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Multichannel diversification is key in preparing for the future of commerce

In an increasingly complex and precarious retail landscape, brands need to be agile, which means radically rethinking their approach

When we look back on 2021, among other things, we’ll remember it as the year of outages. Many of the dominant names in tech were afflicted, including Microsoft, Verizon and Google, all of which experienced issues with their cloud computing. The biggest and most disruptive was the one that took down Facebook and its subsidiaries including Instagram for more than six hours in early October. The cost to Facebook has been widely covered – but it also severely impacted the numerous businesses that market and sell their products through its platforms. The fallout for retailers illustrates unambiguously the need for companies to ensure they have a multichannel online presence that is sufficiently diversified to protect them against future shocks.

Doing this, however, is not without its challenges. In order to diversify in a way that will protect their businesses against outages, sales and marketing teams need to create retail pathways through a multiplicity of channels – each of which has different data requirements – and across various territories, each with its own regulatory framework. In many cases, the result is extraordinarily complex internal systems, which are both time-consuming and expensive to maintain: a recent poll found that 51 per cent of organisations trying to navigate the multichannel landscape have their product information spread across four different IT systems1.

In response to this, a new commerce approach, product-to-consumer (P2C), has emerged, which aims to enable companies to achieve this kind of diversification without having to expend time and cost to optimise each channel on a case-by-case basis. A P2C platform allows organisations to streamline the flow of product information – text, images, video – between suppliers and buyers. Retailers can better manage their data to meet the specific needs of thousands of global channels including social commerce, retailer websites and product aggregators.

As Thomas Kasemir, Chief Product Officer at Productsup, a leader in P2C management, explains: “Companies can leverage P2C to simplify the process of setting up products on new channels, optimising their data and syndicating information. A P2C platform allows them to make updates in real time across every consumer touchpoint in one central system. With a 360-degree view of all product data and all locations it appears, brands and retailers are well positioned to pivot the next time a platform they depend on goes down.”

As well as protecting brands against future outages, this kind of diversification is necessary for companies looking to compete in a fast-moving arena: in the US, social commerce grew by 35 per cent in 2021 to $36bn and, in China, the market is already worth ten times that.2 A P2C platform also ensures consistency of communication across all possible consumer touchpoints, and enables immediate updates to feeds and online advertising sites, allowing companies to be agile with their messaging as demand fluctuates – all of which prevents broken consumer pathways and deepens customer engagement.

A P2C approach can also be used to improve the relationship between a brand and its customers. Consistent messaging allows the consumer to make informed choices based on accurate, up-to-date information, which reduces the return rate. By streamlining feedback from multiple territories and channels, P2C creates the possibility of a genuine two-way conversation between a brand and its customers.

Significantly, the platform also has the potential to help companies strategise their stock management in an era of ongoing instability in the global supply chain. Just as the platform streamlines the information that goes out, it also unifies data that comes in from the various touchpoints, which can be employed to allocate resources in response to localised spikes in demand. This unified approach helps drive down costs per sale by minimising and simplifying data inputting and streamlining IT systems, and as the post-Brexit regulatory landscape continues to evolve, it also takes the stress out of dealing with complex and ever-changing standards and regulations.

This kind of future-proofing is a key part of the platform’s appeal. As Thomas Heuchert, Data Distribution and Publication Manager at Grundfos, the world’s largest manufacturer of pumps, puts it: “For us, it was extremely important to create a single point of truth which helps us direct our product information to our customers. We needed a provider with a clear vision for the future of commerce and the technology to realise that vision. With a P2C platform, we can deliver our product information to all major trade, sales and business channels.”

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