it is sharpest in the segment you operate in? Maybe you could also offer free shipping and free returns?


4. Burning traffic

Burning love! At this stage, the purchase has already been made, but the customer journey certainly does not end here. Now it becomes important to thank your customers, ask for a review or maybe offer them something extra just because they purchased something from your store. Give them love and I am sure you will be able to increase the lifetime value of each customer. Keep in mind that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. If you can increase the value of each customer, you will generate significantly larger sales and also create a loyal crowd of customers who are happy to tell their loved ones about your greatness.


[Pro tip: Create target groups for each action you can measure so that you can also adapt the message according to each step in the customer journey]

How to leverage agility in e-commerce

Although most e-commerce projects have up until recently been using the V-model, it’s impossible to not have noticed the growing preference for the agile methodology. Business and dev teams alike have been won over by its efficiency when it comes continuous development projects. The transparency it creates between the stakeholders minimises friction and frustration, allowing problems to be resolved further upstream and providing the dev team with more independence that, in the long term, makes them more responsible and capable of owning the delivered products.

So, where’s the problem?

Many e-commerce projects suffer from constraints such as a set budget, fixed deadline or rigid list of specifications. In these circumstances, how can the dev team estimate its user stories during sprints if everything is already so set in stone? It goes directly against the principle of business flexibility and risks indirectly leading to a V-model form of project management and thus creating frustration amongst teams.

Another common error made by inexperienced teams is the belief that carrying out a project in an ‘Agile manner’ means that everything will go smoothly. In reality, simply saying your running an Agile project doesn’t mean you actually are. It requires a few prerequisites such as engagement and maturity on behalf of all stakeholders; not only those part of the project team, but also anyone else in your ecosystem (upper management, team managers, other teams, etc.).

Does that mean that agile methodology and e-commerce projects are incompatible?

Rest assured that it is entirely possible to use an Agile methodology with e-commerce projects! The first step is to analyse early on, from the kick-off if possible, the possible frictions and find a solution for each one. That might mean one or several people taking part in an Agile training course, writing down the main principles that will guide the production team (independence, transparency, engagement, etc.) or assigning an experienced Scrum Master (if it is a SCRUM) who will be available at the start of the project, if the team thinks they need it.

Great, but what about the list of specifications I have to adhere to?

While it’s true that a dev team needs visibility on the project so they can adapt their work accordingly, let’s not forget that a need expressed at the start of a project is most likely to change as development progresses. A specific need may be refined or, inversely, might be deprioritised or even scrapped.

Why not simply provide a loose outline of the need so that everyone has a general idea of the end product, and then wait for this need to be refined naturally and for the project to progress enough before drawing up a list of concrete specifications? This approach avoids the team taking two steps forward and one step back, which would incur additional costs and delays. When working in an agile manner, you don’t need to precisely and definitively plan out all the functions from the outset — leave some room for the need to evolve.

It is also important to note that a developer who spends time on a function, only to see it abandoned a few weeks later by the business team, may feel frustrated and less motivated for future sprints. It’s essential that teams remain motivated and stimulated if the project is to run as smoothly as possible.

I also have a deadline and a budget…

One thing is for sure, the dev team will always be the best placed to estimate the various functions to be developed. The more they talk with the Product Owner, the more independent they will become, honing their estimations and mastering their velocity (production capacity).

For the business team, the important part is prioritising the various functions as best as possible. They must sincerely question how necessary each one is for the first version of the end product. Ideally, they should deprioritise the more immature ideas and plan a V2 right from the start, postponing less critical needs until after the release of a functional MVP, or even waiting for feedback from the first version to redesign and adapt functions accordingly. It’s a win-win situation: it saves the dev team time by enabling them to later refine its design, documentation, unit testing, performances, etc. and also ensures a better time-to-market for the client.

My Dev Team/Product Owner don’t understand me

It’s important that for each sprint, everybody knows their role and responsibilities and the responsibilities of the other team members. The dev team must be engaged, transparent and guide the Product Owner when the need manifests itself (writing specs, technical support, testing).

For a Product Owner, being the middleman between the business and dev team is not always easy to do for the entire duration of the project. They need to remember that the dev team knows the project best: the product owner must listen to what they say, accept their choices and heed their warnings. And that also means saying no to the business teams if necessary.

Lastly, it is also good to remember that the dev team and Product Owner are all part of the same project team and need to work together in harmony. They both need one another.


While a set budget, rigid list of specifications or fixed deadline may seem like obstacles to applying Agile principles, what often happens is that they become less of a problem as the project progresses, since the business team matures in its thinking and all the teams become more invested. Being aware of them and planning ahead thus gives you more peace of mind when taking on the project and enables you to aim for success in an Agile manner!

