E-commerce Guest Speaker
On March 26, 2019, Paul Craig shared his experience in e-commerce with Professor Francois’s Electronic Commerce group. Paul has almost 20 years of experience in developing, marketing, and supporting computer-based communications and customer engagement management systems. Topics presented included omni-channel customer engagement and the emergence of e-commerce platform-model businesses.
To start off, Paul outlined the macrocosm of global business, with specifics on business challenges and industry trends associated with customer engagement. There has been a radical shift from face-to-face communication to electronic-based interaction. In the 1990s, some 90% of all customer interactions were human based. This is a big contrast to today’s 30%. The move to digitally-based interaction has opened up doors to convenience and efficiency unseen before, but also added great complexity regarding the management of customer engagement across multiple channels (such as email, web and social media). Instead of managing multiple channels separately, omni-channel engagement aims to present both a single view-of-the-customer and a consistent brand image of the organization to the market across all customer engagement channels.
To achieve this, businesses have to refine the ways in which they engage with and service their customers. To understand why it’s important to profile target consumers in target markets, Paul asked the class to estimate the value of e-commerce today. The number comes out to be a surprising $500 billion USD per year, but what’s more surprising is that very few organisations know which channels are most suited to accessing their target markets to meet their business objectives.
An Omni-channel customer engagement strategy involving the entire enterprise is key to being successful in the rapidly evolving e-Commerce era. Generation-Y customers (born between 1981 and 1999) are not as patient as previous generations. Over 70% will stop supporting a business after one bad experience and 85% of those will share those experiences online using social media. Therefore, in addition to offering excellent products and services, making it easy for customers to interact with organizations is crucial to achieving customer loyalty. Paul stressed that customers loyal to a brand may not care too much about post-purchase service at the time of purchase, but they are four times more likely to be disloyal if they are dissatisfied with customer service following their purchase. To deliver successful omni-channel customer engagement it has to be understood that it is not enough to only manage external interactions with customers. Supporting back office functions such as billing and logistics integrated with customer enagement capabilities play a key role in customer satisfaction. Paul concluded that a business cannot deliver e-commerce without sophisticated communications and computing technologies.
To wrap up the discussion, Paul discussed considerations associated with launching a successful eCommerce business built on the platform model. Essentially, platform businesses have developed systems (platforms) that bring producers and consumers of products and services together using the Internet. Examples of highly successful platform businesses include Netflix, Uber, Google and Apple. For such businesses, scale is everything for them to be profitable and sustainable. They need to attract not only consumers but producers in large numbers for their business to be successful. Therefore, managing and maintaining both producers and suppliers’ relationships are important and ought to be monitored closely. Paul concluded that it is envisaged that technical, business and financial platforms will continue to be developed to further enable the exciting evolution of e-commerce.