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Over the past decade, the evolution of commerce has followed behavioural change, from single channel to multi-channel, brick and mortar to bricks and clicks, multi-channel to omni-channel. Today, marketers are faced with the challenge of transitioning from omni-channel to end-to-end commerce, which blurs the lines between consumption and purchase. This change calls for a seamlessly unified commerce approach in the way brands shape, serve and sell.

“It’s not a big change in terms of technology, but it’s big in terms of the way that people interact with and the way that they buy in different purchase channels,” said Roy Armale, global chief innovation officer for VMLY&R Commerce, presenting at ‘The Experience Advantage’ festival. Armale outlined three essential requirements to get brands fighting fit for the ever-evolving touchless, digital world of sentient commerce.

1. Instant commerce gratification

Same-day delivery, on-demand customer service, intelligent resolution centres and a ‘know what I want before I even know I want it’ philosophy is catapulting shopper requirements onto sky-high expectations. 

Consumption occassions used to be separate from purchase moments. For example, if someone wanted to host friends for drinks but realised they are out of wine, that would trigger their purchase journey. They'd go about deciding what type of wine they want, whether to order it online, how late the wine shop is open, or when they can get to the supermarket. 

“Previously, we were looking at multiple consumption moments [and] triggers, which lead to several purchase decision journeys. We used to optimise for each of these, and make sure the moments that matter- the ones that affect the purchase decision- are the ones we tackle and spend our money on,” said Armale.

Now, a spontaneous idea to have friends over for drinks can happen immediately thanks to hourly wine delivery. The consumption occassion and the purchase moment have become one and the same. 

“The big change for 2021 is that the variety of purchase decision journey has disappeared. Consumption moments have also become purchase moments (opportunities to sell)," he said. "We need to understand this shift; the unified commerce approach is making sure that the different channels and ways of selling are linked to individual consumption moments as much as they are linked to the purchase journey. This change won't only affect the way you sell, it’s also going to affect the way you fulfill.” 

2. Emotional intelligence and empathetic leadership

In the future, Armale suggests that empathy will scale. This requires a movement in leadership from empathy, which takes unintended bias into account: “When we apply empathy, especially in leadership, we take our bias with us.”

Armale referenced the Covid-prompted work from home culture: “We’re starting to realise how strongly connected our work life is with our home life - and we used to consider them very separate. Now it’s shown us that all of these moments - pets running wild, kids showing up during video calls - are very much life moments. It has started moving us into true empathy, which is not simply putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes but literally imagining if we were in that situation with that person’s bias.” A revitalised leadership will require the ability to be aware of, allow for, encompass and create space for emotions inside and outside of an organisation.

“Yes, there is empathy but more importantly, there is true empathy,” he said. “Don’t just walk a mile in their shoes. Put your bias down, pick their bias up, pick their anxieties up and then go into your leadership approach and start setting the expectations.”

3. Purpose-driven business model innovation

Getting a product into the hands of a customer is no longer enough; they want to buy from brands they believe can help them shape the future they want. Echoing the voice of customers, the way brands shape, serve and sell will increasingly be rooted in morale and purpose.

“In all of the tools that we’ve created we ask how are we going to spur innovation based on consumer wants? What’s happened this year - and I think this is a strong realisation for everybody - is that there’s a lot of stuff we want. But we’ve now been able to differentiate it from all of the things that we need. This has been a need type year for a lot of our consumers. They started realising, this stuff is cool but I really need that.”

“While we’re doing our innovation enablement, we’re creating new templates at the starting point of our psychographic segmentation. And when we do our needs data analysis, we’re no longer looking at the original needs state - we need a better world, to stop hurricanes and fires, to get more serious about sustainability, to make sure that we work on people’s mental health.”

A business model that will help segment people based on a purpose-driven approach linked to needs, has to be included in the innovation approach.

Watch ‘Three things you can't afford to get wrong in 2021’ on demand here.