Why you need to upgrade your digital customer journey

The impact of a global pandemic has taught us many things, but most of all it has taught us about the importance of meaningful and real contact with the people around us. In a digitalized and automated world, we often replaced personal contact with a chatbot, an automatic e-mail or a call center. In this article we answer the “Why as a brand should I shift my automated customer journey towards a personalized approach and how do I do this?”. We’ll give you a head start with some concrete examples as well.

Happy reading !


Brand perception versus brand experience 

The way people perceive a brand is mainly thanks to marketing efforts, Public Relations and influencers. But when people start to buy from a brand, that’s when perception versus experience come into play. Most customer dissatisfaction stems from the difference in these two factors.

During the outbreak of the pandemic, we all saw brands either communicating in a transparent and honest way, and thriving via the core values they believe, or brands that remained silent, by putting up walls and not being easy to get in touch with. You can guess which ones received a better perception and experience.

Whatever the global crisis or brand crisis, we strongly believe in these 2 insights:



Where to start with your online brand experience

Personalization is key, it’s everywhere in every digital marketing blog article that you read (including this one). But it’s not just about mentioning your customer’s first name when they visit your website again or adding that name to the intro line of your automated mails. It’s knowing:

  • Who are my customers? Do they fit into the standard persona’s I created for them?
  • What moves them to keep on buying from my brand?
  • What are they not getting from me as a brand?
  • Are my core values clear? Is this a main USP to make customers loyal?

How can you get the answers? Check your demographics data from your social media channels and website metrics. Test with multiple ads and communications where you show your main USPs and see which gives the best results. Or simply by just asking them via a questionnaire or via your customer service (

The moment you have clear eyes on the above questions. You can start building or upgrading your online experience.


How-to build your online brand experience

Whether your customers visit you offline or online, it’s all about the experience and the positive (or negative) vibes that last. How to create these vibes:

  • A frictionless environment (no bugs, short loading times, fast checkout, …)
  • Clear and transparent communication: what you see is what you should get
  • No unexpected extra costs during checkout or during delivery
  • Show your phone number, e-mail address or contact form. Don’t hide it or make it a mission impossible to get someone on the phone for help
  • Fast response times: don’t let your potential customer wait for a week
  • Stick to your true core values. Never “borrow” popular core values which you can’t make true in reality and make sure you live by them in your online environment as well



Example of the Live chat update on the Ethias website




Let‘s say you are preaching closeness and personal contact, but the chatbot on your website clearly is a programmed machine with some standard replies. How can you still automate the process but make it more human?

Start by giving the bot a name, preferably someone from customer service and use a real-life picture. Then create an introduction and let the conversation be natural. Most bot technologies rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to make fluent conversations without using standard replies or a “I don’t understand your question”, it’s the backbone of your conversation. You can use this technology to give your chatbot a personality and a specific tone-of-voice. He or she can be funny, make some small talk first or just  check in on how you are feeling today. A bonus is when you store previous conversations, and your bot takes this into account the next time there’s a new question from the same user.

You can even use this on your Facebook page, with standard replies when you are out of reach at that moment. Golden tip: link your WhatsApp to your Facebook business account to always keep a finger on the pulse when customers need you urgently.


Example of integrating WhatsApp in your Facebook account



Example of automating a conversation on Facebook Messenger


Conversational marketing campaigns 

Most of your Paid media campaigns will be one-sided push communication where it’s the brand talking and the customer viewing. With conversational banners you can upgrade your campaigns and make it a two-sided conversation where you get to know your customer and ask them what they are looking for. Just like a chatbot, you can program the questions and answers in advance, fully adjusted to your own tone-of-voice and core values. It’s a fun new way to engage with your target audience and to start a conversation without first asking your viewers to “click here”, “like this” and “buy that”. Not only do these banners drive high quality traffic to your website, but it also uplifts the online perception and experience of your brand.



Example of a Conversational Banner for Adidas


Instagram live shopping events

One of the key take-aways from this pandemic is that you always need to be able to shift fast towards an online environment. Brands look for many ways to present their products online, but it just simply does not replace any offline engagement. Luckily there’s an in between state thanks to Instagram, Facebook or YouTube live streaming. Via Instagram it’s even possible to link your product feed to your livestream and showcase your products while answering questions from customers and engaging with them. A great way to show the face of your brand in a personal way, or even include your ambassadors or biggest fans, is via an online event (such as Urban Decay did on their website) . In addition to boosting engagement, it also instantly increases sales online as customers can view and shop for the product directly on Instagram.


