The journey from supplier to buyer or from product to consumer has become infinitely complex. Our global research shows that most businesses are facing a daily struggle to manage the exceedingly complex paths between products and consumers. Navigating these chaotic journeys is becoming increasingly difficult, and ‘commerce anarchy’ has effectively become a normal state of affairs affecting every aspect of the relationship between suppliers and buyers.
Commerce success now requires transformation, not optimization
As I see it, today’s strategic management challenge is not to optimize digital processes. Rather, it’s to transform future relationships between sellers and their customers. Only by entirely rethinking the product-to-consumer (P2C) journey will organizations ever be able to deliver the personalized, consumer-centric experiences their shoppers have come to expect. A P2C strategy gives businesses across the entire spectrum a new approach to management challenges, from digitally-native hyperscale retailers and marketplaces to global and local brands, manufacturers, retailers, and service providers.
The key driver underpinning all P2C strategies is the reality that businesses now have to meet their customers where they are, when they want to buy – and this can mean attracting them on multiple touchpoints or channels before closing a sale. The P2C model rethinks traditional strategies where hitting one channel, or a few touchpoints, were believed to be enough to find a new customer and maybe even retain them for a second or third sale. To consistently realize new goals, businesses will have to fundamentally transform the way they think about how they get products to their consumers.
Commerce anarchy causing commerce chaos and customer detachment
We know that brands, retailers, marketplaces, and service providers are facing a common enemy. Digital commerce has made buyers increasingly remote. The product information needed to influence positive consumer purchasing decisions is becoming unmanageable as the data complexity increases exponentially. You need to be able to manage the powerful outbound digital flows, as well as the deep feedback loops, linking you to your buyers, and that ultimately means gaining effective control over every aspect of your global P2C product information value chains (PIVCs).
Why is this? The process of getting products to consumers should be relatively simple.
The problem is that as digital commerce evolves, channels continue to multiply. In the absence of effective control of the product information across the journey between vendors and customers, commerce anarchy spreads. Consumer behavior and self-awareness has also changed, making customers increasingly remote from product vendors.
Customer intimacy declines rapidly if the desired product information is not provided and feedback is not collected and applied, leading customers to disengage quickly. With various channels and touchpoints out there, it can be almost impossible to win these customers back. The only way to stop this from happening is to effectively manage your product information value chain processes across all geographies.
What do consumers really want from sellers?
Customers aren’t just becoming expensive to find, they are also becoming more demanding when it comes to personalization, shopping experiences, and sustainability. Consumers want their digital purchasing experiences to mimic key aspects of brick-and-mortar shopping experiences: good service, easy returns, personalized advice, and product transparency (sustainability). The shopping behavior of Millennials and Generation Z has completely changed the way we have to think about selling products. They may still be teaching the Five Marketing P’s in colleges around the world – Place, Promotion, People, Price, Product – but the younger generations have already pushed three of them out of the equation.
When Generation Alpha starts earning like their parents, gone will be Place, Promotion, and People. Instead, the Five P’s will be replaced with PXP: Price, which will always be important; Experience, which has to be consistent, stimulating, and crafted from a well-defined product information value chain; and Product, which now includes its data and all of the latest information on its status and availability.
Consumer detachment affecting customer intimacy
The fact is that P2C relationships are complex. Even top brands can become detached from consumers online if PIVCs aren’t managed efficiently and effectively across channels. The differences can be startling. For example, look at the depth of product information presented to potential purchasers of a pair of Nike Air Max Terrascape 90 trainers on the Nike.com site.
Now, compare that to the presentation of a pair of Nike Air Max 90 running shoes on Amazon. Which channel is more engaged with its consumers? Which channel is delivering brand value? We think the answer is clear.
In delivering brand value and customer engagement, the first learning is that all P2C information flows should increase exponentially. But efficiently and effectively managing increasing outbound flows alone is not enough to attain the sort of consumer intimacy that defines retail leaders.
In any P2C environment, 3D feedback loops should radically improve the ability to better understand consumer needs. The more feedback loops, the more relevant the product information, and the more value delivered to the consumer/customer. So don’t expect outbound digital flows alone to secure sustainable success. It’s time to think 3D and use the deep buyer feedback loops available at all stages of the buyer journey. Embrace complexity and use it to your competitive advantage.
The next steps on the path to P2C transformation
Full P2C transformation will involve getting the right P2C management tech stack deployed successfully in all operating geographies right up to the establishment of a multiple global product information value chain process management system. If organizations want to keep up with this in a sustainable manner, they need both a platform that can help them compete as well as a P2C management strategy that will keep them ahead of the game and prepared for whatever opportunity comes next. My final question to you: “Where is your business on the P2C transformation journey?”