Finny Chellakumar, the Head of Digital Commerce at Aspire Systems talks to TechFunnel.com about the challenges some retailers face with e-commerce, what a unified commerce strategy should look like in the digital age, and critical customer experience trends that are driving some of the technology efforts of retailers.
Finny has built e-commerce practices around SFCC, SAP Hybris, OCC and Magento who announced a business partnership with Aspire Systems earlier this year. Additionally, he consults for e-tailers and retailers e-commerce and digital businesses, helping them to choose the appropriate technology stack to build and sustain a successful e-business.
Finny has over eighteen years of experience in working with emerging technologies, innovating new products and solutions, enabling customers to adopt cutting edge technologies, simplifying business and achieving higher growth. His strengths lie in adapting technology for new business models and in innovating models to disrupt traditional business through digital adoption.
Danni White: How does Aspire Systems help retailers overcome challenges with e-commerce?
Finny Chellakumar: Aspire Systems has always been ahead of the curve in providing Cutting edge software engineering and digital disruptive solution for the digital commerce customer. We have a full-fledged retail COE which brings to gather skills and experience in every sphere of the digital retail echo system. We help digital commerce customers in the following way:
First, we are a one-stop partner for digital commerce customers helping them in a wide range of areas starting from putting together a robust business plan, designing marketing mix, technology evaluation and selection using our digital framework, Design thinking workshops arrive at competitive roadmap, user experience design taking into consideration user journeys and technology implementation, testing, and go-live.
Second, we operate through attractive partnership models where we continue to help and guide a business through the initial go-live phase and stay on till the stabilization phase providing both business and technology support.
Third, we provide an innovative solution beyond digital commerce and go into Omnichannel experience as well. We have an innovative Omnichannel framework which will help provide digital experience to the customer both within the stores throughout in-store App and outside the store.
DW: Earlier this year, Aspire announced a partnership with Adobe’s company, Magento. Tell us a little bit about that partnership.
FC: Aspire Systems have a long history implementing and Supporting Magento platform for our client’s e-commerce business. We have developed very strong skills in all areas of Magento like Consulting, UI/UX Strategy, development, configuration, testing and providing them with infrastructure support. In recent years we have started focusing more on specific digital commerce and Magento is one of the key platforms in the digital commerce space, we believe aligning with Magento will help us serve our customer better and help us emerge as a strong partner for Magento in all the geographies we operate.
DW: What does a unified commerce strategy look like in the digital age?
FC: In today’s world, the channels from where the customer is buying have increased multi-fold. Customers are now starting to shop from social media platforms and they expect the journey to be the same as buying from the Brands commerce site. This increases the challenge interims of personalization, customer preference, the product visibility across the channels owned by retailers and 3rd party channels. Unified commerce strategy is bringing together all the elements which improve customer experience across channels. This includes tightly knitting areas around inventory, sales channels, products, pricing, shipping, communications, and customer data in such a fashion that the customer journey through the platform is seamless.
DW: Boston Retail Partners noted in a survey in 2018 that by the end of 2020, 81% of retailers will deploy a unified commerce platform of some kind to support multi-channel users. In what ways will this approach elevate retailers across channels.
FC: Imagine you are on Instagram and you come across an insta-post of the shoe which is being sold by the brand you usually buy from, you love the shoe and you immediately click on the buy option and then you realize that your size is not available. You begin to wonder why the brand which has your shoe size still displayed the advertisement when the size is not available. In reality, this could be possible if the company had taken a unified commerce architecture. Unified commerce architecture will improve consistency across channels from a perspective of personalization, preferences, product, price, and promotion. This way the trust of the brand gets elevated and also the brand can aspire to have their product in multiple channels outside the boundary of the channels which are controlled by the brand.
DW: Will there be a switch from multi-channel to a unified retail experience or will it continue to work together in some way?
FC: Unifies retail experience is only a progression to the Multi-channel wave we saw a few years back. In early 2010, we saw browsing shift towards mobile phones and there was a lot of effort in terms of becoming multi-channel. However, now the shift is more focussed in bringing an experience which will ensure uniformity of Product, price, promotion, and experience all these channels. This is more important as the number of channels is increasing in a very rapid fashion.
DW: What are the most important customer experience trends from retailers that are driving technology initiatives?
FC: First, commerce-driven through Social media platforms. Second, personalization is past and individualization is the new trend. Third, instant gratification through buy online and pick up in store, etc. Fourth, the walls between physical retail and digital retail are becoming thinner.
DW: What are the top three benefits for retailers when delivering a unified commerce experience?
FC: First, lesser cart abandonment. This is mainly due to a smooth user journey with no last-minute surprise in terms of product availability, Price difference or promotion difference.
Second, brand presence across multiple channels. The brand can now look at the availability of the product outside the traditional channels governed by the brand like across social media platforms, marketplaces, specialty blogs, search results snippets, etc.
Third, improved communication with the customers. This has been one of the major pain points when the customer touch base with the brand from different channels, the customer usually feels that the overall experience is disconnected and frustrating. However, with unified commerce experience, the customer can purchase in one channel and interact in another channel all having the same connected experience.