Example of online event from Instagram live and on the website of Urban Decay


Our predictions for the future

Don’t get us wrong, we still highly recommend investing in marketing automation, but it only works if you invest an equal amount in personal contact with your customers. As global pandemics can come back at any time, you should always be prepared as a brand. Coming up with new ideas on how you can keep on servicing your customers both online and offline and how to streamline the experience should be continuous. We believe people have now learned that choosing brands with the right values and the right approach actually bring value to all of us. So, keep on investing in your values, your communication, your transparency and your trustworthiness.

Putting the charm back into the digital buying journey with a human touch

The COVID crisis has undeniably enabled e-commerce to take a giant step forward by converting new consumer profiles to this form of buying. While successive lockdowns have demonstrated retailers’ resilience, they have also removed one of the essential components of buying journeys: human interaction and the role of in-store sales staff. Creating additional value and putting the charm back into the buying experience will only be possible by bringing the human touch and the digital buying journey back together.  

A sense of history  

While e-commerce is a practical response (and the only response in certain situations, such as when buying “non-essential” products in France) to COVID-19 restrictions, and everybody is being encouraged to switch to digital, brands and shops need to think carefully about the experience they want to offer consumers. In order to rekindle or strengthen the emotional or symbolic relationships that customers have with brands, and introduce more personalisation in their customer experience, brands need to make the best use of technology to (re)integrate the human dimension, which is inseparable from a digital buying journey.  

With the exception of impulse and repetitive buying, customers do not only want to buy in order to consume, but to have a buying experience, sometimes including discoveries that delight the senses. With this in mind, the RoPo (research online, purchase offline) trend shows the limits of e-commerce in its mono channel dimension: while digital offers access to catalogues and product information, the act of buying itself is often better done in a brick-and-mortar store.  

Behavioural studies carried out in the first half of 2020 show that, with digital uses becoming more widespread (among senior and rural population segments), the need for advice and assistance has never been greater. The closing of shops has deprived us of human interaction, so how can we bring it back to life behind our screens?  

The human dimension in the digital buying journey: how, why and, above all, when?  

To understand the value of the human dimension in the digital buying journey, we simply need to look at the added value that an efficient customer relationship approach generates for brands and shops. Everywhere, this relationship is a vehicle for customer satisfaction and loyalty and is an integral part of business strategy. The challenge is to know when and through which touchpoint human interaction is meaningful and value-creating in the buying journey.  

Downstream of this journey, customer service centres, which are already positioned as the cornerstone of the customer relationship strategy, are seeing a transformation of the way they work. Traditionally present for customers in the event of a complaint, service centre staff are increasingly playing the role of advisor and assisting customers in the buying process. Assisted by various modules and storefronts integrated in omnichannel solutions, they manage product recommendations according to individual customer profiles, assistance with placing orders and the setting up of personalised offers.  

Upstream of the buying journey, the work of sales staff is also undergoing a transformation in the era of unified commerce. An approach based on the idea of “clienteling“, or the “augmented salesperson”, is used to build a continuous customer relationship, by giving salespeople back their role of advisor. Many retail brands have created various online systems to book sessions where salespeople located at the point of sale provide a remote product discovery experience. Soulless chatbots are being replaced by sales advisors available via video chat, who are helping create a shopping experience in customers’ homes or kitchens.  

Creating a new contract of trust with customers  

In order to further integrate customer-salesperson exchanges in the digital buying journey, brands have an opportunity to embrace this new paradigm and strengthen the digital, but no less real, presence of sales advisors. These “remote advisors”, who must be highly accessible in order to be able to adopt the immediacy of digital journeys, will be at the heart of this ultra-personalized relationship. This can be achieved, for example, by enabling customers to chat with a salesperson very rapidly. Sales staff will also be able to handle tasks such as subscriptions, and adding to the basket or wish list Lastly, they will be able to manage product returns, instead of using forms or impersonal systems.  

It will only be possible to achieve the ideal of “re-humanised e-commerce” by exploiting the fundamentals of unified commerce. It is essential for the salesperson, who can maintain contact with customers via all communication channels, to be able to rely on solutions designed for consulting, assisting and advising. This means that the remote advisor will be properly equipped to have a 360-degree view of both their customers (buying history, wish lists, etc.) and products (the entire brand catalogue; not just the one that is available at their point of sale).  

Faced with customer experience challenges and digital transformations that have been accelerated by the current health crisis, brands have much to gain from bringing meaning back to the act of buying. Those that take heed of the need to draw on their human resources to put the charm back into the digital buying journey will stand out from the rest.  

E-commerce content marketing #1: Content is King

Content Marketing could be said to have originated with the invention of the Gutenberg printing press – from which pamphlets could be mass produced and circulated widely. Since the first spam email in 1978, content for web-based marketing has had some highs and lows – spam, clickbait and content purely to drive search engine optimisation (SEO) have featured in those troughs.


The name ‘Spam’ comes from Spam luncheon meat by way of a Monty Python sketch in which Spam is ubiquitous, unavoidable, and repetitive. The first blog – or web log – is credited to a Swarthmore College student named Justin Hall, who in 1994 created the site

As time has progressed Marketeers have grown to understand that rich, relevant, quality content is the only content worth producing. To quote the entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk in 2018: “Content is King, but context is God”

From the rise of video, social sharing and SEO, content on the web and content marketing have been through some major changes. Below you will find some key facts and figures providing insights into these changes:


  • Sessions and page-views, conversion rate, and time on page make up the five most popular metrics with 60 percent, 47 percent, and 39 percent respectively ( 2020)
  • The most popular forms of content include videos (72%), blog posts (69%) and research and original data (60%) (com 2020)
  • More is being invested to create & distribute content – 33% increase in spending via new hires and 29% increase in marketing/web agency resources (Source: 2018)
  • Blogging remains the most effective technique for content marketing (75%) followed by e-newsletters (66%), infographics (60%) and long-form content (50%). (Source: 2018)
  • “Only 55% of bloggers update old posts. Those who do are 74% more likely to get strong results” – Orbit Media 2018
  • “61% of consumers are influenced by custom content.” – Dragon Search Marketing 2018
  • Content marketing was rated the top marketing technique based on commercial impact on incremental leads and sales by 21% of marketeers (Source: 2018)
  • 60% of marketers create at least one piece of content each day. (Source: eMarketer 2017)
  • Content marketing costs 62% less than sales marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source: DemandMetric 2017)


Content Marketing SEO 

One way to improve search engine visibility is to include a list of ‘SEO snippets’. These could appear beneath the result on search engines such as Google in order to reach as large an audience as possible.

You do need to get into the top ten search results for your desired keywords to have a chance of getting your snippets listed. Below are some examples of SEO snippets:


Key objectives when creating marketing content for e-commerce sites:

  • Be relevant, useful and inspire trust
  • Integrate product call-to-actions
  • Connect with other lines of communication and in-store experience
  • Be mobile friendly
  • Produce data-driven, personalised content


Approaches to building content:

  • Become an authority on solving a challenge
  • Become a community organiser
  • Show off customer case studies
  • Provide help guides, how-to-guides or competitions
  • Join forces with influencers and encourage user generated content
  • Use infographics
  • Consider the SEO impact


What to expect

In a short series of articles, I will be covering different areas of content creation and provision. The snippets above summarise the topics that will be covered. SEO impact will be discussed together with how relevant content, within proper context and limited to specific topics and challenges, is integral to good SEO.

I’ll also consider case studies to help both clients and service providers and cover how content can be presented – and made easy to digest – together with techniques used to integrate products and services – instant click to buy, live streaming, videos with ‘stitched in’ links and chatbots.

The articles will also look at how organisations are connecting with other content – product pages, blogs, social sharing, video, email and in-store experience, together with the different channels involved: social media, curated content, keeping content fresh, live streaming, social commerce, reviews, videos, emails and brick and mortar stores.


Next instalments

Throughout this series of articles, I will include references to research and examples of good practice.

Each article will also contain some key figures, statistics and research to back up the advice.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have been enticed by this introduction and return for the follow-on sections arriving soon.

Unified Commerce: Building on A Strong Foundation

To get the ball rolling and tackle this topic, let’s start with the basics. Simply put, Unified Commerce is a way to connect all channels and sources of orders, products, inventory, and fulfilment. We’ll elaborate with some examples.

By looking at it from an order perspective, a standard retailer nowadays can capture orders online, through a call agent, in a brick-and-mortar store, or through resellers. If all these orders were captured in the same system, this would make matters much, much easier. From a product perspective, however, product information is extremely important for your customers. This information can include product specifications, technical datasheets, and high-quality images, to name but a few examples, and should be available across all your channels. You must be able to guarantee that all this information is consistent in quality and quantity across these channels too. A customer shouldn’t have more or better information regarding your products than a reseller.

Whether you are working with multiple distribution centers, or rely on a single warehouse for your distribution, correct inventory information on your products is a must. This way you ensure procurement can be optimized, and your customers are always updated correctly on availability.

The origin of Unified Commerce

Since the inception of e-commerce, most businesses have been focused on establishing an online presence. Some companies even started with nothing but an online presence, such as Amazon, Alibaba, and Booking. Others had to set up and run a webshop alongside their traditional retail activities, resulting in a multi-channel approach where  each channel is managed separately. In this setup, point-of-sale data is captured and used to increase revenue, and online analytics serve to improve the online shop’s performance. In the early days, this resulted in a lot of unconnected data. This meant that drawing conclusions from this data could result in improvements for one channel, but at the same time have a negative effect on another channel. Competition between these channels could occur within the same company. To solve this particular problem, businesses tried to connect both systems to bridge the data gap, usually resulting in a subpar solution. Even though you could combine the sales data in this case, the channels would still have separate inventories. Enter Unified Commerce. Which, instead of connecting systems to tackle one issue, simply replaces all your segmented systems to solve problems you weren’t even aware of.


The benefits of Unified Commerce

We have already outlined some of the clear benefits of Unified Commerce, touching on the most obvious ones in the previous paragraph. In the end, it all comes down to improving your customer experience. As a bonus, your internal organization will also reap the rewards from this change. It’s common knowledge by now that customers expect to be served when and where they want. This has become increasingly apparent due to the current situation, with the pandemic forcing a lot of people to stay at home or restructure their workplace. And some of these changes are here to stay. You can no longer expect customers to come to your store to purchase a product or gather additional information. These options have to be available to them at all times. To enable this, your workforce has to transition to a hybrid approach, combining part-time work from the office with part-time work from home. Keeping an accurate and up-to-date inventory is equally important. Selling an item that is out of stock means you can’t deliver, which will seriously tarnish your customer experience. You will miss out on sales if you have stock you are unaware of, and unnecessarily increase costs by having reserved stock exclusively for your website.

Furthermore, incorrect and inconsistent product information can lead to confusion and even a loss of sales. If a customer visits a store and learns about a certain feature but is then unable to find further confirmation of that feature when reviewing the product online, the confusion this causes can trigger them to look elsewhere for a competing product. Having a centralized system for your product information as the single point of truth across your entire organization helps prevent these situations.

The loyalty of your customers should not be left out of the equation in all of this. If a customer needs service for a product and calls in to schedule a repair, having all essential information at hand can significantly speed up things for your CS staff. Things do break, and the better your company can handle the situation, the more loyal your customers will become. So, in addition to having all your customers’ details at the disposal of your call agent, they should also have a clear view of your servicing engineers’ agendas. We haven’t touched on the different communication channels, but these need to be properly integrated as well.

Download B2B E-commerce White paper

The drawbacks of unified commerce

So, are there only upsides to unified commerce? Unfortunately, not. For starters, it’s an amazing tool for making a flying start with e-commerce… for any organization without legacy systems. However, chances are slim this applies to your situation. This means that a lot of your systems that are already in use need to be updated or replaced to fully reap the benefits of unified commerce. This can be an expensive exercise with a lot of impact on your organization. Depending on your specific situation, and the level of adjustments needed, this transition can also be very time consuming and require change-management to be successful. Your workforce will be asked to learn how to manage new systems and adopt a different way of working.

Having a single centralized system presents huge benefits, as explained earlier. However, if not executed correctly, you will end up with a SPOF (Single-Point-Of-Failure) setup. You have to take steps to protect your systems from collapsing under pressure or when under attack. We’ll come back to this topic shortly. But don’t let the potential drawbacks and challenges discourage you from moving to a Unified Commerce setup. The world is changing, and your customers expect more. Ignoring this trend will not put you in a position to come out on top.


How to approach your transition to unified commerce

Our preferred approach for transitioning your organization to a Unified Commerce setup is by working from the back to the front. As with building a house, you only focus on painting the walls after having sorted the foundation, structural work, and plumbing. The key systems should be in place and fully integrated. In regard to Unified Commerce, the primary focus should be on the following systems: ERP, CRM, and PIM. Without these three systems in place, it will be a lot tougher to reach your end goal. Since most organizations already have multiple systems up and running that need to be replaced, we usually recommend using the strangler approach. This approach gradually sets up the new system around the edges of the old system, letting it grow by gradually activating new features over a certain period of time until the old system is completely strangled. This process is repeated until all key systems are in place, at which point you can slowly make your way to the front of the system.


Download B2B E-commerce White paper

The role of SAP in setting up Unified Commerce

SAP can supply the following systems to support your Unified Commerce setup; SAP S/4 handles your ERP, SAP C/4 focuses on your CRM, and lastly we have SAP PCM for your PIM needs. These systems were all built with integration in mind, and obviously work extremely well together. So, should you already have one or more of these systems in place, that simply means less strangling for your organization in order to make the transition. SAP Commerce provides multiple options for deploying its systems and can be completely integrated into your ecosystem. SAP Commerce can even serve as an integrator for other systems, as it provides a wide array of APIs they can consume. To limit the dangers of working from a SPOF (Single Point Of Failure), all these systems can be hosted in the SAP Cloud. Relying on SAP’s experience to keep your systems protected and running grants you more time to focus on your business.


But we are a B2B (or B2C) organization

The main difference between B2B and B2C is who your customers are. In a B2B environment, pricing is generally based on volume and can differ for every customer and partner. When it comes to B2C, consumers generally all enjoy the same price. Managing a B2C customer is also a somewhat different affair. Traditionally, B2C tends to focus on a more generic response to common questions, whereas B2B prefers a more personal approach. Luckily, SAP systems are configured to cater to both the B2C and B2B world. Several reference cases are available to further illustrate how SAP can drive value. Feel free to reach out to us for more information.

Remain Relevant with The Right B2B E-Commerce Solution: Adapt and benefit in the face of change

Ever since COVID-19 changed everyone’s lives and purchase patterns last year, B2B e-commerce habecome more important than ever. And while salespeople still have to be able to reach customers, and capture demand as it happens, B2B businesses have to execute their e-commerce channels and digital marketing efforts with excellence. 


Today’s B2B Customers Expect B2C Customer Experiences 

In the wake of the pandemicthe economy is still adjusting to new realities. Nearly all businesses have been forced to transform, especially in the B2B world. ManB2B companies have pivoted their businesses in order to continue to provide great customer experiences, even in these uncertain times. Historically, B2B companies have not been overly eager to adopt new technologies that promise to reshape how they approach their customer experience. However the COVID-19 crisis, a catalyst for this changeis accelerating the adoption of technology and is forcing B2B companies to adapt to the needs of their customers by offering B2C-quality experiences within their digital channels 

B2B companies have embraced the importance of investing in (longterm) customer relationships and loyalty, while at the same time accelerating innovation. The changes in customer behaviour are part of an acceleration in digital trends that were already set in motion before the pandemic hit. Traditionally, the main role ofB2B e-commerceito deliver great shopping experiences to business customers, in addition to accommodating back-office processes such as shipping, ordering calculations, evaluating system integrations, the digitization of pricing, and addressing customer needs for omnichannel and self-service experiences. But times have changed. 


Facing change head on 

B2B companies face many challenges. Adapting to your customers increasingly elaborate needs and wants demands more than occasionally adding new digital tools to your arsenalTo truly enable your company to overcome gaps in the customer experience, better serve your customers, and increase your market share, you need to think about changing the way people engage across the entire value chain. This is relevant for both your own people in sales and marketing, as well as your customers. 

The line between B2B and B2C experiences is disappearing, and customer expectations regarding options and quality are spilling over from B2C to B2BFaced with the need to explore new routes to market since the pandemic, B2B organizations are either building or speeding up their B2C capabilities, resulting in a hybrid of the two also referred to as B2E (business to everyone). Companies are becoming increasingly interested in doing both, and they’re looking for technology platforms that support this ambition. 


Intelligent automation becomes mandatory 

There is an untapped potential in the B2B world when it comes to fuelling a CX transformation with the capabilities of artificial intelligence. Automation is the name of the gameFor example, B2B organizations benefit greatly from anticipating or predicting customer orders and automated e-commerce fulfilmentrequiring access to the right data when interacting with customers. Your e-commerce system needs to be able to automate manual processes to be truly successful at improving selling efficiency Fortunately, there are positive side effects to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses. It accelerated innovation and automation around B2B, increasing efficiency and reducing costs. With automation done rightyou can build more agility into your business and supply chain. And while B2B organizations may never aim to become completely zero touch, theshould certainly embrace a more ‘low touch’ approach wherever they can. Intelligent automation, such as chatbot technology, makes it easier for people to find content and interact with it, and helps customers with basic product, service, or aftermarket support. 

B2B companies are rapidly embracing data and AI to predict future disruptions. A couple of the biggest distributors are already exploring the best ways to leverage COVID-19 data to uncover early indications of outbreaks and predict the kind of demand they generateBusinesses able to embrace the kind of churn and bumps that are likely to occur over the next 12 months will continue to do well. 


B2B customers get hyper-segmented 

Customers nowadays value the quality of their shopping experience over price and product quality. B2B customers want personalized shopping experiences, whenever or wherever they make a purchase. Personalization has long been a focus for B2C brands, but now B2B customers are also looking for an empathic and problemsolving approach from their business suppliers. The challenge B2B companies face is successfully shifting focus to a more human approach, putting the customer experience firstIt’s no longer just about the value proposition; the cultural proposition is taking precedenceB2B buyers want to work with partners who understand their wants and needs, and actively try to solve their biggest pain points. 

To provide a high level of personalization, some B2B organizations are using customer data to add more segmentationto their customer base and, in many cases, micro-segmentation.  


Enterprise agility at the core of transformation 

Before the coronavirus outbreak, many B2B buyers bought directly from salespeople. Now that this number has dropped significantly, many B2B companies have been forced to make fundamental changes in an extraordinarily short amount of time. A transformation of this magnitude requires significant employee training, automation, IT support, and more than anything, agility. Combined with experience management we call this the business experience technology space 

It’s worth noting that many B2B organizations are embracing design thinking, or lean start-up principles like agile methodologies, to accomplish this. They’re breaking down business challenges and seizing new opportunities through features such as customer collaboration portals or voice assistants, creating entirely new experiences in the process. Good CMOs are creating closed feedback-loops for product, brand, and customer experience innovation. This allows for the democratization of data access and insights, and the scaling of a testandlearn approach.  

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Overview of valuable B2C features that have found their way to the B2B market 

Relevant product information and content 

With B2B customers shifting to online channels, it’s important that all product information and content is relevant, fact-based, and up to date. Rich content can be of great help when deciding on the right product without the interaction with a salesperson. The B2B platform needs to ensure products are discoverable through search and cross-selling, in addition to availability and stock details for customers who do not typically order from these categories.Therefore, products have to be connected to accurate data, to ensure they come up in the right searches. 

By having all this content and information available online, B2B customers are empowered by complete product transparency and seamless purchasing experience. In other words, they are given all the tools needed for browsing, buying, and everything in between, all in one place. 


Accurate stock information  

Items have to be clearly marked and can’t be ordered when out of stock. This might seem obvious, but not all B2B systems are as properly integrated as they should be. Having products still appear in search and category listings, marked with ‘Sold out’‘Back ordered’, and ‘Expected on xx-xx-xxx’ provides a better service to your customers than simply omitting them from the results. Total transparency of your inventory will save customers time and aggravation. And while it may feel counterintuitive, B2B companies can even consider helping customers locate these products outside of their own ecosystem, from a competitor digital channel. Offering this level of service, and showing confidence in your own company and products, builds goodwill and can go a long way in establishing a long-lasting relationship 



B2B customers usually expect some kind of structural collaboration with you as a B2B company. Offering B2C features makes the B2B customers’ experiences and interactions with your business more efficient and enjoyable. These features can include cross-selling on product detail pages, upselling, and recommendations during order creation. 



It’s not surprising that B2B buyers admitthat buying from a website is more convenient than dealing with sales representatives. Like traditional consumers, B2B buyers want more control over their purchase experiences. All consumers have come to expect seamless experiences with as little friction as possibleIn turn, as outlined in this article, B2B sellers are responding to these trends with action, by investing in powerful, personalized self-service portals. 

To successfully utilize these portals, the mindset of B2B companies has to shift from predominantly focusing on the numbers to focusing on the customers’ actual needs and wantsMany B2B customers re-order the same items, while others may need to request quotes or negotiate prices further. Self-service options that allow customers to be notified about product restocking, manage their order statuses, and interact with sales professionals have become essential for every modern B2B e-commerce platform. 

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The importance of the last mile
To date, much of the marketing focus for B2B tends to focus on the products or catalogueBut recently there’s been a clear shift toward fair market pricing, fulfilment, and towards the last mile in particular. A customers’ experience, for both B2B and B2C, is completely dependent on your ability to actually deliver. An order is just a promise you have to keep after allIn the end, it’s the last mile of the delivery process that’s responsible for creating a positive or negative experience.  

Marketers need to appreciate the importance of the last mile when trying to resonate with B2B clients. A customer can have an excellent experience buying a product, but if its delivery is delayed, you’ve just ruined and tainted the experienceIt used to be all about the buy button, but now you have to think about the entire journeyincluding returns, if you want to succeed at B2B. The last mile has become the differentiator. 


Multiple Shipping options 

Shipping is an essential part of the customer experience. Even before the pandemic, customers would easily switch to a competitor if they offered more convenient delivery options. Today, B2B brands look for e-commerce shipping methods, strategies, and options to match the ways they do business. But you also need to be transparent about how delivery and fulfilment is handled, ensuring all this information is available upfront and easily accessible. This saves customer’s valuable time. Assume they are as busy as you. Auto-replenishment programs may also need to be adjusted, based on an increase or decrease in your clients business activity.  

Partial lockdowns and reopenings muddled our understanding of the shopping experience. Alternative shipping options are exploding, as customers seek out the most suitable option for them specifically. For example, while some would prefer to get their items shipped to a specific address, others prefer a curb side or in-store pickupIntegrating the B2B commerce platform with your fulfilment and 3PL provider facilitates the flow of order information and other data between your shipping partner and your back-office systems. 


How to come out on top

The achievements and successes of some of the greatest B2C brands are now within reach of B2B organizations as well. But B2B organizations have to make sure that the experience they provide their customers is always part of the equation and thought process when tackling business problems. Experience management is a layer B2B organizations can build into their digital channels using design thinking, customer listening, and data-driven insights. All these tools combined drive frictionless and reliable experiences that are ready for the future. Those who are quick to adapt and leverage digital channels at the core of their business will come out on top. 

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ENSURING BUSINESS CONTINUITY FOR B2B COMMERCE: Digital self-service is no longer a luxury.

With many traditional offline channels unavailable, or only partially available, due to COVID restrictions, scheduling a face-to-face meeting with a sales rep for product advice is currently not always an option. Your customers will most likely start their quest for information online, which is why it’s of the utmost importance that all your product information is available digitally and easy to find. This ensures the customer, in his or her search for information, will end up with the most relevant details, products or services. 


Using self-service to improve the customer experience

Self-service allows businesses to look at the needs of customers in far more detail, and provide them with a self-service environment that’s both customer-friendly and efficient. Customer-specific services also further add value by building loyalty, and can even lead to new business models. Simply put, a properly set up self-service portal greatly increases the overall customer experience. And in turn, providing an excellent customer experience leads to an increase in engagement, brand loyalty, and customer retention.

When determining what features you’re looking for in a self-service portal, always keep your customer’s needs in mind. Many B2B buyers simply reorder the same items, while others may need to request quotes or further negotiate the price. Look for self-service options that allow customers to be notified about product restocking, manage their order statuses, and interact with sales professionals if they want to. Leverage all the learnings from your traditional retail channels when designing and setting up your self-service portal.


Empower your customers with the right digital tools

In addition to the information available online, your entire offline catalogue of information needs to be visible in the self-service portal too. Now more than ever, your product-, stock-, order- and delivery information needs to be accurate and easily accessible. At the same time, many customers also appreciate product recommendations from your entire inventory; these increase average order value and provide lifts that enable you to reach your goals and guarantee growth. This part of e-commerce also provides a great opportunity to leverage artificial intelligence (AI), using it to discover what products or inventory your competition is currently offering outside of your scope. This can be a strong motivating factor to step up your game and expand your selection.

Of course, all these self-service options have value and cost associated with them. Instead of a sales rep telling your customers what to do, self-service portals guide and empower them by providing the tools and information they need to resolve many common issues themselves. The B2B market has matured over time, and the quality of B2C features have become a baseline for the majority of customers. As a result, the line between B2B and B2C is rapidly fading, and the adoption of self-service platforms is increasing across the board.

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Benefit from a rich feature-set

Alongside general information, a self-service portal can offer customers a set of tools that, for instance, includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) or an online community section. However, be aware that user-generated content will need to be actively moderated. A ticketing service can also be of added value, not just for your customers but for your entire organization, as the data gathered in the tickets can be used to extend and improve the quality of the FAQ pages. A series of ‘Getting started’ guides can be very helpful for customers who come into contact with your products and services for the first time. Knowledge base articles are like FAQ’s but are characterized by more detailed and in-depth information. These articles are essential for both empowering your customers to solve specific issues independently, and for shortening the time it takes to solve common issues.

To further streamline the self-service experience, a knowledge base can be integrated together with a Live Chat or Chatbot, as these features provide complementing support at the speed that buyers have come to expect in the digital age. Since most customers do their own research nowadays, they don’t want to wait 48 hours for a reply. Furthermore, a knowledge base is the perfect solution for structuring how-to videos, user manuals, and help documentation. It should go without saying that it’s imperative that all this information is easily accessible through an advanced search function.


A best-in-class customer service experience

To make the customer experience as frictionless as possible, it’s important that processes – such as a request for a quote or price, order creation, reorders, and return flows – are optimized and accessible from anywhere, on any kind of device. In addition to making real-time order information accessible to your customers, a self-service platform also enables customers to make ad-hoc changes to newly created orders, and provides an overview of historic online and offline order information. Self-service web-based invoicing and payment platforms are playing an increasingly important role in delivering a best-in-class customer service experience.

In addition to basic product information, we see companies offer more and more information and features through self-service. For example, it could be a logical step for a brewery to offer online training sessions that teach people how to pour the perfect draught beer. These services don’t always have to be related to specific products – they are simply built around the products and often provided for free. Their purpose is to engage customers in the most relevant and personal way possible, and increase their loyalty in the long run.


Embrace self-service, remain human

Self-service portals and tools are more than a way to cope with the current pandemic-induced challenges. They are a quality upgrade to your customer experience and here to stay. But despite the fact that self-service can drastically impact your business and your customers’ overall satisfaction, B2B will never become completely self-serve. Even if you deploy the most innovative self-service tools, features, and systems, your customers still need to be able to give you feedback on whether your digital ecosystem is working properly for them or not. There is always room and need for the human element.



Our client Carlsberg testifies:

“Carlsberg: Osudio took care of implementation and extended the technical migration, evolving the platform from a classic B2B order portal into an engaging experience. This provided significantly more flexibility to adapt to local market requirements, and allowed us to roll out across multiple brands and countries.”


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